ILO Home
Go to the home page
Contact us
> Home > International cooperation
  1. About this site
  2. Countries of origin
  3. Countries of destination
  4. International cooperation
    1. Bilateral agreements
    2. Regional agreements
  5. Publications
  6. Contact us
  7. European Commission External Cooperation Programmes

International cooperation

International migration policy is still largely set by the destination countries, which decide who they will admit and for what purposes. But many countries have found that it is better to manage migration in cooperation with countries of origin, through various types of international agreement.

International migration can be managed best within overall multilateral and regional frameworks. Then within these frameworks pairs of countries of origin and destination can come to bilateral agreements. The most comprehensive international agreementis is the ILO Multilateral Framework on Labour Migration. This highlights principles and guidelines to help countries develop more effective labour migration policies.

Cooperation between pairs of countries can take the form of bilateral agreements, which are formal, legally binding treaties. Or it can take the form of memoranda of understanding (MOUs) — which simply set out broad frameworks to address common concerns. Bilateral agreements should in principle be preferable to MOUs, but more important probably than the type of agreement is its actual implementation and monitoring.

Thus far, both are relatively rare. The resistance comes mostly from countries of destination which argue that they already cover migrant workers in their national laws. And, for unskilled labour in particular they can see an ample supply that can be tapped by the private sector without government intervention.

What the ILO can offer

ILO is in a strong position to help countries cooperate on migration. In addition to participating in numerous international bodies and processes we have provided advice on the design and content of bilateral agreements.


Online publications

  1. Presentation: Labour migration in Asia, role of bilateral agreements and MOUs. Piyasiri Wickramasekara. [pdf - 60Kb]

Last update: May 3, 2009 ^ top