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UNESCO-MOST Conference 2012: Labour Rights as Human Rights? Migration, Labour Market Restructuring, and the Role of Civil Society in Global Governance


The overall purpose of the conference is to reflect on knowledge and promote social dialogue on the role of labour unions and other organisations of civil society in the global governance of migration. These issues will be discussed against the background of labour market restructuring and emerging international norms pertaining to labour rights as human rights. Accordingly, the conference is organised to promote exchange of perspectives between leading scholars and representatives of international organisations, labour unions and activists in other civil society organisations on questions of migration, 'decent work' and global governance. Conference participants are expected to jointly investigate and elaborate on policy alternatives for promoting migrants', citizens', and labour rights, as well as conditions for equitable international coordination and a more inclusive role for civil society.
The conference is organised by the Institute for Research on Migration, Ethnicity and Society (REMESO), Linköping University and the International Network for Migration and Development (INMD) in collaboration with the Swedish UNESCO-MOST Committee, Norrköping May 30-June 1st, 2012


Civil society, Labour standards/rights, Migrant rights , Global governance, Migration


Recent decades have seen remoulded or new transnational migration systems across the globe. Inter- and intra-regional migrations have been propelled by huge political and economic changes in Eastern Europe, the massive growth of industrial and service economies such as China and India, and increasing conflict- and climate driven refugee movements.
These new migration systems are accompanied by an unprecedented mobility of capital, restructuring of national and regional economies, and the flexibilisation of labour markets. Hence, the new political economy of migration is linked to profound changes in contemporary working life.
The obverse side of flexibility and a globalised 'network economy' is informalisation and precarisation of work through offshoring, outsourcing, sub-contracting, and renewed sweatshop production. Labour market flexibilisation is re-enforced and perpetuates ethnic, racial and gender segmentations. While workers everywhere are caught up in these changes, migrants often experience a particular deterioration of working conditions and social rights.
This is the compelling context for including protection of labour standards for migrant workers in initiatives for reshaping global governance with the aim to balance the power of financial and economic institutions with a universal floor of established social rights. On this background major international organisations have sought to establish global normative frameworks concerned with human and labour rights and fair rules for cross-border movement. Among them is the UN initiative for 'fair globalization'. Another is the ILO's 'decent work agenda' aiming at global consensus on labour norms, focusing on working conditions and labour rights of migrant workers, including irregular migrants. In addition, a range of civil society movements and organisations at national, regional and global level, are engaged in analysing and redefining issues of migration and global governance in the nexus of human rights, social rights and labour rights.
At the same time, EU, NAFTA, SACD and other major bodies for regional integration are acquiring incremental authority over the governance of migration, adding new regulations with sometimes unclear, problematic and dubious consequences from a rights perspective.
A Forum for Dialogue on Migration, 'Decent Work' and Global Governance
This global scenario of structural change is the context for the Labour Rights as Human Rights? conference in Norrköping, Sweden, between May 30th to June 1st, 2012 under the auspices of UNESCO-MOST. The conference will be organised by REMESO (Institute for Research on Migration, Ethnicity, and Society) at Linköping University in collaboration with the INMD (International Network for Migration and Development).
MOST (Management of Social Transformation) is the only UNESCO programme that fosters and promotes social science research. Its aim is to build efficient bridges between research, policy and practice. In accordance with this the conference Labour Rights as Human Rights? will constitute a forum for dialogue between leading social scientists and stakeholders, locating areas for intervention and alternative avenues for policy formation and governance.
As an aid to the discussions during the conference a number of position papers will be commissioned by leading scholars and activists, to serve as an inspirational platform and frame of reference for the opening keynote panel, the two workshops as well as the concluding panel discussion. The papers will address three interrelated themes:
- Migration, Precarious Work and Rights: Global and Regional Perspectives
- Global Governance, Migration and 'Decent Work': National Regulations and International Norms
- Migration, Labour Rights, and Global Governance: The Role of Civil Society

Conference Proceedings will contain keynote speeches, commissioned papers, workshop contributions and summaries of the concluding panel discussion. Position papers, as well as an executive summary of the papers for wider distribution, will be available on the conference homepage a month before the conference.

2010 - 2013


FAS Research environment funding

REMESO Project Leader

Branka Likic-Brboric, Research Fellow

Scientifically Responsible

Carl-Ulrik Schierup, Professor

Participants from REMESO

Aleksandra Ålund
Anders Neergaard
Karin Krifors
Nedzad Mesic
Sara Ahlstedt

Participants not from REMESO

  • Jorge Romero Leon, PGA for Migration, Development and Human Rights. Coordinator for stakeholder part
  • Kenneth Abrahamsson, FAS, Chair, Concluding panel discussion
  • Lena Johannson , VR
  • Professor Stephen Castles, Special Adviser
  • Raul Delgado Wise, INMD, scientifically responsible
  • Ronaldo Munck, Dublin City University/REMESO, responsible for workshop 2
  • Sam Hägglund, Director General European Federation of Building and Woodworkers (EFBWW) and associate
  • Swedish UNESCO-Most Committee
  • Veronica Melander (Sida)

Contact for project


Last updated: 2011-08-11

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Last updated: 2012-09-03