By Kiran Bhattarai
Kathmandu, Aug 31: The Zero Draft on the ‘SAARC Declaration on Labour Migration’ to be presented at the upcoming 19th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in Pakistan has been finalized.
The SAARC member-states will issue the declaration to develop a common position on minimum wages and non-discrimination in payment of wages, benefits for the same work amongst workers from SAARC countries, collective commitment for ensuring the rights of the labourers and SAARC member states’ collective bargaining with the labour destination countries.
As per point 21 of the 18th SAARC Summit Declaration of the Summit held from November 26 – 27 in 2014, the SAARC member states would work collectively for ensuring migrant workers’ service, security among other rights.
On May 3 and 4 top officials of the SAARC countries’ labour and employment ministries endorsed a work plan for giving a substantive form to the commitment made during the 18th SAARC Summit.
Under the action plan, SAARC Secretariat and Nepal Government were given the responsibility of preparing the draft for the next SAARC Summit as per which the preliminary draft was framed.
A team of experts including officials of the SAARC Secretariat, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Ministry of Foreign Affairs prepared the outline for the formal Declaration.
The proposal will be presented by the Labour Ministry to the Foreign Ministry which in turn would present it to the SAARC Secretariat based in Kathmandu.
The Secretariat will then dispatch the draft to all the eight member states of SAARC for approval. The Secretariat on basis of the proposal for modification or consent from the member states will present the draft in form of a Declaration during the 19th SAARC Summit to take place in Pakistan.\
The Labour Ministry has collected opinions and suggestions from sectors concerned on the preliminary draft, to be sent to the Secretariat, believing that such opinions and suggestions would further help refine it, said Secretary Bishnu Prasad Lamsal.
The issue of security of migrant workers from the SAARC countries finding its place in the SAARC, however 31 years after its establishment, was a great achievement, he said, adding that it would be a historic achievement for the welfare of the migrants once the draft is passed by the conference.
The draft calls for finding a common consensus on the concerns of service, security, human rights and labour rights of migrant workers of the SAARC countries.
It also points out the need for curbing human trafficking in the name of foreign employment, identifying causes of immigration and adopting mutual cooperation and taking initiatives to minimise them. Besides, it pitches for taking initiatives to increase skills of migrant workers and for economy prosperity of the SAARC.
Likewise, it calls for establishing a mechanism for the exchange of information, for determining minimum salary of migrant labourers of the SAARC countries and increasing their job-related skills.
The draft includes the issues of making efforts to formulate guidelines to establish and promote legal practices to promote fair recruitment and adopt mechanism to eliminate recruitment malpractices, conduct regular monitoring of its implementation, promote proper utilisation of remittance, ensure security of workers and guarantee of payment of remunerations regularly.
Likewise, the matter relating to making collective efforts to rescue workers from work stations if the destination country (s) sees war and is fallen under crisis has also been incorporated in the draft.
Foreign Employment Promotion Board Executive Director Raghuraj Kafle said above mentioned issues could get entry into next SAARC conference and be endorsed if all the member states have an agreement on them.
SAARC Secretariat Director Rita Dhital said they were waiting for draft to be received from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to send it to all eight SAARC member states.
Pakistan is holding the 19th SAARC Conference on coming October 20-21. RSS