Friday, June 20, 2008

New DG at the International Organization for Migration

Until this year, the US candidate for Director General at the International Organization for Migration has been simply a shoo-in; this year, he seems to have been less of a shoo-in, but - ultimately - only marginally so. The official US candidate - Ambassador William Lacy Swing - won by a two-thirds majority vote of IOM Member States. That there was a vote at all, however, was unprecedented, with the current incumbent, Brunson McKinley, seeking re-election for a third term (another first). The other candidates were Sergio Marchi (Canada) and Luca Riccardi (Italy).

IOM has expanded greatly under McKinley, and is now a global administrative body of real importance. It is involved, for example, in the formulation and promulgation of "soft" standards (even if, to date, it rarely takes the lead in such initiatives, preferring instead to participate in projects led by other IGOs); perhaps more importantly, however, it often plays a key role in providing emergency aid relief and administering camps for internally displaced persons. It remains as yet, however, relatively understudied from an academic - and even more so from a GAL - perspective (although the word on the "GAL street" is that the forthcoming project on "international bureaucracies" by the Max Planck Institute in Heidelberg may go some way to rectifying this - I hope it does).

There has been little indication from Ambassador Swing as yet on any concrete GAL-related initiatives, although there is a decidedly managerial flavour to his words upon winning the vote: "My vision for IOM is for a collaborative organization of professionals built on trust and one that listens to Member States and which efficiently and cost-effectively helps them manage migration to the benefit of all". Not much to go on, but it could be that internal procedures are in for a shake-up in GAL-related ways (transparency, review, etc.).

Although the appointment ultimately went with past form (i.e. to the official US candidate), it will be interesting to see if the very fact of having a vote on this occasion will open up the field for future appointments. If so, the US may have lost its traditional monopoly over the Organization just at the point at which it is becoming of genuinely global importance. That, of course, may well be 10 years down the line...

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