Brussels, Belgium, July 9, 2007

Global Workers was one of the 200 NGOs worldwide selected to participate in the Civil Society Day of the Global Forum on Migration and Development ( on July 9 in Belgium. The Civil Society Day was created as a means of quasi participation in the government-only Global Forum on Migration and Development ( During the United Nations General Assembly High-Level Dialogue on Migration and Development in September 2006 (written about in detail in previous blogs), the governments made it clear that they were willing to discuss labor migration but preferred to do so outside of the United Nations system. The government of Brussels volunteered to host the first Global Forum.

Many advocates saw the departure as an effort to avoid the human rights protections, which are integral to the UN’s approach. In addition, a new regime also meant that NGOs have no right to participate, an important and hard earned right gained at the UN. Complete alienation of NGOs at the Global Forum proved politically unviable, however, and the Civil Society Day was born. Subsequently, twelve Civil Society attendees were selected to represent all 200 of us during the first morning of the government forum.

For Global Workers it was an incredible opportunity to meet with members of civil society (which comprised migrant associations, NGOs, businesses, churches, and international organizations) from all over the globe. Global Workers was pleased that the concept of portable justice that we champion was highlighted in the background paper on Temporary Migration, at the closing plenary, and in the final report. Importantly, the significance of transnational justice for migrant workers is working its way into the global debate.

Unfortunately the day closed on a disappointing note. To the utter amazement of the migrant activists present at the closing plenary, the UN’s Special Representative to the Secretary General on Migration, Peter Sutherland, discouraged civil society from raising the issue of human rights with the states. In his opinion, it was a no-starter issue; that is governments would not engage if NGOs insisted on linking human rights with migration. Furthermore, he noted that having a separate day to organize was the most civil society could expect because we were not wanted at the government table. If migrant activists followed the Special Representative’s advice and played the passive role he suggested, human rights would certainly be divorced form the discourse and migrants would be dehumanized into another commodity to be exported and imported. Shocked by his statements, several advocates subsequently called for his resignation.

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