What are the areas in which IOM works in Nepal and how do you collaborate with the stakeholders to address the migration issues?
IOM’s initial engagement in Nepal began with the resettlement of Bhutanese Refugees in 2007. By 2018, IOM has now successfully facilitated the resettlement of over 114,000 refugees. Since opening its offices in Kathmandu and Damak for resettlement activities, and subsequently in Chautara, Gorkha and Charikot for post-Earthquake relief and recovery activities, IOM has expanded in terms of programmatic areas and its operations to assist numerous beneficiaries in the country while significantly contributing to the Government of Nepal and multi stakeholder efforts to address and manage migration issues for the benefit of all.
In accordance with IOM’s organizational principles and mandate to facilitate safe, orderly and regular migration within the humanitarian and development context, IOM Nepal focuses on migrants’ safety, rights, dignity, protection, as well as leveraging the benefits of migration into social and national development.
IOM thus works with all of its partners to mainstream migration related efforts through the fields of Labour Mobility and Human Development; Disaster Risk Reduction, Resilience and Preparedness; Emergency Response and Recovery; Migrant Protection Assistance; Migration and Health; Post Conflict Victim Assistance; Immigration and Border Management, and supporting a whole of government approach to develop evidence-based policies that promote and benefit from migration and development.
Nepal has been the Chair of the Colombo Process since 2017 (further described below), which has also led the country to take a prominent role in the United Nation’s (UN’s) Global Compact for Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration (GCM). The GCM is firmly grounded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Vision 2030 for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
It is no longer possible to see human mobility just as a background context for development, or even worse, as a by-product of lack of development. Rather, with the SDG’s, and as shown in preparations and drafting of the GCM, migration is now recognized as an important contributor to sustainable development. The UN Migration Agency, IOM, is in consequence a significant actor in the implementation of these global initiatives that include the SDG objectives and Nepal’s aims to benefit from migration and development. IOM collaborates with a wide range of stakeholders and partners to achieve these ends.
What are the key challenges the country has been facing in relation to migration?
One of the key challenges relates to migration for development and how this is linked to and supports Nepal’s planning for implementation of both the 2030 Agenda for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) where migration is inserted in several goals and targets, as well as the upcoming Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM).
Some examples of how this relates to Nepal may be suggested by looking at the foreign employment sector where there are numerous challenges that IOM works with the Government to support through a rights based approach to development and policy making. We not only work on outbound migration, but also toward reintegrating returnee migrants back into society where they can be agents of change and development contributing to national economic growth.
Another emerging issue has been the increase of slow onset natural disasters related to climate change in recent years and this is expected to continue. In 2017 IOM in Nepal was part of a South Asian regional project that supported research into the nexus between climate change, environmental degradation and migration. Nepal is highly susceptible to natural disasters and adverse impacts of climate change. There is a need to integrate migration within the broader climate change framework in Nepal and IOM Nepal is working closely with key stakeholders in this area.
There are also issues related to internal displacement, particularly as a result of natural disasters or other forms of emergencies. Counter-trafficking and anti-slavery efforts for human beings remain a significant need. Migration and Health are an area we are collaborating with the government to better address. As well, there is the issue of rural to urban migration that forms a part of the developmental continuum.
Ultimately, these issues are key components to the health and well-being of Nepali society and are in keeping with SDG 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. That is the overall goal.
As the UN Migration Agency, how does IOM view labor migration and assist the Government of Nepal to address it?
IOM’s first and foremost focus is to ensure migrants’ rights and dignity are promoted and protected at every stage of the migration cycle, irrespective of their migratory status. Though there has been significant improvement in the labour migration sector in recent years, both at policy and implementation levels, there are still areas that can be improved and new challenges to be addressed.
According to “Labour Migration for Employment - A Status Report for Nepal 2015/16 – 2016/17” published by the Government of Nepal with support from IOM and other Agencies, nearly 7,500 complaints were registered by labour migrants between FY 2014/15 and 2016/17 against institutions or individuals alleging fraud or malpractice during their employment process. There were 227 rescue requests made through the online application service of Department of Consular Service from different destination countries and 755 deaths of young Nepalese migrants in different destination countries recorded in FEPB in the FY 2016/17. This indicates some of the gaps and challenges in this sector.
We thus support the government to achieve a more coordinated evidence based and comprehensive approach to address labour migration; this includes issues of skills development and job matching, ethical recruitment, providing information, pre-departure orientation and health options and briefings to migrants entering the international labour market, migration and consular procedures, reducing costs of remittance transfer, and ensuring migrants’ protection, access to services and assistance to those in need throughout the migration cycle. We also need to address families left behind as a result of labour migration, and reintegration and employment or business opportunities for returnees.
IOM assists the Government of Nepal both in policy and implementation through its efforts to address those gaps in this sector. We encourage and assist the government of Nepal in developing legislative, regulatory and policy frameworks to tackle exploitative and abusive recruitment practices, as well as providing guidance on how to ensure sound implementation and enforcement. Such policies could be undertaken at both country-level as well as regional levels. Bilateral agreements with destination countries could help protect migrant workers in destination countries.
IOM also supports the Government of Nepal to play catalytic roles in international and regional forums such as Colombo Process (CP), Abu Dhabi Dialogue (ADD), South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), and most recently on the Global Compact on Migration (GCM) process in order to promote and protect migrants’ rights. One way of doing so has been to provide technical assistance to the Govt. of Nepal in mainstreaming migration issues into national development plans and programmes. This will ultimately benefit migrants and their families, as well as their communities and the whole of Nepal.
Do you have any approach or guideline that helps in strengthening global governance of migration?
This is an era of unprecedented mobility and there is a broadly recognized need to facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration. The benefits and full potential of migration requires planned, well managed and well governed approaches to migration and human mobility. Hence, realizing the need of the era, IOM has developed Migration Governance Framework (MiGOF) in 2015 that sets out a structure in which States and IOM can work together to address migration issues. The framework presents the ideal vision of migration governance, to which States can aspire, and for which IOM can provide support and assistance. It offers a concise view of an approach that allows a State to determine what it might need to govern migration well, and in a way that fits within its circumstances.
Following development of the MiGOF and in order to ensure a comprehensive approach to human mobility and enhance global cooperation on migration, the United Nations Member States collectively agreed to improve international cooperation and governance of migration by unanimous vote of General Assembly of the UN in adopting the New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants on 19 September 2016. Annex II of the New York Declaration set in motion a process of intergovernmental and multi-stakeholder consultations and negotiations culminating in the planned adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) at an intergovernmental conference on international migration to be held in Marrakesh, Morocco from 10-11 December 2018. The GCM will be the first ever inter-governmentally negotiated agreement, prepared under the auspices of the UN, to cover all dimensions of international migration. This is a truly a remarkable and historic achievement, particularly at a time when the narrative around migration is so politically charged.
The GCM, as the first comprehensive framework on migration, provides a blueprint for how states can best manage migration and cooperate more effectively with one another. It also gives states the space and flexibility to do so on the basis of their own migration realities and capacities. The Compact’s 23 objectives and their associated commitments and actions provide a 360-degree approach to help achieve safe, orderly and regular migration – to work towards a world where people move out of genuine choice, not necessity.
Implementation of the GCM will require concerted and cooperative action not only by government but also, in an inclusive spirit of partnership, by the many non-governmental actors who have an essential role to play in good migration governance, including civil society, cities and municipalities, the private sector, unions, migrant an diaspora organizations, academia and migrants themselves, amongst others.
How can a major ‘labor sending country’ like Nepal benefit from it?
It has been an excellent opportunity for labour sending countries to negotiate towards better cooperation with countries of transit and destination to ensure the rights of its migrants in countries irrespective of their migratory status. The GCM provides a platform for us to foster dialogue and works towards common understanding on the safety and rights of migrants with countries of transit and destination as they also benefit from migration. Among its 23 objectives, the GCM calls for skills development and mutual recognition of skills, accurate and timely information for migrants and the aspirant migrants about formal channels for migration, international labour market information, safer, faster, and cheaper transfer of remittances, as well as protection and assistance to migrants abroad and migrants in vulnerable circumstances.
Nepal can also benefit by creating opportunities for returnee migrants to remain sustainable in Nepal either through employment, self-employment, or investment that enables them to contribute to the development of the national economy rather than take the avenue of re-migration. Current policies predominantly focus on recruitment and deployment of outbound workers while neglecting the labour market and social reintegration of returnees. A focus on helping returnees to secure economically viable work at home would benefit the country, families and communities alike.
Could you tell us the IOM’s role in GCM process assisting the Government of Nepal in placing its position in the negotiation process?
The development of the GCM is a Member State-led process and IOM provided technical and policy expertise support throughout the GCM process, i.e. consultative phase, stock-taking phase, and negotiations phase. Here in Nepal, IOM provided technical assistance to the Government of Nepal in convening a series of multi-stakeholder consultations to identify existing gaps, challenges and opportunities related to migration. Based on the outcomes of these consultations, the GoN has developed a national position paper on GCM that specifically outlines key national priorities on migration.
In its capacity as Secretariat for the Chair-in-Office of the regional consultative Colombo Process on labour migration, IOM assisted the Govt. of Nepal to organize consultations among the Colombo Process Member States. As the Colombo Process Member States are comprised of labour sending countries in Asia, the consultations provided an opportunity to come up with common priority issues and challenges in the region. Further, IOM also assisted the Govt. Nepal’s active participation in various other regional and global forums where it raised the common issues of labour sending countries towards promoting safety, rights including health rights and dignity of migrants while maximizing the contribution of migration in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in both sending and receiving countries.
Along with Global Compact, Nepal has been part of regional consultative processes like Colombo Process. Are they complimentary to each other?
Regional Consultative Processes (RCPs) are state-led regional information-sharing and policy dialogues. The Colombo Process comprises of 12 major labour sending countries in the region. The Abu-Dhabi Dialogue (ADD), complements the Colombo Process, as the Members of the CP are also members of the ADD. These are both important processes to improving labour migration and facilitating cooperation between and within countries of destination and countries of origin on their respective thematic foci. Nepal currently holds the Chairmanship of the CP. IOM supports the CP with both a Secretariat and a Technical Support Unit that provide technical expertise and policy guidance to the current Chair (Nepal). As the Chair, Nepal plays a leadership role to foster cooperation and dialogue in various platforms on migration issues of importance to Colombo Process Member States.
Colombo Process Member States have played an important role in the preparation of the GCM process. The CP held a consultation among its member states in September 2017 and developed joint recommendations to the GCM preparatory process which are reflected in the final draft of the GCM. Colombo Process Member States considered this meeting as an important opportunity to share their experiences and effective practices to address a range of migration related challenges and opportunities and ensure that the regional perspective is reflected in the final outcome of the GCM process. The recommendations are reflective of the key thematic areas of the CP (pre-departure orientation and empowerment, remittances, labour market analysis, skills and qualification recognition, fostering ethical recruitment). Nepal as the Chair continues to advocate these at intergovernmental negotiations phase that are currently ongoing. As the GCM final draft highlights the importance of regional consultative processes, it is envisaged that those such as Colombo Process will be key to contribute to implement the outcomes and actions of the GCM.
What are the most outstanding progresses that have taken place in addressing labor migration challenges in Nepal since the establishment of IOM?
IOM assisted the Govt. of Nepal to establish its first Migrant Resource Centers (MRC) in Nepal in 2010. These were established with the aim to provide migrants with the information they need to make informed decisions, to help prevent them from being exploited by unscrupulous agents and human traffickers, and to discourage them from choosing the irregular route. This initiative now has grown into 45 MRCs covering several districts across the country. At the moment, IOM, in coordination with Ministry of Labour, Employment, Social Security (MoLESS), and Foreign Employment Promotion Board (FEPB), are now providing technical assistance to further enhance the institutional capacity of the MRCs in partnership with the Government of Nepal and other stakeholders.
IOM has also initiated policy dialogue on mainstreaming remittances into national development. A study was conducted on maximizing the Development Impacts of Migration in Nepal in 2016/17 and the consultative process on the findings of the research provided new evidences to formulate migrant-friendly policies and interventions for migration and development.
IOM, along with other stakeholders, has played a vital role in supporting Nepal to include migration in the SAARC Kathmandu Declaration 2014. Through this, the SAARC countries have agreed to collaborate and cooperate on safe, orderly and responsible management of labour migration in the region.
We have assisted the Govt. of Nepal to draft National Migration Health Policy that aims to address the health issues of Nepali migrants throughout the migration cycle and also to address public health risks and threats due to migration related phenomenon.
This year IOM has supported the Govt. of Nepal to conduct a Migration Governance Indicators (MGI) assessment. The MGI is a tool that provides an overview on the comprehensiveness of national migration policies and offers insights into areas that could be further developed. This overview was conducted to help advance the dialogue on migration governance in the context of the implementation of SDG target 10.7 regarding orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration.
Ultimately, the MGI exercise has provided a baseline from which to launch the next phase of our assistance to Nepal by supporting the government in developing the country’s Migration Profile (MP) with the aim to promote and support evidence-based policy making and to call attention to the benefits of mainstreaming migration into policy planning processes. The Migration Profile was launched in August 2018, is led by the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security, which has formed an inter-ministerial working group and anticipates to hold multi-stakeholder consultations during the course of its preparation over the next two years.
What is the IOM’s vision on developing solutions towards a sustainable future of Nepalese labor migrants?
Migration is inevitable, necessary and desirable - if well governed. Migration is also increasingly recognized as a significant factor for the achievement of all three pillars of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental. However, more needs to be done to strengthen the role of migration as an enabler of sustainable development for individuals, communities and societies. We thus envision the enhanced capacity of Government and relevant stakeholders to ensure safe, orderly and regular migration by promoting the rights of migrants and their families.
Ultimately, it should be an individual’s choice whether they want to work at home or abroad based on their own aspirations and preferences. The goal should be to provide those choices to all Nepalis.