Multi-layered Migration Governance in Asia: Lessons from Nepal and the Philippines


Richa Shivakoti

PhD defended at: 

National University of Singapore


As a transnational issue, migration cannot be solely governed at the domestic or international level and thus requires cooperation from different actors at multiple levels. To understand the complex nature of migration governance, this dissertation will employ a holistic view using multi-layered migration governance approach to unpack migration governance mechanisms at the global, trans-regional and domestic levels. It studies the domestic migration subsystems of two Asian sending countries in detail using policy networks to provide a better link in understanding how countries behave at the trans-regional and international level in their migration governance approaches.

This dissertation addresses the question of how network characteristics can explain variations in migration governance outcomes. I argue that a collaborative domestic policy network aids the development of a migration regime with common norms and principles among all the actors within the network which supports policy coherence at different levels of migration governance. This common framework and understanding at home facilitates the overall governance mechanisms at the regional and international levels. I also argue that the various trans-regional networks are avenues for policy learning and policy diffusion.

The nature and dynamics of the domestic migration sector can explain a nation’s migration policies at home and at the regional and international levels. A policy network lens is used to examine the domestic migration policy subsystem of two Asian labour sending countries: Nepal and the Philippines. The connections between different state and non-state actors are explored along with the nature of collaboration in the sector by collecting primary data based on a survey questionnaire and through interviews. The network was analysed quantitatively through social network analysis (SNA) and qualitatively through interview responses to draw conclusions on the collaborative (or non-collaborative) nature of the sector and its influence on the policy coherence at the different levels of migration governance. The interviews were also used to draw out policy learnings at the regional level.

The SNA analysis finds that the migration policy networks includes a mix of state and non-state actors as dominant actors when mapped out and the network seems collaborative for both countries. The interviewees from the Philippines agreed that the sector has become more collaborative with the government playing a lead role in facilitating the collaboration calling for regular meetings with all parties. The interviewees from Nepal, on the other hand, did not see that the migration sector as a collaborative one. The government agencies were seen as weak and heavily influenced by the private sector (recruitment agencies) while several factions and conflicts were apparent within civil society organizations groups which resulted in low trust, high competition for funds and a lack of capacity. The collaboration and conflict at the domestic level is vital to analyze to explain government’s behaviours at the multiple levels of governance for migration. It is also equally important to understand how information and policy learning is passed and diffused from the regional to the domestic levels.