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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 thi conference wasto 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 were discussed against the background of labour market restructuring and emerging international norms pertaining to labour rights as human rights. The conference was organised so as to systematipromote 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 investigated jointly and elaborated 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 was 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


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. At the same time, EU, NAFTA, SACD and other major bodies for regional integration have acquired incremental authority over the governance of migration, adding new regulations with sometimes unclear, problematic and dubious consequences seen from a perspective of human rights, labour rights and migrant rights.

This global scenario of structural-institutional change was the wider 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 was 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). It was set up according to the overall principles of the
MOST (Management of Social Transformation) UNESCO programme that fosters and promotes social science research and aims to build efficient bridges between research, policy and practice. In accordance with this the conference Labour Rights as Human Rights? was organised as 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 were commissioned with leading scholars to serve as an inspirational platform and frame of reference for the opening keynote panel, subsequent workshops and a concluding panel discussion. Whereas a few of these papers were included in a major scientific publication published in 2015 shorter inputs from both participating scientists and activists representing migrant organisations, trade unions and migrant advocacy NGO:s were compiled in a web-based proceedings distributed to a range of relevant stakeholders..


Schierup C.-U., et al. (eds. 2015) Migration, Precarity and Global Governance. Challenges for Labour. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

(with edited versions of some of the keynote papers presented at the conference)

Other Academic Output

https://www.isv.liu.se/remeso/konferenser-och-workshops/labour-rights-as-human-rights?l=en (link to papers and other interventions)

Webb based proceedings (position papers, key-note lectures, workshop interventions):

A PDF version of the conference proceedings is downloadable from this page.

2010 - 2015


FAS/FORTE Research environment funding

REMESO Project Leader

Carl-Ulrik Schierup, Professor

Participants from REMESO

Aleksandra Ålund
Anders Neergaard
Branka Likic-Brboric
Christophe Foultier
Karin Krifors
Nedzad Mesic

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
  • Professor Stephen Castles, Special Adviser
  • Raul Delgado Wise, INMD, scientifically co-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



Conference proceedings

Last updated: 2022-01-20

Page responsible: erik.berggren@liu.se
Last updated: 2020-05-27