DTP and MFA Building Civil Society Capacity for Advocacy for Migrant Workers and Safe Migration in Bangladesh

DTP and MFA Building Civil Society Capacity for Advocacy for Migrant Workers and Safe Migration in Bangladesh

​October 2016

Amish Karki, Migrant Workers Program Coordinator, Diplomacy Training Program, UNSW, Sydney, Australia

Over 30 civil society advocates working with and for migrant workers from Bangladesh are participating in a special year-long capacity building program with Migrant Forum Asia (MFA): the Diplomacy Training Program (DTP).  MFA and DTP are working in partnership with local NGOs – WARBE and RMMRU .  The program is funded by SDC.


The 30 plus participants are drawn from migrant workers’ NGOs, trade unions and women’s organisations. They are all engaged in dealing with the neglected human costs of the large movements of Bangladeshi migrant workers to Malaysia, the Middle-East and beyond. The program aims to fill in gaps in knowledge and skills and to enable civil society to effectively engage with governments and the private sector to promote and protect the rights of migrant workers.


The program consisting of five modules and follow-up assignments, began in December 2015. It will conclude in December 2016, as the Global Forum on Migration and Development begins in Dhaka. One purpose of the program is to enable the voices of migrant workers to be heard in such forums where policies on migrant workers are decided.
The program’s 4th module was held from 22-25 August in Dhaka with 31 participants. This module continued to build understanding of international human rights standards and mechanisms. The focus this time was on the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) – and the particular vulnerability to harms and discrimination faced by women. Participants worked to draft recommendations to submit the CEDAW Committee which will shortly review the record of the Bangladesh government. There was also a session on how advocates could use the UN’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process to press for change.


There was a focus on the recruitment process for migrant workers in Bangladesh.  Recruitment of migrant workers is associated with many abuses, high costs and fraud. This can in turn make migrant workers more vulnerable to abuses in countries of destination. Reforming recruitment has become a global challenge. Tatcee Macabuag from MFA has taken the lead on these reform efforts for MFA and shared her work, and explored what fair and ethical recruitment means with participants. The participants also engaged in a dialogue with the senior members of the recently elected new leadership of the Bangladesh Association of International Recruitment Agencies (BAIRA).

Igor Bosc from the ILO regional program in Delhi shared the ILO standards and ILO programs supporting reform – towards fair and ethical recruitment processes that do not impose costs on the migrant workers.

DTP alumni Pervez Siddique and Shariful Hassan delivered practical sessions on media advocacy. The sessions focussed on the power of video and visual images to tell stories and reach new and specific audiences, and on how advocates could engage effectively with the media – and especially the print media to get the message out and to raise concerns about the treatment of migrant workers.  

The previous modules of the program have also balanced developing knowledge of standards with developing skills in strategic advocacy. There were sessions on international human rights and labour standards and mechanisms, intergovernmental processes, the role of missions and labour attachés, advocacy strategies for countries of destination, building skills in case documentation and practical exercises on NGO parallel reporting to UN bodies, and strengthening of advocacy and lobbying skills.
The program coincides with the 25th anniversary of the Convention on Migrant Workers in 2015, as well as with Bangladesh’s chairmanship of the GFMD in 2016.
Reflection on the program by Nayela Akter “I have been able to get an overarching understanding of the concepts, legal instruments, opportunities, challenges and strategies to overcome challenges concerning the rights of the migrant workers and their families. This has enabled me to be more strategic in my approach” - Nayela Akter is a participant from the Bangladesh Capacity Building Program 2015/16 (Read Nayela’s Profile)


DTP and MFA have collaborated on capacity building training programs for migrants’ rights advocates across South and Southeast Asia and the Middle East since 2004.   Their first program in Bangladesh was with WARBE and RMMRU in 2005 – and since then Bangladesh has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and adopted a new legal framework on labour migration.  Implementation of both is the key challenge.


Bangladesh, like other South Asian countries, is a country of origin for migrant workers. This five-module program follows similar country-level programs in Nepal and Sri Lanka in 2013/14 and 2015 respectively. The focus of the country-level programs are strengthening advocacy capacity of civil society, and building a more effective and collaborative networks among advocates to influence government and the private sector.