Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Philippines as Chair of the Colombo Process Thematic Area Working Group (TAWG) on Pre-Departure Orientation and Empowerment (PDOE) hosted the Fourth Meeting of the TAWG on 24 July 2018 in Manila, Philippines. The meeting was convened back-to-back with the Fourth Meeting of the TAWG on Remittances recognizing the important linkages between the two thematic areas, particularly in relation to financial education for migrant workers.

The one-day meeting brought together 52 participants, including representatives from all twelve Member States of the Colombo Process, with the aim to provide an avenue for the participants to engage in in-depth discussions on national, regional and global initiatives related to PDOE. The meeting also served as an apt opportunity for the participants to deliberate on how the Colombo Process under TAWG on PDOE could contribute to the PDOE-related objectives of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM), as the final draft of the GCM was made available as a result of the final round of intergovernmental negotiations of the GCM in mid-July.

In opening the meeting, Mr. Hans Leo J. Cacdac, Administrator, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Department of Labor and Employment, representing the Government of Philippines as the TAWG PDOE Chair, highlighted the importance of empowering migrant workers through effective orientations, citing that the Philippines was the pioneer of initiating the pre-departure orientation for migrant workers as early as 1983. He expressed hope that the meeting would “contribute to continue dialogues and enrich discussions to improve on strategies and pursue efforts toward attaining shared goals for the protection of migrant workers and their families in the global environment”.

Mr. Benil Thavarasa, Head of Migration and Development Unit, Global Programme on Migration and Development, Embassy of Switzerland to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, representing the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) emphasized in his remarks that the collaboration between countries of origin and countries of destination is imperative for effective orientations for migrant workers, as exemplified by the Comprehensive Information & Orientation Programme (CIOP) as the initiative of Abu Dhabi Dialogue (ADD). He also stressed that PDO programmes must be gender sensitive and include discussions on migrant workers’ rights and obligations.

Ms. Kristin Dadey, the Chief of Mission of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Philippines, welcomed the discussion on GCM objectives as one of the key agenda items of both TAWG meetings, noting that IOM has been designated as the Coordinator and Secretariat of a new UN Migration Network which is responsible for effective and coherent system-wide support to the implementation of the GCM. She stipulated that in this capacity, IOM remains ready to support the Colombo Process to deliberate on its contribution to the implementation of the GCM.

Building on the outcomes of the previous TAWG PDOE meetings, the Fourth Meeting covered key issues of concern to the Member States, including the next phases of CIOP with focus on pre-employment orientation and post-arrival orientation, social protection policies and programmes of the Member States including bilateral social security agreements, empowerment initiatives of ASEAN and SAARC through regional consensus and declaration, and activities by civil society organizations. Consular support for migrant workers was another key topic of discussions, given the close linkage between the protection of migrant workers and this new thematic area of the Colombo Process. These discussions were enriched by the participation of many resource persons from the government agencies, international organizations, academia and civil society organization.

In the final session of the meeting, the participants discussed action points of the GCM Objectives 3 “Provide accurate and timely information at all stages of migration” and 16 “Empower migrants and societies to realize full inclusion and social cohesion”. It was agreed that the following action points are of particular importance to the Colombo Process: improve systematic cooperation at all levels to exchange information on migration-related trends; open and accessible information points along relevant migration routes; and, promote multi-lingual, gender-responsive and evidence-based information campaigns in cooperation with various actors including private sector, migrant and diaspora organizations and civil society.

On the morning of 26 July, the delegates from the Member States were invited to visit the Blas F. Ople Development Center of OWWA. Hosted by the TAWG PDOE Chair, the site visit served as a unique opportunity for the Member State delegates to learn the Philippines’ comprehensive PDO and Reintegration Programmes for Overseas Filipino Workers through presentations, discussions, along with a tour of the facilities.

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