The Asia-Pacific Regional Preparatory Meeting for the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, opened in Bangkok this week with a call for governments in the region to take action through economic, social and environmental policies to safeguard the rights and interests of all migrants, high- and low-skilled workers alike.
Policymakers, civil society, academia and experts from 44 countries are gathered at the three-day forum organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), in partnership with IOM, as well as ILO, UNFPA, UNHCR and UN Women, to provide regional input into the Global Compact – the first intergovernmental document developed under the auspices of the United Nations, to cover all dimensions of international migration.
At the opening today, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Dr. Shamshad Akhtar highlighted that Asia and the Pacific has long welcomed migrants, whether for economic benefits or to accommodate those displaced, and whilst they make invaluable contributions to both their countries of origin and destination, migrants are also exposed to a range of vulnerabilities.
“As non-citizens of their countries of residence, and non-residents of their countries of citizenship, migrants are often bypassed in both home and host countries. As a result, their rights are often not respected and their contributions may go unrecognised. Migrants are often poorly paid, concentrated in labour work, employed in low-skill jobs and in the informal sector requiring difficult and sometimes dangerous physical labour,” said Dr. Akhtar.
“In a world on the move, addressing these challenges directly is all the more critical. Given the economic dynamism of the region and ageing of the population in many countries, migrants can play an even bigger role in filling labour force gaps until host countries resolve the fundamental issues of ageing. With growing regional connectivity, the region will need its labour force to take fuller advantage of opportunities generated, but beyond the impact on goods and services, this will also spur people-to-people connectivity.”
Asia and the Pacific is an epicentre of international migration with over 62 million migrants residing in the region, and almost 102 million migrants originating from its shores. Most are engaged in labour migration, taking up low-skilled work in developing countries, and many face human rights abuses because of their race, gender, ethnicity or cultural background. This exploitation not only affect people’s human rights, it impacts the contributions they make both at home and abroad.
Regional priority areas of action identified at the meeting will feed into the forthcoming global preparatory stocktaking meeting for the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico in December, and the negotiations in New York next year. The Global Compact is a significant opportunity to improve governance and address the challenges associated with today’s migration. It will also help to strengthen the contribution of migrants and migration to sustainable development.