The Politics of the UN Convention on Migrant Workers' Rights

16 Pages Posted: 18 Oct 2017

Date Written: September 20, 2017


The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (ICMW) was adopted in 1990 by the United Nations, but has been ratified by 51 States only, and by no major Western migration-receiving State. This article outlines two interpretations of this low ratification record. On the one hand, it can be understood as puzzling because Western liberal democracies support human rights and because the ICMW does not call for new rights that would not already exist in domestic law or in other international human rights instruments. On the other hand, it can be understood as logical because, from a cost-benefit perspective, the rights of migrants are difficult to reconcile with market logics in destination countries and because there are structural economic forces that make it difficult to reach multilateral agreements on migrant workers’ rights. This article further argues that these legal and socio-economic arguments do not exhaust the issue and that the current situation of the ICMW is to a large extent the product of political factors, particularly of the lack of political support for migrants’ rights at the international and national levels.

Keywords: Human Rights, International Migration, International Law, United Nations, Global Migration Governance

JEL Classification: K33, K37

Suggested Citation

Pécoud, Antoine, The Politics of the UN Convention on Migrant Workers' Rights (September 20, 2017). Groningen Journal of International Law, Vol. 5, No. 1, 2017. Available at SSRN:

Antoine Pécoud (Contact Author)

Université Paris XIII Nord ( email )

Avenue Jean Baptiste Clement
Villetaneuse, Seine Saint Denis 93430

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