Melbourne Journal of International Law
Vol 21(2) (Dec 2020), pp 1-39
Abstract: This article examines the historical imbrication of international law and institutions with both migration and development. Specifically, it examines legal initiatives of the interwar International Labour Organization ('ILO') that focused on migration in what is now known as the Global South -- and their aftermath. The Treaty of Versailles created the ILO as an institution related to the League of Nations in part to 'protect ... workers ... in countries other than their own' and invested it with other, more implicit powers related to migration. In subsequent years, the ILO's mandate to oversee migration and promote new migrant rights expanded. Yet such expanding oversight intersected with another feature of the interwar ILO: respecting -- and thereby entrenching in international law and governance -- existing hierarchies forged by colonial relationships or mentalities in regions beyond Europe. The Organization's efforts did shift some state behaviour towards respecting migrants' rights. Nonetheless, in providing largely African 'native' migrants fewer or different protections than those available for European migrants and in encouraging domestic legal reform to accommodate the needs of European settlers migrating to Latin America over those of locals -- each done in order to promote different forms of 'development' -- the institution enshrined and in some ways redoubled hierarchical divisions between Europeans and natives. Its actions, moreover, demonstrate the deep roots of -- and lessons for -- today's impoverished international migration law, forms of international development premised on international institutional control and the legal understanding of 'indigenous peoples'. This analysis therefore not only produces further evidence of the colonial entanglements of international law and institutions but also demonstrates unexplored links between the genealogies of migration, development and international law, as well as implications for rethinking their contemporary forms and their relationship with the Global South today. Click here to read the full article.