International migration is a key aspect of global integration, yet migration is characterised by a global governance deficit: unlike such areas as finance and trade, there is a lack of international institutions to set standards and ensure conformity with international legal norms. State migration policies often fail or have unintended consequences, while for migrants the result may be high levels of risk and exploitation. The US has over 11 million irregular residents, and systematic use of irregular migrant labour can be found throughout the world. In recent years, however, there have been attempts to move towards global governance mechanisms in the migration field. At the same time, migrant associations have grown and linked up with international human rights organisations. The article examines these trends, paying special attention to the Global Forum on Migration and Development – an intergovernmental consultation process that has met annually since 2007 – and the efforts of migrant associations and other civil society organisations to bring human rights into the debate. A final section discusses the initiative of a group of mainly Latin American academics to establish a new conceptual framework and set of strategic indicators to assess the links between migration, development and human rights.