Effective migration policy requires cooperation among states, and the agenda for cooperation has become increasingly complex and multifaceted. These factors and others motivate states to create and participate in inter-state consultation mechanisms of various kinds. These mechanisms may be topic-specific, or they may be established based on the geographic proximity of the participants, or by similarities in level of economic development, or on a combination of these and other factors. They may be specific to recognizable regions, or span regions and continents. Many operate as purely independent stand-alone mechanisms, while others may be specific migration-related pillars within broader consultation and cooperation mechanisms. Different levels of formality are apparent among them as well.
The term regional consultative process on migration (RCP) has been in common use to describe many of these mechanisms since their inception. The number and kinds of consultative mechanisms have grown remarkably over the past several years. With this proliferation has come greater diversity in the nature of these mechanisms, and a good case can be made for more specific categorization and differentiation among them.
This study reviews 25 interstate consultative mechanisms on migration: 18 RCPs and seven others, here termed interregional forums on migration (IRF) that appear to depart from the classic RCP model in some meaningful way. Each case review includes background on the origin and development of the mechanism, a brief discussion of the evolution of the agenda, identification of any linkages with multilateral agreements, and a note on the placement of the mechanism within the taxonomy of mechanisms suggested by the author.
The study concludes with implications for harmonized governance of migration. The increasingly close linkage of some RCPs with regional economic/trade bodies is seen as especially significant, providing an opportunity for movement toward formal regional migration agreements. At the same time, RCPs and similar processes and forums cannot be fairly judged by their instrumental value in promoting global migration governance, as this is not part of their explicit mission and there is no apparent international consensus that such a global agreement is needed. The study concludes that the de facto policy coherence that is developing among countries that belong to established RCPs and IRFs is the main achievement of these mechanisms, and this is the primary driver of increased global coherence in migration governance.