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Istanbul, Turkey - October 12 & 13, 2015

Civil Society Days of the Global Forum on Migration and Development
 
Day One
Executive Director, Cathleen Caron, was selected to participate in the "Civil Society Days" of the Global Forum on Migration and Development in Istanbul, Turkey. More than 260 civil society leaders and networks from over 80 countries participated along with over 100 representatives of governments and international organizations. A record of more than 800 applicants were received, a strong indicator of the increasing relevance of global economic migration. It is important to note that refugees are expressly excluded from these discussions, as they have a well-recognized legal governance scheme established in 1951 (The Refugee Convention). The GFMD was designed to address the rest of the world’s migrants, 80% of whom cross borders in search of work many forced to do so as a mechanism of survival. 
 
The U.S. sent a strong delegation, and included for the first time representatives from the Department of State and Labor that address labor.  This was a positive sign and Cathleen had good engagements with those officials to discuss portable justice and other issues relevant to the shared ILRWG and COMPA agendas.  Despite this progress, the US agenda still does not focus on labor rights of migrants, rather migrants in countries of distress, which is more of a humanitarian focus.
 
It was discouraging that neither Canada nor Guatemala sent representatives to the Civil Society Days.  The lack of Canadian delegates is consistent with Canada’s continual disregard for the abuses that temporary foreign workers visas holders, from Mexico and Guatemala are suffering during the recruitment process and also while in Canada.  In terms of engaging with civil society and working together to reduce abuses, Canada is inexcusably far behind the US, Mexican and Guatemalan governments.  Though Guatemala has been positively engaged with civil society in Guatemala and collectively we have made progress on important portable justice issues, such as referrals to the Defender Network for abuses suffered in the USA, it would have been good for them to engage with the world’s civil society in this important space.  
 
Day Two
During the two days, Cathleen participated in “Theme 3: Achieving goals for labour mobility, labour rights and decent work” which corresponds to points 7 and 8 in the 5-year action plan developed at the UN High Level Dialogue on International Migration ad Development in 2013.  Cathleen was a panelist on Day Two in a session entitled, “Reforming Migrant Labour employment policies and practices”. Other colleagues on the panel included, Nicola Piper, University of Sydney; Shashi Kran Pulsuri, PMLU; and Mick McDonnell, Intel Corporation. Cathleen stressed three main points during her opening remarks. One is that migrants often are forced to migrate due to the country of origin’s failure to enforce their own labor laws.  Countries of origin often skirt responsibility on the world stage for why their people must migrate to survive by citing lack of good jobs. When one examines these claims, however, many of the issues causing migration could be addressed by a robust enforcement of basic labor laws.  Second, she discussed the importance of foreign workers, whether unauthorized or foreign temporary visa workers, being treated equally as nationals to prevent employers from targeting them for abuses.  Third, she stressed the importance of portable justice, without which employers can easily exploit and then dispose of workers. A goal for Global Workers has been to mainstream portable justice on the global agenda. Though the concept was still new (but well received) for many in the room, others have already incorporated it in their work. For example, Professor Piper told Cathleen that she regularly cites this key concept
 
An enormous benefit of this global discussion space is the opportunity to connect with migrant advocates from across the globe. Cathleen met with Russian colleagues who are working with counterparts in the Commonwealth of Independent States (former Soviet Union block) to ensure workers exploited in Russia have justice when they return home—portable justice in action.  She also met with a lawyer in Malaysia who confirmed that Malaysia does not permit workers to continue claims once they go home—an absolute block to portable justice.  Finally, Cathleen met with colleagues from Migrant Forum in Asia to discuss cross-regional collaboration on webinars or other activities in the upcoming year to spark a global discussion on temporary foreign worker visa recruitment models and reform.  This would build off of MFA’s collaboration with MADE over the past two years.
 
After five packed and productive days over three conferences, Cathleen returned to New York invigorated to follow-up these new connections to advance portable justice on the world stage to the benefit of migrant workers everywhere.

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