Norm-Based Strategies for Political and Social Change: An Analysis of Migrant Justice Advocacy

By Schnyder, Melissa | Social Alternatives, April 1, 2019 | Go to article overview

Norm-Based Strategies for Political and Social Change: An Analysis of Migrant Justice Advocacy


Schnyder, Melissa, Social Alternatives


Introduction

This article examines issues surrounding migrant justice to illustrate how civil society organisations (CSOs) integrate social norms into their advocacy strategies in order to bring about social and political change. Highlighting specific case examples from an analysis of CSO documents, writings, and discourse, the article explores how CSOs attempt to 'foreground' and dismantle problematic existing social norms that undergird formal and informal institutions. In addition, it assesses how CSOs use two specific strategies - normative reframing and normative innovation - to advance alternative norms in their place.

Because norms play a role in both formal and informal institutions, deliberate efforts to advance normative change are significant in that they can lead to institutional reform (Raymond and Weldon 2013: 2) and can advance CSO efforts to tackle seemingly intractable problems (Raymond et al. 2014: 204). Past research has shown this to be the case for advocacy in several issue areas including biofuels (Raymond and Delshad 2016: 519) and climate change (Raymond et al. 2014: 204), women's rights (Raymond and Weldon 2013: 3; Raymond et al. 2014: 206; Jewkes et al. 2015: 1580; Weldon and Raymond 2013: 1-2), and child marriage (Shawki 2015: 60). The conclusions of this research thus potentially hold relevance to civil society advocacy in a range of other issue areas.

The article proceeds in several sections. First, a brief contextual section provides background and situates migrant justice advocacy into a broader social and political context. Next, the theoretical framework on normbased strategies for change is presented and described. Following this, the article explains the concept of migrant justice and describes some of the associated issues with an eye toward detailing specific social and political problems. The ensuing section presents an analysis of how the strategies of normative reframing and normative innovation are evident as advocacy tools in the migrant justice movement. The concluding section summarises the key points and presents avenues for future research.

Advocacy Context

The issue of migrant justice is situated within a broader social and institutional context that informs advocacy. For instance, the issue of how (and whether) migration relates to border security has received much attention in the wake of protracted conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Far-right extremist and nationalist political parties in many Western democracies have presented migration as a destabilising force, depicting borders as porous and unsecure, with 'waves' of migrants associated with criminal activity and even terrorism (Financial Times 5 June 2018: n.p.; see also Davis and Deole 2017: 10). Moreover, the recent refugee crisis in the European Union (EU) has also brought the issue of migration into sharper public view, as the media presents stories and images of migrants overcrowding into small vessels in dangerous attempts to cross the Mediterranean to reach its shores (e.g., The Independent 9 January 2018: n.p.; CNN 4 July 2018: n.p.). Those attempting to enter stable democratic countries include refugees fleeing war, persecution, and conflict in their homelands, as well as economic migrants seeking to improve their situation through migration.

At the international level, there is no shortage of legal instruments 'pertaining to the human rights of migrants and the rights of migrant workers, and the protection of refugees as well as instruments designed to combat migrant smuggling and human trafficking' (United Nations 2013: 19). For example, refugees hold rights under the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, and the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees. In addition, migrant workers' claim to rights traces to the 1949 ILO Convention concerning Migration for Employment, the 1975 ILO Convention concerning Migrations in Abusive Conditions and the Promotion of Equality of Opportunity and Treatment of Migrant Workers, the 1990 International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, and the 2011 ILO Convention concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers. …

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