National sovereignty and its alternatives: an assessment of the report of the Global Commission on International Migration

Paul Demeny, Population Council

Migration is now a priority issue on the global agenda. The mandate of the Global Commission on International Migration was to examine the policy aspects involved in people crossing national borders and their relation to other global issues. The Commission’s report, Migration in an Interconnected World, was presented in October 2005. The report sets forth 33 recommendations with the aim of creating a global framework for managing international migration. The aim of the paper is a critical examination of the report’s politics and philosophy, and of the report’s validity as an adequate appreciation of the underlying factors likely to drive international migration in the coming decades, with special emphasis on the demographic configurations of the main sending and receiving countries. The first section of the paper provides an overview of the intellectual antecedents of the Commission’s work, assessing statements emanating from the First International Emigration and Immigration Conference (Rome, 1924), the First International Population Conference (Geneva, 1927), and, after World War II, from the United Nations. The second section of the paper analyzes the substantive outcome of the Commission’s deliberations and criticizes its failure to offer a systematic examination of the economic and demographic underpinnings of international migratory movements and its neglect of arguments that in immigrant-receiving countries propose plausible solutions for tackling the problems of aging populations by means other than mass immigration. The criticism also suggests that recourse to immigration as a solution to economic difficulties encouraged by the Commission’s report ignores the fact that mass international migration is bound to have problematic non-economic consequences and that liberal immigration policies divert attention from measures that could reestablish a demographic regime that assures the domestic reproduction of the population.

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Presented in Session 35: What we talk about when we talk about international migration