Governing regional migration from the ‘bottom-up’: a nodal approach to the role of transnational activist networks in Asia
This paper investigates the emerging regional governance of migration from the perspective of migrant rights activists and their strategies in advancing a rights-based framework in contrast to the ‘management’ (i.e. control-centred) approach typically championed by states. The key objective is to use the study of civil society activism, through its nodes and networks, to develop a ‘bottom-up’ approach as an alternative to the dominant perspective taken on multilateral migration governance thus far. Drawing on Regulatory Theory, we conceive migration policy as a dynamic process that occurs at multiple levels involving a broad spectrum of institutional actors. In stressing the importance of the increasingly networked form that policy and political interventions are taking, our paper proposes a nodal account of migration governance which is applied specifically to civil society organisations’ attempts to influence governance. Our empirical focus is the case of one key protagonist in the sphere of migrant rights advocacy, the Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA), which constitutes the largest network of migrant rights organisations spanning countries of origin and destination across most of Asia. Its central role, as we argue, is that of an interlocutor between intersecting and interacting organisational networks. In this sense, it takes on a ‘nodal’ function.