In 2015, more than 244 million people resided in a country other than their country of birth; many migrated within their region or towards high-income OECD countries. Within this broader context, where migration is acknowledged as an ever-crucial parameter for development, this publication addresses the issue of the free movement of people within regional spaces. The scenario of free movement, its ethical underpinnings and its human rights, economic and social implications were explored in the UNESCO publication “Migration without Borders. Essays on the Free Movement of People”. Its success prompted UNESCO and UNU-CRIS to embark on an initial three-year research project (2008-2011) focusing on regional organizations, which was updated and expanded in the following years. This focus was driven by two interrelated considerations: the global trend of regional integration and its impact through economic liberalization and market enlargement on human mobility; and the potential role and comparative advantage of regional organizations in addressing migration challenges.
This book brings together a host of well-known scholars to analyse, from a cross-disciplinary perspective, the different approaches to free movement used by some 30 regional organizations. It also presents a comparative review of the various measures taken and obstacles encountered by these organizations to highlight current and emerging trends. A dominant feature in regional arrangements, irrespective of the economic, ‘political-security’ and socio-cultural context, is the framing of free movement agreements around potential economic gains for citizens or a perceived shared regional identity. The latter is premised on common interests with regard to specific migration challenges and/or the mutual trust that is forged by a common past. Another important characteristic is the influence of domestic politics on the implementation of regional priorities. Concerns over border security and fears of political backlash in contexts marked by socio-economic inequalities may affect the commitment to arrangements seeking to further liberalize free movement and result in divergences from agreed regional standards. The aforementioned obstacles, the severity of which differs from region to region, have had significant consequences on the rights of migrants and most notably among the most disadvantaged. Against the backdrop of intensifying international efforts to reinforce migration-related commitments and relevant implementation frameworks, we hope that the findings presented in this publication will prove relevant beyond the research community, to decision-makers, policy-makers and civil society actors in Member States and organizations.