Abu Dhabi Dialogue on Contractual Labour for Cooperation between Countries of Origin and Destination in Asia

Ministers from Asian labour countries of origin and Gulf destination countries, together with Malaysia and Singapore, concluded the two-day Abu Dhabi Dialogue by adopting a forward-looking declaration that paves the way for the better management of temporary contractual labour mobility.

News | 24 January 2008

The Abu Dhabi Dialogue is a dialogue between the 11 Colombo Process countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam ), and 9 other countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Malaysia, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates and Yemen).

The Abu Dhabi Declaration, adopted by ministers from these 20 countries, recognizes that properly managed temporary contractual mobility will benefit both countries of origin and destination and improve the well-being of temporary contractual workers.

Considerations

When properly managed, temporary contractual labour mobility will benefit both countries of origin and destination as well as improve the well-being of temporary contractual workers. Labour mobility can be an important instrument for the development of economies as well as human resources.

Ten labour countries of origin from South and Southeast Asia established in 2003 a regional dialogue, known today as the “Colombo Process.” The first meeting in Colombo was followed by a second in Manila in September 2004, and a third in Bali in September 2005. During the Bali meeting, Afghanistan joined as the 11th member and for the first time, countries of destination attended as observers. It was also at the Bali meeting that the membership agreed to formally engage in a dialogue with countries of destination, both Asian and European. The Bali Ministerial represented a qualitative leap in the emerging dialogue between Asian countries of origin and destination and it was recognized there that the term “expatriate and contractual labour” was an accurate description of labour flows to GCC countries.

The hosting and funding by the Government of the United Arab Emirates of the Ministerial Consultation between the Colombo Process countries and Asian destination countries is an important expression of the interstate collaboration fostered in this dialogue since its very inception.

The Abu Dhabi meeting highlighted that, in the context of the global economy, there is increasing competition to boost economic growth through labour mobility at all skill levels. In this connection the Ministers consider that the best economic and social outcomes are achieved through the provision to all workers of good living and working conditions, their protection including through promotion and implementation of transparent policies and practices including for recruitment and employment according to the national laws and regulations of countries of origin and destination and facilitating remittances, and the development of a framework for multilateral cooperation to leverage the benefits of temporary contractual labour mobility.

The Abu Dhabi meeting recognized the joint responsibility of countries of origin and destination to enforce compliance by recruitment agencies and other parties engaged in the recruitment process with the requirements of the national laws and regulations pertaining to the employment of temporary contractual labour, thus providing further protection to workers.

Recommendations

The participating States have decided to launch a new collaborative approach to address temporary labour mobility and maximize its benefits for development. They have identified the following partnerships between Asian countries of origin and destination through which they wish to foster information sharing, promote capacity building, technical cooperation and interstate cooperation.

  • Enhancing knowledge in the areas of: labour market trends, skill profiles, temporary contractual workers and remittances policies and flows and their interplay with development in the region
  • Building capacity for effective matching of labour demand and supply
  • Preventing illegal recruitment practices and promoting welfare and protection measures for contractual workers, supportive of their well being preventing their exploitation at origin and destination
  • Developing a framework for a comprehensive approach to managing the entire cycle of temporary contractual mobility that fosters the mutual interest of countries of origin and destination.

These partnerships are based on the mutual interests of labour origin and destination countries with a particular focus on development. They are action-oriented and, in addition to governments, will seek to engage other relevant stakeholders for the implementation of initiatives which will take this partnership forward in a spirit of international dialogue and cooperation.