By Grace Baey
Amidst my conversations with fellow colleagues from civil society, I was heartened to learn from those who had attended previous Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) meetings that there has been a marked shift in discourse over the past six years from a predominant focus on economic concerns (i.e. remittances) towards a growing emphasis on migrant rights.
The 2012 GFMD marked the second time that civil society and governments shared a "common space" through which to engage in face-to-face dialogue on migration and development issues. As noted by Ambassador William Lacy Swing, Director General of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), "the Common Space is now a permanent fixture of the GFMD… In the past, we were ships that passed by the night along parallel courses. Now those days are over."
I participated in three working sessions on the theme on labour mobility, markets, and matching, including the common space dialogue with government representatives. Each working session featured a panel of speakers who shared different insights and best practices learned from their range of experience on various migration issues. Amongst these were Philip Hunter from Verité, Christine Kuptsch from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), and Karl Flecker from the Canadian Labour Congress.
During the working sessions, we were pushed to put pen to paper regarding the changes we felt were most urgently needed to improve recruitment and employment practices, as well as skills and jobs matching from the perspective of migrant workers, trade unions, and employers. Some of these included:
- Strong licensing and regulation of recruitment that is effectively enforced, and clearly identifies the rights of workers and responsibilities of all parties;
- Harmonisation and recognition of credentials; and
- Promote employer investment in training that is relevant to the labour market.
Having identified these changes, we brainstormed different tools and mechanisms to operationalise these recommendations and proposed the following benchmarks:
- Reduction in the number of brokers and intermediaries, and instances of illegal recruitment;
- Increased ratification of UN and ILO Conventions, including ILO Convention 181;
- Programmes to ensure that migrants are matched with jobs according to their training (to avoid de-skilling); and
- Creating public employment agencies to assist in the placement of migrant workers.
These discussions helped to inform the common space dialogue on the third day, when civil society representatives were given the opportunity to speak first. Despite the brief time we shared, it was our hope that these exchanges would sow the seeds for a much-needed partnership towards achieving the common goal of improving the lives of migrants around the world. As Stefan Manservisi, Director General for Home Affairs of the European Commission, has rightly commented, "The common space should be turned into a common approach."
There is much work to do ahead of us, but I take heart in Khalid Koser's (Deputy Director, Geneva Centre for Security Policy) affirmation that "the sum of the GFMD dialogue is more than the total of its individual parts." To quote the words of George Joseph, Co-Chair of the GFMD Civil Society Days, in his closing speech, "We are here today not for ourselves. We are here for change."
Grace Baey is the Communications Officer for the Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore, one of the core partners within the Migrating out of Poverty Research Programme Consortium. Grace was attending the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) Civil Society Days 2012 supported by the Migrating out of Poverty RPC.