TF AMW recommendations on forging an effective working relationship between the ACMW and the ASEAN Human Rights Body (AHRB)

24 Jan 2009   |  ASEAN Migrant Workers   |  ASEAN  

Task Force on ASEAN Migrant Workers


January 7, 2009


H.E. Surin Pitsuwan

Secretary-General, ASEAN

ASEAN Secretariat

Jakarta, Indonesia


H.E. Sihasak Phuangketkaew


High Level Panel on the Establishment of the ASEAN human rights body

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Sri Ayudhya Road,

Bangkok 10400, Thailand


Members of the High-Level Panel on the Establishment of the ASEAN Human Rights Body


RE:  Forging an effective working relationship between the ACMW

        and the ASEAN Human Rights Body (AHRB)

Dear Excellencies,


On the important occasion of the meeting of the High-Level Panel in Brunei Darussalam on January 12-15, 2009, the Task Force on ASEAN Migrant Workers (TF-AMW) wishes to take this opportunity to send our sincere wishes for a highly successful consultation.   As you may know, the TF-AMW serves as the platform for ASEAN civil society groups working for the effective implementation of the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers.   We strongly support the initiative of ASEAN to provide for the implementation of this Declaration through the operationalization of the ASEAN Committee on Migrant Workers (ACMW). 


The reason that I am writing you today is to take the opportunity to sincerely offer some views from the TF-AMW on the importance of forging an effective working relationship between the ACMW and the ASEAN Human Rights Body (AHRB).   We understand that this matter may come up for discussion during the meeting in Brunei Darussalam.   Our views are based on over two years of work by the TF-AMW in developing a civil society version of the Instrument on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrants Workers, which we plan to present to ASEAN and the ACMW by May 2009.  These issues have been discussed extensively in the TF-AMW process, which has so far held seven national consultations (Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam) and six regional consultations to encourage the sharing of views and experience of migrant workers and all national stakeholders involved with the migration process.     


The TF-AMW sincerely hopes that the HLP will consider creating a Subcommittee on Migrant Workers to operate subordinate to the AHRB.   Since the regional nature of intra-state migration in ASEAN is widely recognized (and migration is growing in the region as well as to other ASEAN dialogue partners outside the region), we believe it is important that migrant workers should receive specific recognition and special attention under the planned AHRB.   The TF-AMW observes that designing a Subcommittee or other appropriate structure under the AHRB would also help build institutional capacity at the regional level to address migrant workers’ issues and concerns.  


Should the HLP decide to establish a Subcommittee on Migrant Workers, the TF-AMW would suggest that a clear division of duties for the ACMW and for the Subcommittee should be set out to avoid any duplication or confusion in the roles of these important respective bodies.  


It is our understanding that the ACMW, as an inter-government committee, has as its primary role to direct efforts aimed at effective implementation of the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers.  This includes development of an Instrument (as called for in article 22 of the Declaration) that should set out policies and regional structures to protect and promote migrant worker rights.  Since the ACMW has only recently held it first meeting in September, the TF-AMW expects that the role and responsibilities of the ACMW may continue to evolve as the Government representatives there undertake their work.  The TF-AMW also expects that the ACMW may play a leading role in resolving disputes in interpretation and implementation that may arise between ASEAN member states.    


The TF-AMW respectfully submits that a Subcommittee on Migrant Workers could play several important, yet different, roles from the ACMW which would contribute significantly to building protection for migrant workers in line with the ASEAN Declaration.   The TF-AMW recommends that that some of the following responsibilities for a possible Subcommittee on Migrant Workers could be considered by the HLP:     


  1. In the view of the TF-AMW, the proposed Subcommittee on Migrant Workers should engage continuously with the ACMW, civil society groups, and all other relevant stakeholders.   As part of this engagement, the TF-AMW believes the Subcommittee should be empowered to receive and send communications (including reports) with civil society organizations and other stakeholders on issues affecting the human rights of migrant workers.   The Subcommittee should also be permitted to conduct research into issues facing migrant workers in ASEAN and, as appropriate, develop reports.   Activities to promote improved understanding about the rights of migrant workers and the ASEAN Declaration might also be included under these informational and knowledge-sharing areas of work of the Subcommittee


  1. The TF-AMW also supports the concept that the Subcommittee should have the right to  receive, review and investigate complaints filed in written communications from ASEAN-based Government departments, employment agencies/employers, trade unions, civil society groups, and of course, individual migrants.   The TF-AMW believes it would be important to allow the Subcommittee to publicly issue reports and findings on cases it receives and make recommendations to the AHRB and others for corrective action(s), as appropriate.   Of course, the TF-AMW recognizes that final action would have to be decided by the AHRB in any given case and that the Subcommittee would in all cases remain subordinate and beholden to the AHRB.  


  1. The TF-AMW recommends that the HLP consider providing the Subcommittee with a role in reviewing reports provided by ASEAN Member Governments (under the reporting requirements of the ASEAN Declaration and Instrument) and making recommendations on Government compliance with the ASEAN Declaration and Instrument.   The observations and recommendations made by the Subcommittee should be made in a positive, promotional way and could be conveyed to the ACMW to forward to the concerned Government.   


  1. The TF-AMW recommends that Subcommittee could cooperate with relevant international organizations (such as the International Labour Organization [ILO]) with whom ASEAN has already concluded agreements on technical cooperation, to promote increased respect for international labour standards and human rights for migrant workers in the region. 


In terms of membership, the TF-AMW would like to respectfully recommend that the members of the Subcommittee could number between 10 and 14 nationals of ASEAN,  experts representing the stakeholders – Government, Employers, Trade Unions and Civil Society,  each serving in his/her individual capacity.   But of course we also note that the modalities of the Subcommittee would be dependent on those of AHRB, under whose authority the Subcommittee would operate. 


The TF-AMW sincerely hopes that these suggestions are helpful to the HLP in its deliberations.   We greatly appreciate your consideration of our views, and we would be happy to provide any additional clarifications or information on our views and our activities.   For more information on the TF-AMW visit:


With sincerest regards and assurances of our highest respect,




Sinapan Samydorai

Convener, Task Force on ASEAN Migrant Workers


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