Migration crisis and global governance

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Global governance is a universal concept that needs to be included in widespread problems such as migration. More people continue fleeing their usual residences due to events that threaten their lives or safety. Research on international migration in the context of global governance seeks to distinguish between the overlapping types of migrations (such as refugees, or asylum seekers), whether they are conflict-induced within nations, development-induced, environmental and disaster-induced, or caused by victims of events of human trafficking (Betts, 2013). This brief delves into the migration crisis by seeking to interrogate whether it is a failure of the European governance system or broader global governance system.


It is on record that Michel Rocard, while serving as the Socialist French Prime Minister during the reign of President François Mitterand, delivered a speech in the country’s National Assembly in 1989 to the effect of raising a debate in the country regarding the role of France in addressing global issues such as immigration. He said in French that “La France ne peu pas accueillirtoute la misère du monde” which translates as “France cannot welcome all the misery of the world” (Davies, 2012). When the same words are pronounced later, and in another socio-political circumstance, they form the core of the contemporary dilemma troubling Europe.

It is true that Europe is presently faced with one of the largest humanitarian crisis in human history to the extent that the European Union has been torn between respecting the values of its historical foundation more than sixty years ago and pursuing its moral and legal obligations in offering shelter to the migrants (Snyder 2008). It is also faced with the urge to erect walls (such as the “Great Wall of Calais”) after yielding to the temptation along the borders of member countries to keep away the perceived misery of the world. Therefore, when looking through the lenses of European governance and global governance, the purported preservation of its identity or the desire to appease the populist and extremist parties in Europe, the loudness of the voice growing in Europe foretells the apparent and worse catastrophes unless refugees and other migrants are not properly managed or handled.

Current status

The problem facing migration in the world is a result of lack of coherence in global governance framework in the different areas subsumed under crisis migration. This may imply that in the event of new challenges or social labels, new institution-building is needed. However, the current systems of governance are not adequately addressing the emerging gaps in the protection of civil facts related to the crisis migration (Lischer 2017). For instance, they lack creativity in making the institutions better works in implementing and institutionalising international agreements to that effect. Therefore, it is appreciated that there are significant gaps for protecting different groups among the vulnerable migrants subjected to the crises. The current situation leads to the question on the extent of new international institutions in addressing these protection gaps. Alternatively, it is unrealistic to imagine that the current norms in governance and international organisations can be adapted or stretched to fill the protection gaps or address the contemporary challenges without reforming the root and branch of the standards of global governance (UNHCR, 2007; Stavropoulou, 2008).

Key considerations

Two simple concepts should be understood in understanding the migration crisis as a product of European or global governance, which are regime complexity and regime stretching (Alter and Meunier, 2009). These concepts would best explain how the current institutions of governance can embrace the emerging challenges in migration. For instance, regime complexity aspect is about the manner in which the systems of governance are nested in their wider frameworks, parallel the obligations of governance in similar areas, and overlap through multiplicity of institutions of governance with authority over similar issues (Rittberger 2008). Therefore, by considering this concept, it is possible for governance strategists to make sense on how international institutions proliferate and highlight how issues can be governed through a disparate range of systems of governance (Toft, 2007). In this regard, it underscores the understanding of how the emerging areas in governance have been implicitly subjected to the observed multiplicity and overlapping governance through institutions.

The other concept is that of ‘regime stretching,’ which answers to the question of time limits of regimes. It particularly shows that the migration crisis is a result of poor implementation of governance policies. It helps to highlight how a regime can adapt international negotiation or institutionalisation at the national level of policy implementation. The act can be done by disregarding the adaptation at the different levels of governance. The concept is particularly important in places with a new population, socio-cultural and political problems, and challenges in which the creation of new formal institutions is at a much slower pace. If problems come up later outside the scope of a regime during its creation, it is possible for the governance norms and the responsible organisations to adapt through the international bargaining or institutionalisation approaches at the different levels of policy implementation in the form of ‘regime stretching.’ The change in governance pursuing this concept leans towards institutional changes requiring a longer time. They are likely to show different national manifestations during the time of implementation.


Although the role of global governance in the migration crisis is a matter of fact, the modern day´s management of the migration crisis is likely to go beyond the limit concerning the complexity that has come with it. Proponents of global governance consider that international governance inadequately captures the new actors of authority and mechanisms of management beyond the state (Lennox 2007). In particular, any options to be sought should address the increasing importance of public-private partnerships in supporting the concept of an emerging global approach to governance of the migration crisis. Some of the important recurring themes, in this case, would include the knowledge of the causes of the crisis, understanding the dynamics of labour migration (as the case in Northern Africa), and the human rights and migrant protection (Martin, Weerasinghe and Taylor, 2014). Others include social cohesion and integration, governance and cooperation, and evidence, research and data. These themes highlight the existing variability in the level to which institutions of governance are prepared to address the challenges of the different aspects of the crisis migration. In some areas, the governance structures lack the authority to address the humanitarian problem of immigration adequately.

Based on the fact that crisis migration is implicitly embedded in pre-existing institutions of governance, it is reasonable to begin by seeking to make the existing agencies work in a better and globally coordinated way (Acharya, 2008). For instance, at the implementation level, some norms and structures have been signed and ratified by states. Even if the structures of governance are not yet fully operational, the nations have been committed through signing and ratifying human rights norms with significant implications on the manner in which they are supposed to respond to a crisis such as migration. Such commitment would require a globally coordinated implementation.

At the institutionalisation level, there are several ways in which the current norms and practices can be incorporated into the existing legal and policy frameworks. For instance, the UN Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and their Families can be used to potentially influence the implementation and governance of the rights of stranded migrant workers in a crisis migration context (Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC)/Norwegian Refugee Council 2008). The act can be done through international agreements that can lead to possible improvements in existing institutions, but the reforms in international contracts should not be limited to the creation of new treaties only. On the contrary, such agreements need to consider all processes involved in the consolidation of existing norms and coordination of their implementation is based on existing institutional frameworks.


With the refugee flows notwithstanding, international migration remains almost invisible in most agenda of global public policy. Based on the facts and concepts laid out, international migration crisis stretches beyond the confines of regional systems such as a failure of the European governance. Instead, it is a broad global governance issue, which has elicited a growing interest in global awareness of migration issues since the beginning of this millennium.

The discussion is a reflection of the pressing need for a concerted effort by the international community towards a better understanding of mechanisms of addressing the increasing trans-sovereign and complex migration phenomenon. In this regard, this paper recommends a soft-law framework approach to be used as a means to provide authoritative and consolidated standards of existing legal and normative systems. In the same way, whenever issue areas exist within organisational frameworks, it may be helpful for international agreements to create an improved coordination structure to fill the gaps. Besides, the migration issue affects many nations, and their collaboration can help in coming up with sustainable solutions to the issue. Nonetheless, it is important to understand the factors that fuel migration to other nations and determine the strategies to use to address them.

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  1. Acharya, A., 2008. The Limitations of Mainstream International Relations Theories for Understanding the Politics of Forced Migration, paper presented at the University of Oxford, Centre for International Studies and the Refugee Studies Centre. [online] available at: <http://www.globaleconomicgovernance.org/migration/events.php> [Accessed 4  January 2018].
  2. Alter, K.J. and Meunier, S., 2009. The Politics of International Regime Complexity, Perspectives on Politics 7(1), pp. 13–24.
  3. Betts, A., 2013. Survival Migration: Failed Governance and the Crisis of Displacement. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
  4. Davies, P., 2012. The National Front in France: Ideology, Discourse and Power. London: Routledge.
  5. Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC)., 2008. Internal Displacement. Global Overview of Trends and Developments in 2007. [online] Available at: <http://www.internal-displacement.org>[Accessed 4 January 2018].
  6. Lennox, V., 2007. Conceptualising Global Governance in International Relations, in: eInternational Relations. [online] Available at: <http://www.e-ir.info/?p=571>[Accessed 4 January 2018].
  7. Lischer, S.K., 2017. The Global Refugee Crisis: Regional Destabilization & Humanitarian Protection. Daedalus.146(4), pp. 85-97
  8. Martin, S.F., Weerasinghe, S. and Taylor, A., 2014. Humanitarian Crises and Migration: Causes, Consequences and Responses. London: Routledge.
  9. Rittberger, V., 2008. Global Governance: From ‘Exclusive’ Executive Multilateralism to Inclusive, Multipartite Institutions.  Vienna: Abteilung fÜr Internationale Beziehungen.
  10. Snyder, J., 2008. Realism, Refugees, and Strategies of Humanitarianism. University of Oxford, Centre for International Studies and the Refugee Studies Centre.
  11. Stavropoulou, M., 2008. Influencing state behavior for refugee protection: UNHCR and the design of the refugee protection regime. New Issues in Refugee Research, Working Paper No. 154.
  12. Toft, M.D., 2007. The Myth of the Borderless World: Refugees and Repatriation Policy. Conflict Management and Peace Science, 24(2), pp. 139 – 157
  13. UNHCR, 2007. States Parties to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol. [online] Available at: <http://www.unhcr.org/protect/PROTECTION/3b73b0d63.pdf. >[Accessed 4 January 2018].
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