November 12, 2019
The U.S. Government is supporting ASEAN Member States and the ASEAN Committee for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers (ACMW) in upholding fundamental human rights of migrant workers through constructive, direct engagement with civil society.
Today, over 35 representatives from civil society, the ASEAN Commission on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers (ACMW), the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), Malaysian Ministry of Human Resources, among others convened in Kuala Lumpur to engage in a full day of policy dialogue on how to strengthen implementation of the ASEAN Consensus on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers in Malaysia. This event is the third in a series of consultations across all ASEAN Member States to encourage exchange and collaboration across key stakeholders on the ASEAN Consensus, organized by the Human Rights Working Group (HRWG), a grantee of the ASEAN-USAID PROSPECT project. The objectives of the dialogue were to build a platform for key stakeholders to share good practices and lessons learned for implementing ASEAN Consensus at national and regional level and to increase engagement on the implementation of the ASEAN Consensus, in partnership with civil society.
In his opening remarks, YBhg, Dato Amir bin Omar, Secretary General for Malaysia’s Ministry of Human Resources, reaffirmed Malaysia’s commitment to upholding international labor standards and incorporating them into the national labor practices through strategic partnerships and regular consultations with the International Labor Organization (ILO) and other constituents. He went on to explain as part of Malaysia’s “Decent Work Country Program,” labor migration features as one of the three priority areas, specifically focusing on improving governance policies pertaining to labor migration and foreign workers in the country. He concluded by applauding the policy dialogue as an important initiative to strengthen relationships to better ensure the rights of workers in Malaysia are protected and given adequate and fair social protections under the law.
On behalf of the United States Government, Mr. Diman Simanjuntak, ASEAN Affairs Officer from the USAID/ASEAN Office in Jakarta, commended the Malaysian government’s “on-going commitment to improve the rights of migrant workers in Malaysia, as well as their commitment to consult with labor groups such as the Malaysian Trade Union Congress, to form an independent committee tasked with improving policies related to [providing] social protections to migrant workers.” Mr. Simanjuntak also recognized the challenges encountered by the Malaysian government with regards to the provision of social protections for undocumented migrants, who are particularly vulnerable to abuses. He concluded by saying that USAID was pleased to support this policy dialogue as a platform amongst state and non-state actors and their efforts to implement the ASEAN Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers at the national level.
Through their discussions, participants explored the practical implementation of the ASEAN Consensus across three main areas: 1) participation of migrant workers in the execution of the Consensus, 2) access to social protection for migrant workers and family members, and 3) access to justice for migrant workers. Participants also discussed potential opportunities to hold more frequent exchanges among stakeholders. Upon completion of the dialogue, participants will provide a set of recommendations regarding national level strategies for the application of the ASEAN Consensus, particularly emphasizing mechanisms for civil society and migrant workers participation in the implementation process.
The U.S. Government, through the ASEAN-USAID PROSPECT project, will continue to support the Human Rights Working Group to facilitate multi-stakeholder consultations to discuss the most critical challenges and opportunities that accompany the implementation of the ASEAN Consensus at the national-level. Additional consultations are planned to take place in Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, The Philippines, Singapore, and Brunei Darussalam over the next 4 months. Engaging as a reliable partner in national policy dialogues such as these, exemplifies how the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development are working across the Indo-Pacific to not only uphold international labor standards and promote incorporating them into the national labor practices, but also to advance the integrity of electoral processes, support media independence, protect human rights, and foster accountability, by strengthening the rule of law.