Remarks by Honorable Mr. Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, Minister for Foreign Affairs at the International Conference on Protection of Rights of Migrant Workers

Remarks by Honorable Mr. Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, Minister for Foreign Affairs at the International Conference on Protection of Rights of Migrant Workers
(12 November 2019, Kathmandu)

Chief Guest of the Conference Vice President Right Honorable Mr. Nanda Bahadur Pun,
Honorable Minister for Labour, Employment and Social Security Mr. Gokarna Bista,
Honorable Chairperson of National Human Rights Commission of Nepal Mr. Anup Raj Sharma,
HE Valerie Juilliand, UN RC
Honourable Members of the Parliament,
Honorable Dr. Carlon Alfonso Negret Mosquera, Chairperson of Global Alliance for National Human Rights Institutions,
Honorable Members of the National Human Rights Commission,
Hon. Chairpersons and Members of National Human Right Institutions of various countries,
Excellencies and Distinguished Delegates,
Representatives of Development Partners, United Nations Agencies, Private Sector, Civil Society, Academia and the Media,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Namaskar and Good afternoon to you all.

It is a distinct honour and privilege to be at this important International Conference on Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers organized under the auspices of National Human Rights Commission.

I would like to express my gratitude to the organizer for inviting me to share my thoughts at this important occasion.

Before I begin, I would like to extend warm welcome to all international participants to Nepal and wish for your comfortable stay.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Migration has been a defining phenomenon of our time.

We have seen migrant workers being important vehicle of high economic growth, infrastructure development and critical source to replenish the shortfall of working population in many countries.

Skills, knowledge and labor of migrant workers have been important force of production in the receiving countries and they provide critical human resources for agriculture, industries, trade and other sectors.

Migrant workers have also been the carrier of goodwill and source of co-existence and diversity in many countries.

On the other hand, the remittances sent by migrant workers have been significant source of income to their families back home that has played important role to keep economy of the countries of origin vibrant.

They have helped both the countries of origin and destination to strike balance between labour supply and demand; stimulate innovation, transfer skills and technologies; and assist to attain sustainable development.

If managed well, migration has a potential to create a win-win situation to all three parties in the process- the countries of origin, countries of destination and the migrant workers themselves.

According to UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, there are 164 million migrant workers worldwide in the year 2017. Data shows that annually 2.5 million Asian workers are leaving their country of origin in search of works to various destinations in Western Europe, US and countries in the Middle East.

As the number and demand for migrant workers increases worldwide, associated issues and challenges tend to surface in the process of recruitment, transfer, employment, social security and repatriation.

Most notably, in our own experience and from the experiences of elsewhere extrapolated from well-documented studies, the issues of low and discriminatory wages, unhygienic working conditions, violence and sexual harassments are some of the critical challenges faced by the migrant workers.

There are other challenges that further expose migrant workers to risks and vulnerabilities.

The issues such as low wages, exploitation, non-payment or delayed payment of wages, and cheating and malpractices in the recruitment process are some of the challenges that demand careful attention. Migrant workers tend to be vulnerable to human traffickers and smugglers. This is more severe among the low skilled labourers in comparison to the skilled workers.

All these factors have implications to the welfare, wellbeing and human rights of the migrant workers.
Often they do not find themselves in a situation to express their problems and seek redress through locally available mechanism under the laws of the host government. Lack of knowledge of local rules and regulations coupled with language barriers and cultural differences come as impediments for them to avail legal remedies and administrative grievance handling processes.

In recent years, there is growing international awareness about the challenges faced by the migrant workers and the need to respect basic human rights and welfare of this group of people.

Adoption of the International Convention on Protection of Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families in 1990 was an important achievement in this regard.

Similarly, negotiation and adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) was another significant milestone towards holistically addressing the issues surrounding migration in general, including the migrant workers.

GCM provides a framework for cooperation to facilitate safe, orderly and regular migration and address the risks and challenges associated with the process. It offers sound way forward to decent job, health and safety at the workplace, non-discrimination in wage on the basis of gender, nationality and cultural difference of the migrant workers.

What is important at this stage is implementation of the agreed commitments contained in the GCM, engage in constructive dialogues and cooperation in addressing migrant workers related issues and enhance their welfare and protection.

Ladies and gentlemen,
A significant number of Nepali youths are living in different foreign countries as migrant workers. Therefore, the issue of migrant workers receives high importance in the policies and diplomacy of the Government of Nepal. Protection of the rights and interests of migrant workers, addressing the issues of exploitation and discrimination constitute critical areas of priority to the Government of Nepal.

A State party to various 24 human rights related international instruments and different ILO Conventions including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Nepal attaches high importance to issues of human rights of all people. Lord Buddha’s teachings of peace, humanity, compassion and oriental philosophy of human dignity, freedom and benevolence like सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिन: सर्वे सन्तु निरामया: (May all be happy, May all be healthy) deeply inspire us. We have abolished death penalty and practice non-discrimination as sacrosanct. We have built national institutions and necessary legal and policy frameworks for promotion and protection of human rights.

The Constitution of Nepal guarantees right to labour and right against exploitation. Our laws guarantee equal pay for equal value of work. The Foreign Employment Act, 2007 and its implementing regulations 2008 govern and regulate outward migration for foreign employment and rights and welfares of the migrant workers.

The Foreign Employment Policy aims at reducing risks and vulnerabilities of migrant workers and creating a safe, dignified and managed working environment.

The National Human Rights Commission, an independent national human rights institution, functions as oversight agency in areas of promotion and protection of human rights. We are glad to see that NHRC in recent years has paid equal attention to the rights and welfare of the migrant workers.

A member of UN Human Rights Council, we have played constructive, objective and impartial role for the promotion and protection of human rights of all around the world. We would like our people wherever they live and work as migrant workers enjoy rights equal to that of local population in the work place and receive equal economic and legal security from the country concerned.

In close coordination, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department of Consular Services and Nepali diplomatic Missions abroad provide necessary services and protect interests and welfares of our migrant workers, including through rescue and repatriation services in time of difficulties.

Nepal attaches high importance to the attainment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including Goals 8 and 10 related to the migrant workers. While main thrust of the present Government has been to create employment opportunities at home for our youth, with a view to better protect rights and interests, provide safety and prevent unfair practices in the process of those going for foreign employment as migrant workers, the Government of Nepal has accorded priority to concluding bilateral labour agreements with the labour receiving countries.

As a significant number of our nationals work as migrant workers, Nepal remains keen to work with all stakeholders and partners for the protection and promotion of the rights, interest and welfare of migrant workers.

This requires close collaboration and cooperation between the countries of origin and destination. Other national and international stakeholders can add value in building synergies and effectiveness in our actions. The constructive role of recruitment agencies, private sector, civil society actors and the media is equally important.

Skills and capacity development, comprehensive pre-departure, on arrival and before return orientation to the migrant workers would help them understand their rights and responsibilities and the available remedial measures in case of violations. Use of information and communication technologies would be useful in protecting the rights of migrant workers.

A year after the adoption of the GCM, I believe this Conference would offer an opportunity to the participants for open and interactive dialogues in assessing the risks and challenges that the migrant workers are facing today and in exploring the ways to address those challenges in a cooperative and collaborative manner.

I wish to extend my best wishes for the success of this Conference.

I thank you all for your attention.