Thematic Workshop on Connectivity – Migration – Business

Thematic Workshop on Connectivity – Migration – Business

Ninth Global Forum for Migration and Development

CR-4, UN ESCAP Building, Bangkok, 29 March 2016


(By Bikash Chowdhury Barua, Chairman, BASUG, Member ISC)

The first thematic workshop of GFMD on ‘Migration, Connectivity and Business’ was held on 29 March 2016 at the UN Centre in Bangkok, Thailand. Representatives from the governments, civil society organisations and international organisations attended the first ever thematic workshop, which was chaired by Mr. Shahidul Haq, Chairman of 2016 GFMD Bangladesh.

The Concept Note on the workshop prepared by GFMD Dhaka mentioned that unlike in the recent decades, ‘connectivity’ has emerged as the defining feature within the globalised and multi-connected world. Across the regions, countries have been witnessing numerous connectivity initiatives emerging, in different forms. ‘People’ are the centre point in the contemporary connectivity discourse. Countries are increasingly joining regional, sub-regional trading agreements, not only for trade in goods and services, but also for overall social and economic development and greater cohesion in the sub-regions/regions.

Chair Shahidul Haq

Chairman of GFMD 2016, Secretary Shahidul Haq started his presentation on the day quoting from the Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina, which said, “We believe in connecting ideas, knowledge, technology, culture, movement of goods, services and investment…physical connectivity is important in ensuring overall peace, progress and prosperity.”

Secretary Shahidul Haq said, ‘we need to work differently to manage human mobility today. We have stepped into the 4th industrial revolution, and we need to work differently, find out new tools to manage it. The way we work will change. The virtual world will overtake the real world in terms of goods and services. The way we work is also different, requiring a different way of managing the movement of people. We are managing it through the consular now, but this set of instrument is already falling apart everywhere, he added. (Photo: Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haq)

Mr. Haque continued, ‘in a hyper-connected world, people are on the move and if the state fails to govern it, it shall be overtaken. States are slow in providing the fuss-free services that mobile travellers demand, hence they have to catch up with managing movement of people. In terms of reflections, the concept of linking mobility and business is a positive one provided we can manage it.
– We need to see where and how mobility is linked with globalization. Fundamental issues of inequalities between nations should be brought into question when considering migration.
– The new world will be more individualized and decentralized, in which the rights of individuals dominate. There are people without proper documentation, challenging the reach of the state in managing migration and displacement patterns.
(Picture below shows: Saiful Haq, Director of WARBE and Bikash Chowdhury Barua, Chairman of BASUG at the workshop) The Bangladesh chair said, Bangladesh has proposed the idea of an informal Friends of Migration in New York for which there has been growing consensus. The objective is to have continuing political dialogue for a new migration system for the new world.’’


                                                     William Gois

William Gois of Migrants Forum of Asia and a representative from the Civil society in his presentation said, ‘the 2007 ASEAN declaration called for an instrument to protect migrant workers but it is now 2016 and that instrument is yet to see the light today. With regards to trade agreements, it is important to not forget that labour migration is a symptom of inequalities around the world. It promotes free trade at the expense of local population, forcing people to seek livelihood and survival elsewhere, away from their country and communities.. Migration, he added, is now about the commodification of people and labour.

We agree that we need more connectivity among people than businesses. We have to inquire into the root causes of movement. We suspect that people are moving not for a sense of connectivity, but for survival. It is true that people are moving and many of them are moving in precarious situations as it is done through the informal sectors and economy. Finally, let us not forget that in Europe and the Mexican borders people have been disconnected in the process of migration and gotten lost from their families. Mr. William clearly mentioned, Connectivity is only possible if people are at the centre of it and driving economic space that enriches their sense of dignity, when no one is left behind in shaping our common future. There has been growing xenophobia towards migrants and crackdowns on migrant communities on an unprecedented scale, with many women and children being kept in detention. Walls and migration corridors are being built to keep people out.

                                  Other deliberations

– We need bilateral/multilateral frameworks to decide where migrant workers should be, to give predictions of their remittances and the cost of migration for workers.
– Workers should come together to protect their rights in these situations. Migrants should be part of the debate.
– Migration is a reaction to increasing worldwide interconnectedness.
– The global economy needs a mobile workforce, flexible human capital and international networks for productivity and growth.
– Individuals on the other hand are drawn by economic opportunities abroad.
– The growth of businesses and firms corresponds with international policies and frameworks to enable human mobility alongside economic growth. Such arrangements need to strike a balance between liberalization and human mobility, individual and business interests.

– From a social perspective, the mobility-connectivity nexus is exemplified by migrant and diaspora communities which are the embodiment of connectivity due to their mobile livelihoods and transnational identities. With financial transfers, entrepreneurship, cultural ties and social networks, enabling frameworks that promotes cohesive relations between migrants need to be in place.

– In Switzerland, integration is understood as a collective task of society that is shouldered not just by the government, but also by the private sectors and civil society. In 2014, multi-level integration programs were launched, comprising access to information, counselling, employment, language and inter-cultural interpretation. Such integration programs prove all the more essential in the current times of increasing migration, such as in the Mediterranean Sea.
– From a partnership perspective, the connectivity-mobility nexus calls for a multi-stakeholder approach for effective policy-making.

(Photo: Shabari Nair, Regional Advisor, Migration and Development, South and South-East Asia,  Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) during his intervention)

– From the regional context, Switzerland has intensified a partnership to facilitate mobility in West Africa for migration and development in the region, For instance, there are partnerships that aim to improve transport between main, urban areas through the growth of bus companies. Such public-private partnerships aim to improve the economy as a whole and good governance, as citizens move more freely and safely across the region.

– It is important to review clauses in trade agreements, based on how they affect people on the ground and how it engaged other stakeholders.
– It is necessary to look at how to improve legal channels of migration as too many people have been condemned to irregular movement simply because there are not enough regular, safe channels.
– Undocumented migrant workers have to be recognised for their contribution to their host country and country of origins.
– The Philippines migration management program is 4 decades old and they are proactive in protecting the rights and benefits of overseas workers. The Philippines government 9% of GDP for the BPO sector in 2016, generating 1.3 million new jobs.
– Opportunities are hence provided to Filipinos and Filipino companies. Migration can now take place within national borders.

– 2.5 – 3.7billion of the world population is made up of migrants
– Brazil has received a large number of migrants in the past years and created migrant visas for them, allowing them an opportunity to be integrated.
– 9000 visas for Syrians (Brazil).

                           Bikash Chowdhury Barua, BASUG & ISC member

In his intervention at the workshop, Bikash Chowdhury Barua of BASUG and member ISC said, ‘in Recommendation 6 of Istanbul GFMD 2015, there was a call to ” Ensure adequate policy and funding frameworks and mechanisms in both sending and receiving countries, to facilitate diaspora and migrants contributions to development through job creation, social  entrepreneurship and advocacy, for sound public policies and also in particular to ensure decent work in small and medium enterprises.” As benchmark, a National and Global Diaspora Development Funds was suggested. Similar call was made in Manila GFMD in 2008, creation of ‘Migration and Development Fund’. And today is 2016.

He further said, there were also recommendations in Istanbul to set up practical mechanisms for diaspora investment and entrepreneurship, such as

diaspora bonds, (Bangladesh has already introduced Diaspora Bonds), diaspora development funds, access to public private partnership (PPP) schemes (already exists in BD)  and public finance initiatives (PFI),  and 3) to include diaspora and migrants engagement in local and national development plans. Our approach to the governments is to endorse those recommendations and I think the International Civil society can also think of setting up a permanent CS Focal point to monitor progress of these recommendations.

(Photo from left: Shabari Nair, Regional Advisor, Migration and Development, South and South-East Asia,  Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, (SDC), Saiful Islam, Director, WARBE & Bikash Chowdhury Barua, Chairman of BASUG) He further pointed out on ‘Engagement with Diaspora community.’ Both private and public organisations, governments need to be engaged with the Diaspora community, which is diversified with different interests and priorities. Empowering the diaspora community and building up diaspora capacity all around is essential. In this regard, development of diaspora entrepreneurship and resource deserve greater attention. Social business could also be explored. More conventional notion of public-private partnership in diaspora investment could be emphasized. The Dutch government says diaspora organisation are their development partners. But apart from holding few pre-consultation meetings with the civil society organisations before the GFMDs, no real engagement with the diaspora organisations are made. This happens in both ends- also at the sending ends. He added, there are some good examples of diaspora initiatives across the globe. One of them is: RE-MADE project of the African Foundation for Development (AFFORD), in UK, which brought together African diasporas to start business and enterprises in Ghana. AFFORD has also established a Business Support Centre in Sierra Leone for local and diaspora entrepreneurs and investors to help them through navigating the process of establishing businesses. AFFORD has provided diasporas from Sierra Leone and Ghana with business skills, management skills, and facilitated mechanism for intellectual transfer of knowledge to countries of origin for African diasporas who do not necessarily want to return home permanently.

                                Efrain Jimenez, ISC member

Efrain Jimenez in his turn said, ‘it is important to recognize the contributions of migrants and diaspora to development through a sometimes very eloquent and articulate discourse, but that is not enough. We need action oriented approaches now. Profit revenue by business if getting bigger and bigger and not giving a fair share to the employees, sometimes the business get into very greedy practices by relaying on cheap labour obtained by undocumented workers or refugees and even vulnerable people so that the business can be competitive with other companies ending up in some cases working with migrants and treating them as a modern day slavery. Concrete approaches have to be made by governments to include civil society and the diaspora to create new jobs and make migration an option, he suggested.

(Photo: Efrain Jimenez, ISC member of GFMD speaking at the workshop) Efrain further added, Governments need to facilitate national consultations in their countries with their own context by having a sincere and honest dialogue with 3 fundamental actors: private sector, civil society and government where these 3 can bring political will and understand exactly the role of everyone in job creation by respecting and making sure there is a way to be competent with other countries ensuring that there is no unfair policy affecting migrant workers. There is a concrete proof that it is possible to unify the voices and bring together the efforts of civil society and government in a co responsible way. In Mexico we began with the 3×1 more than 15 years ago investing in social infrastructure and now that program has evolved not only for social infrastructure but to productive projects with a matching scheme of 1×1 one creating hundreds of jobs for the last few years. He also underscored the need to create concrete initiatives that can enable a better environment for migrants and diaspora to invest for example by creating a pilot program that can be issued with an easy way to open new business at country of origin where as of now in many countries is too complicated and over regulated making this efforts by migrants to invest almost impossible and ended up by reiterating the need  to begin with action oriented approaches now making sure it includes civil society at every country in their own context.

(Photo: William Gois of Migrant Forum in Asia, 2nd from left & Sumaiya Islam of BOMSA are see among others at the workshop) Among others who shared their experiences and observations included, Mr. Shabari Nair, Regional Advisor, Migration and Development, South and South-East Asia,  Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, (SDC), Dhaka, Mr. Saiful Islam, Director, WARBE, Ms. Sumaiya Islam, BOMSA. (This is an Incomplete Report).