RCPs are repeated, regional meetings of states dedicated to discussing migration. They vary greatly in their composition, history, purpose and organizational frameworks, but they do share the following principal characteristics:
- They are informal and non-binding. Informality is understood here in neutral terms, whereby participants are not put in a negotiating position to defend national interests or political positions (the “party line”). Informality helps break down barriers to cooperation, such as an absence of trust between states, fears of political or financial costs, adversarial international relationships, or a lack of understanding of the perspectives and concerns of others. As international relations theorist Charles Lipson put it, “informality is best understood as a device for minimizing the impediments to cooperation” (Lipson 1991:500). Informality, however, should not be confused with laxness or casualness, or the absence of procedures that govern the way in which an RCP operates, as indeed many RCPs have formal modalities on various organizational aspects, such as the functioning of the secretariat or chairmanship, rules surrounding confidentiality, and mechanisms regarding meeting cycles and membership. The processes are non-binding in that states do not negotiate binding rules and are not obligated to implement any changes following meetings.
- In contrast to many other regional bodies, which may take up migration as one of many themes of discussion, RCPs stand out because they were purposefully created to deal with migration issues only.
- The definition of what is considered “regional” is flexible – it usually depends on what is logical in light of the scope of the migration issue that is to be addressed. “Regional” may also be used figuratively rather than geographically, as in the case when a group of states which primarily define themselves as countries of destination come together based on their like – mindedness and common location on the “migration map” as opposed to a geographic connection in the strictest sense.
- They are processes, not one-off events, and as such have to meet more than once.
- Most RCPs are not officially associated with formal regional institutions. This, however, does not mean that RCPs operate in a vacuum. Instead, they are often embedded in their regional contexts and interact with regional bodies, associations and integration processes in complex ways. RCPs, and above all those that have emerged within the last decade, should be seen as a reflection and reinforcement of a trend towards greater political and economic regionalization across the globe. In recent years, regional organizations and economic integration processes, such as the European Union (EU), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the African Union (AU), the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR) and the South African Development Community (SADC), to name but a few, have added migration to their agendas, providing yet another venue for inter-state cooperation on this topic. Inter-regional dialogues on the subject are also taking place with increasing frequency, such as those between Europe and Africa.
An Assessment of Regional Consultative Processes on Migration.pdf