As an Asean labour ministers meeting gets underway in Thailand, a civil society Task Force on Asean Migrant Workers is urging the regional grouping to formally launch a committee to implement the Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers.
Recognising the importance of developing pro-active measures to deal with the challenge of migration in the Asean region, the Leaders of the Asean nations set out a provision (programme area 220.127.116.11) in the Vientiane Action Programme which called for the “elaboration of an Asean instrument for the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers.”
Asean requested the Working Group on the Asean Rights Mechanism to take this effort forward, and the former Asean Secretary-General specifically requested that the Singapore focal point of the Working Group take the lead. The Singapore focal point oversaw the establishment of the Task Force on Asean Migrant Workers, composed of regional networks of civil society organizations and trade unions.
Since the promulgation of the Asean Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers in January 2007, the Task Force has been actively conducting consultations with its civil society members at the national and regional level in order to develop proposals for the Asean instrument envisioned by the Vientiane Action Programme.
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Between February 2007 and March 2008, the Task Force organised national consultations of trade union and civil society members in Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines, and regional consultations in Singapore and Malaysia. In each case, the consultation developed a comprehensive statement with recommendations directed to the national government in the country in question and to Asean as a whole. These statements have then been conveyed to the national governments in meetings with senior officials, and shared with the Asean Secretariat. The Task Force also continued to strengthen its network, adding new members to the existing regional networks that belong to the group1, and built an advisory network, the Migrant Technical Assistance Group (M-TAG) composed of senior technical experts from UN agencies and the IOM who have offered their advice and assistance. In the remaining months of 2008, the Task Force is planning to conduct national consultations among its national partners and Government agencies in Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, and Singapore.
These consultations are intended to help formulate policy positions and to propose concepts for effective mechanisms that the Task Force can recommend to Asean for consideration in developing the Framework Instrument for the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers, as called for in point 22 of the Asean Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers. The Task Force, its regional partners, and their national network members have agreed on the attached list of topics as the starting point in the Task Force’s own efforts to develop a draft Framework Instrument. The Task Force initiated our participatory drafting process at the meeting from which this Statement is being issued. The Task Force urges Asean to consider this list of topics in its deliberations on processes to develop and strengthen Asean policies and activities designed to protect and promote the rights of all migrant workers. The Task Force recognises that there is a long road ahead in this process, and we welcome Asean’s continuing engagement with our efforts.
We strongly support the efforts of Asean to build a caring, sharing community, as envisioned by the Asean Charter, and pledge our continuing engagement with Asean and its member governments to help fulfill this important vision. We applaud the sentiment of H.E. Surin Pitsuwan, who declared at his office transfer ceremony to become the Asean Secretary-General on 7 January 2008 that “…to be successful and meaningful in building the Asean Community” our “560 million people must be part of this historic mission.” As representatives of the major trade union and civil society networks supporting all migrant workers in Asean, we believe it is vitally important to deepen our engagement with the policy makers of Asean. We look forward to working with all the Governments of Asean more closely in the future on this important regional initiative. We also express our appreciation for the warm welcome that our efforts have received from the Asean Secretariat.
Finally, we believe it is appropriate and timely that the Asean Labour Ministers Meeting (ALMM) now formally launch the Asean Committee to Implement the Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers. The Task Force and our regional networks strongly believe that it is urgent for the Governments of Asean to immediately appoint their focal points to this vital Committee, which has the critical role to play in the development of the Framework Instrument. It has been almost one year since the 28 July 2007 resolution establishing the Asean Committee to Implement the Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers was passed by the 40th annual meeting of the Foreign Ministers. We note that the 41st annual Foreign Ministers meeting is fast approaching. We believe that the Asean Committee to Implement the Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers should be effectively constituted and functioning no later than the upcoming 41st annual Foreign Ministers meeting.
We would also like to recommend that the Asean Committee to Implement the Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers form a civil society advisory council to provide the opportunity for genuine participation of all stakeholders in the Committee’s deliberations. We note that the 40th Asean Ministerial Meeting “…recognised the valuable contribution of the civil society organisations in the building of an Asean Community and expressed our commitment to continue to engage CSO representatives at various levels, programmes, and meetings.”
The Task Force sincerely looks forward to continuing our engagement with the ALMM, the national Ministries of Labour, and the Asean Committee to Implement the Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers once it is operational. We particularly welcome the opportunity to engage on these important issues with the Royal Thai Government in its role as Chair of Asean this year.
The above is a statement by the Task Force on Asean Migrant Workers to the Ministers of Labour at the Asean Labour Ministers Meeting (ALMM) Bangkok, Thailand.
The Task Force is composed of The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum Asia), Migrant Forum in Asia, Union Network International-APRO, Asia-Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), Coordination of Action Research on AIDS and Mobility in Asia (CARAM-Asia), Asia-Pacific Workers Solidarity Links (APWSL), and the Asian Migrant Centre (Mekong Migration Network). Public Services International (Asia-Pacific Regional Office) and Building and Woodworkers International (Asia-Pacific Regional Office) have recently joined the Task Force, strengthening the trade union links in the network.
29 April 2008