Janie A. Chuang

Document Type



This Article offers initial thoughts on the possible impacts the GCM might have on global efforts to prevent and address trafficking, focusing on the newly elevated role of the IOM in this endeavor. Based on arguments I have made elsewhere, my analysis takes as a given that a normative, rights-based approach to migrant work is necessary to prevent migrant worker exploitation and abuse from escalating into trafficking. From that perspective, the Article explores the possibility that, in advising States on GCM implementation, the IOM could take a more proactive role in advancing workers’ rights in furtherance of the longer-term goal of preventing trafficking. Part I assesses the GCM’s potential for advancing the rights of migrant workers. The GCM reflects the three competing interests that typically animate migration policy: (1) concerns over border security, (2) the desire to derive labor market benefits from economic migration, and (3) the imperative to protect migrants’ rights. Whether and to what extent migrant workers are sufficiently protected against exploitation will turn on how States balance these competing concerns. Empowered to guide States in their efforts to implement the GCM, the IOM will play a crucial role in helping to translate GCM norms into State practice. Part II analyzes the IOM’s operational history and structure for insights into how the IOM might balance the GCM’s competing concerns in its efforts to advise States on GCM implementation. The IOM’s checkered history and its unique status as a non-normative, U.N.-related organization show a tendency to prioritize States’ concerns over border security and labor market access above those regarding migrant welfare. In contrast, the IOM’s recent efforts to promote ethical recruitment standards suggest the possibility of IOM assuming a more proactive stance towards migrant workers’ rights protections going forward. Part III explores these efforts, situating them within broader development debates over whether and to what extent rights tradeoffs are necessary—or acceptable—to maximize the development gains from migration. In advising States on GCM implementation, how IOM responds to pressures to trade rights for labor market access will surely test IOM’s professed commitment to ethical recruitment frameworks. Its response could prove to be a bellwether of IOM’s broader approach to balancing migrant worker welfare interests against the GCM’s other competing interests in border security and labor market access. In this environment, close scrutiny and strong advocacy by rights advocates will be necessary to fully realize the GCM’s—and the IOM’s—potential to advance migrant workers’ rights and prevent trafficking.