Regional Civil Society Advocacy on Human Rights Instrument of Migrant Workers in ASEAN

17th to 19th July 2017

Jakarta, Indonesia


The Regional Civil Society Advocacy on Human Rights Instrument of Migrant Workers in ASEAN was held from 17th to 19th July 2017 at Jakarta, Indonesia. ASETUC was invited to attend a regional consultation and advocacy event organised by the Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) and Solidaritas Perempuan.The event was attended by representatives from all ASEAN countries with union representation were from ASETUC and the Indonesian Migrant Labour Union (SBMI). ASETUC was represented by Brother Ted Tan, Coordinator of Research.

The opening remarks was given by Mr. George J. Lantu, Director of ASEAN Functional Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, followed by welcome remarks delivered by Mr. Muhammad Hafiz, Executive Director of Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) Indonesia. Mr. Hafiz noted that the finalisation of the Instrument of the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers is getting stagnant due to some pending articles. It was therefore urgent for ASEAN civil societies to be included in giving our recommendation to those pending and contentious issues.”

 The program went straight into an update on the current negotiation of the Instrument by representatives from the Indonesia’s ASEAN Committee on Migrant Workers (ACMW) drafting team. Dina Nisa Yura, from Solidaritas Perempuan also spoke on the need for an effective and binding instrument that will benefit Indonesian migrant workers. The participants then broke into two working groups focusing on the “Enforceability” and “Substance” of the Instrument with regard to the identified pending issues. The discussions and presentation of the results took up the rest of the first day and it was decided the Civil Society’s recommendation will be finalized on Day 2.

The discussion resumed next day until 11am where a press conference was scheduled.  Representatives from Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Singapore – reflecting the order of the ASEAN Chairmanship from the past, current and next - spoke to the press. The press picked up on the key point of civil society’s call for the adoption of a legally binding instrument despite current impose on the issue of legal nature of the Instrument, protection of undocumented migrant workers, and coverage of  families of migrant workers. The Regional Civil Society Statement on the Adoption of an ASEAN Instrument of the Rights of Migrant Workers was concluded after a final round of intense discussion amongst the participants.  

After the initial round of introductions by both civil society and the Minister’s delegation, Daniel Awigra, one of the organisers from HRWG, kick-started by presenting the Civil Society’s Statement to the Minister. Minister Hanif appreciated the civil society’s input which echoed Indonesia’s position of a legally binding instrument. He then shared his assessment on the situation and challenges faced so far in the negotiations. The civil society delegation wasted no time in following up with pertinent questions which was handled well by the Minister and his team. The entire dialogue session took more than an hour to conclude, after which a photo session including some group selfies was held with the Minister.

The final day’s agenda was planned for meeting and presenting the Civil Society Statement to as many members of the Committee of Permanent Representatives (CPR) to ASEAN as possible. Thanks to the work of HRWG and SP, appointments were secured in the morning with the CPR of Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore and with the CPR from Thailand in the afternoon. The participants divided into different groups with each one represented by someone from the same country as that of the CPR. Bro Ted from ASETUC went with the group that met with the Indonesian CPR. The session went smoothly and took about an hour as well. All the delegates in the group spoke up to support the need for a binding and effective Instrument. Bro Ted particularly emphasized on the importance for labour rights of migrant workers from the trade union perspective. The Charge D’Affaires for the Indonesian CPR, Amb. Andri Djufri Said, said that although the respective CPRs do not directly engage in the issue itself, he assured that, as likewise with other CPRs from the Philippines and Singapore, that they will transmit the submission to the capital.

On final day, the entire civil society delegation met as a whole group was with H.E. Amb. Phasporn Sangasubana, Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Thailand to ASEAN. She expressed appreciation of the efforts made going into developing and delivering the statement. She also gave some constructive remarks on how the statement could be strengthened. Although the current situation appears to be locked primarily over the issue of the legally binding status of the forthcoming Instrument, she urged the civil society not to be disheartened and to continue to consolidate its voice and press ASEAN in recognizing the adoption of an effective Instrument as a matter for urgent priority.