Public Debate: Towards A Pro-Migrant Workers ASEAN Community Post-2015

Activity Report of the Representative Of Indonesia to the AICHR


Erasmus Huis, Jakarta
Monday, 29 June 2015


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The Representative of Indonesia to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) has again organised the Public Debate and Discussion, this time with the theme “Towards a Pro-Migrant Workers ASEAN Community Post-2015”. The Public Debate was attended by more than one hundred (100) participants deriving from various stakeholders such as – the workers union and organisation, relevant ministry and governmental agencies, ASEAN bodies, the ASEAN Secretariat, diplomatic missions in Jakarta, United Nations agencies, National Human Rights Institutions, civil society organisations (CSOs), academe, students, as well as the media.

Aside from the general objective to reach common understanding amongst national stakeholders on the various issues of the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers in ASEAN, the main goal of this second Public Debate is to formulate joint steps and actions towards pro-migrant workers policies in ASEAN. Moreover, this activity is in line with the Thematic Study in which the AICHR is undertaking, led by the Representative of Indonesia, on Migration and Human Rights – with a focus on the migration management for most vulnerable groups, namely the migrant workers.

In his welcome remarks, Rafendi Djamin, Representative of Indonesia to the AICHR, highlighted the importance of cooperation at the national level regarding efforts to formulate policies at the regional level. On the other hand, regional policies need the support of national policies, even up to the level of county districts and cities. He further reiterated the views of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia at the beginning of 2015, who stated that the protection of migrant workers in ASEAN could only become effective when ASEAN has a legally binding framework for protection. In the meantime, there has been a bottleneck in the negotiation process of the instrument to protect migrant workers undertaken by the ASEAN Committee on the Implementation of the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers (ACMW). Therefore, he hopes for the discussions within the Debate to generate ideas to resolve such bottleneck at the regional level.

Speech Rafendi Djamin
Furthermore, Rafendi also underlined that the protection of migrant workers is one of the priorities of Indonesia in ASEAN, as stated by President Joko Widodo during the ASEAN Summit last April. It is therefore his view that if Indonesia could lead this issue in ASEAN, then Indonesia will not only be taking lead on the protection of Indonesian migrant workers, but all migrant workers in the ASEAN region.

The Head of Sub-Directorate for Vulnerable Groups of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) of Indonesia who acted as Moderator of the panel discussion explained that the discussions were important to raise awareness and understanding of national stakeholders regarding the issue of migrant workers; as well as to generate ideas or innovative inputs to overcome the obstacle currently faced by ASEA on the issue.

To kick-start discussions, three panel speakers gave three various perspectives regarding the issues of migrant workers, namely Indonesian migrant workers. The Director for Citizen and Legal Entity Protection of the MFA of Indonesia, laid out several issues encountered by the government of Indonesia in formulating as well as implementing policies for migrant workers – such as the dilemma of remittance versus socio-economic costs; moratorium of recruitment against the increasing risk of non-procedural recruitment; as well as the need for new policies for the protection of Indonesian migrant workers.

Moreover, the Head for Planning and External Relations Bureau of the Coordinating Ministry for Human Development and Culture of Indonesia, who is also the Representative of Indonesia in the High-Level Task Force on the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) 2025 Attendant Document presented the initiatives as well as priorities of ASEAN to protect and promote the rights of migrant workers post-2015. One of the principles of the draft ASCC Attendant Document is inclusivity, which aims to reduce the obstacles faced by migrant workers, in particular those who are undocumented. He further highlighted that the protection of migrant workers is part of the overall ASEAN priority to ensure social protection post-2015.

The representative of the Indonesian Migrant Workers Union underlined the importance to encourage ASEAN Member States to ratify the various instruments related to the protection of migrant workers, that has been produced by international bodies such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO), as well as the 1990 International Convention on the Protection of Rights of All Migrant Workers and Their Families.

Debate in motion
Discussions generated the importance to apply extraterritorial obligation amongst ASEAN Member States on issues of migrant workers as well as Rohingya refugees. There were also views that underlined the need of standardisation on social protection, while negotiations on a legally binding instrument on the protection of migrant workers also need to be concluded.

In the wrap-up sessions, the Representative of Indonesia to the AICHR also stressed the importance to encourage implementation commitment made by the ASEAN Leaders enshrined in the “Kuala Lumpur Declaration on a People-Oriented, Peopled Centred ASEAN” – which clearly mentions the protection of the rights of migrant workers.

The Representative of Indonesia will be organising three (3) more Public Debates this year, taking on themes in line with the AICHR’s priority programmes – namely the right to life, the elimination of violence against women, and business and human rights. The Public Debate and Discussion is a collaboration of the Representative of Indonesia to the AICHR with the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Indonesia.