Wednesday, 14 March 2018

The Colombo Process recognizes that ensuring safe and transparent recruitment remains one of the challenges within overseas employment from the Colombo Process countries and strives to address the challenges through harmonizing policies and regulations throughout the Member States and enhanced cooperation with countries of destination and various key stakeholders.

The Senior Officials of the Colombo Process Member States (CPMS) gathered in Bangkok, Thailand, on 13-14 March 2018 for the final in a series of three symposiums entitled “Promoting Regulatory Harmonization of Recruitment Intermediaries in the Colombo Process Member States”. This third and final symposium served as a platform for CPMS to reflect discussions from the first and second symposiums, discuss strategies for collaboration, and identify regional priority actions for joint implementation by the Member States. To aid the discussion, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) compiled a synthesis report based on the discussions, recommendations and action points from the previous symposiums, as a key reference document of the symposium.

The symposium was inaugurated by welcome remarks from His Excellency Dr. Khaga Nath Adhikari, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Permanent Representative to ESCAP, Embassy of Nepal in Thailand, representing Nepal as Chair of the Colombo Process. In his speech, the Ambassador thanked IOM and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) for the continued support to the Colombo Process, and highlighted that it is the shared responsibility of all to ensure the safety and protection of the migrant workers, given their significant contributions to the national economies through remittances and sharing of acquired skills and knowledge on return to their home countries.

Mr. Benil Thevarasa, Head of Migration and Development Unit, Global Programme Migration and Development Office, Embassy of Switzerland to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, representing SDC, noted that the Government of Switzerland recognizes the accomplishments of CPMS in fostering ethical recruitment and reiterated the importance of cooperation among all concerned stakeholders to prevent abuses and ensure ethical recruitment practices.

Emphasizing that “no one actor on its own can solve the problem associated with unethical recruitment practices”, Dr. Nenette Motus, Regional Director, IOM Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, reaffirmed IOM’s readiness to continue its support to the Colombo Process in their efforts to foster ethical recruitment. She also stressed that ethical recruitment is highly pertinent to the on-going preparation for the development of the Global Compact for Migration. 

The symposium, which was attended by 52 persons including Senior Officials from all twelve CPMS, resource persons and key partners, consisted of a set of three thematic sessions in line with the three areas of cooperation identified at the second symposium:

1) Regulatory harmonization amongst the Colombo Process countries;
2) Collaboration with countries of destination; and,
3) Collaboration with the private sector.

Each thematic session was enriched by the participation of diverse resource persons, who were invited from the country of destination, private sector including representatives from employers, employers’ federations, business alliances and recruitment agency associations, UN agencies, and civil society organizations. Together with the CPMS officials, they shared the updates and latest initiatives relevant to specific action points identified for the above three areas of cooperation. The presentation by a high-level government official from Bahrain highlighted on the country’s Flexi Permit System and the processes to enter into this system. The presentations by the resource persons representing employers, a global brand, and labour recruiters brought diverse discussions on demand for ethical recruitment.

At the end of the thematic sessions, possible strategies to implement specific action points for each thematic area of cooperation were presented by IOM for discussion among the representatives of the CPMS. Ms. Nasreen Jahan, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare & Overseas Employment, Bangladesh, chaired the discussion as the Chair of the Colombo Process Thematic Area Working Group (TAWG) on fostering Ethical Recruitment. After thorough deliberations, the Member States have identified “Regulatory harmonization amongst the Colombo Process countries” as the priority cooperation area and agreed to take forward the following action points in 2018-2019:

  • Rating mechanism of recruitment agencies: mapping of existing rating mechanisms in CPMS and sharing of good practices and lessons learned with a view to strengthening existing rating systems at the national level; and,
  • Provision of inputs to the global guidelines to define and make transparent recruitment fees and related costs: integration of discussions on recruitment costs and fees in TAWG meetings on fostering ethical recruitment and preparation of a Colombo Process position paper.

The symposium was concluded by the closing remarks and words of appreciation by Mr. Tej Raj Pandey, Joint Secretary, Foreign Employment and Labor Attaché Division, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Nepal as Chair of the Colombo Process. Mr. Pandey highlighted on the need of the countries of origin, transit and destination to work together to empower and protect migrant workers.

This Symposium was convened within the framework of IOM’s Regional Project “Strengthening Labour Migration Governance through Regional Cooperation in the Colombo Process countries” with funding support from SDC.