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Elena Lopez - Blog Post 2: The implementation of the UN Convention on Migrant Workers in the Philippines

Elena Lopez - Blog Post 2: The implementation of the UN Convention on Migrant Workers in the Philippines

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Being an intern at CMA has granted me access to places I would never be able to go simply as a student.  The very first meeting I attended was a UN legislative drafting session for the UN protocol on smuggling. It was an amazing privilege to see first-hand the process of a government drafting laws to bring itself in line with the UN conventions it has ratified. Of course, having this access means that I’ve had to learn a lot about the United Nations and international law. It’s one thing to know abstractly what the UN does, and another to witness it in action. I will admit, I have previously viewed the UN’s activities with some cynicism, but in my work here I am observing the UN’s impact on life here.

One project I have been working on is the UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. As a State Party that has ratified this convention, the Philippines must regularly report to the UN Committee on Migrant Workers (a body of independent experts) on their progress regarding the implementation of the convention. Naïvely, I had never considered the effort required when implementing a convention. Once ratified, the Philippines must enact legislation that obeys the convention, but this is no simple task. Previously existing legislation must be carefully analysed to prevent overlaps, duplication, and inconsistencies. Drafting new legislation that contradicts already-existing laws would only create chaos and confusion. Of course, legislation is only part of the story. You can have airtight laws, but without proper monitoring and implementation, they would have no real effect. This is a huge challenge when creating new laws, organizations, departments, processes, and the like. Using model laws and best practices are beneficial, but no guarantee of success. Constant monitoring and feedback is necessary to determine the success level of the convention’s implementation. 

The Philippine government’s report to the CMW is a response to a previous document produced by the CMW called the List of Issues Prior to Reporting (LOIPR). The LOIPR elaborates on issues of concern and asks how the Philippine government is addressing them. The Philippine government is currently in the process of writing its report in reply to the LOIPR. What we are doing at CMA is creating a parallel shadow report that replies to the LOIPR from the point of view of non-government organisations (NGOs) and civil society organisations (CSOs).  Already, CMA has conducted two consultation workshops with other NGOs/CSOs to gain insight on the issues they deem important and their recommendations. From this information, I have helped create a consolidated report that lists the issues and recommendations from NGOs/CSOs in regards to the LOIPR. Due to the nature of their work, NGOs/CSOs can provide valuable insight towards the everyday experience of migrant workers and their families “on the ground”. This is a good way to monitor if the Philippines’ implementation of the convention is having a real effect on the experiences of migrant workers.

The next step is holding a consultation and validation workshop in conjunction with the Philippine government. It’s important for the Philippine government, before they submit their report to the CMW, to consult with the relevant NGOs/CSOs in order to legitimise their report. Without this consultation, there may be knowledge gaps and oversights in the government’s report that are unnoticed. It gives the chance for NGOs/CSOs to voice their opinions and draw attention to any issues they feel the government has not yet properly addressed. This consultation is essential for providing a legitimate and valid report to the CMW. My next task at CMA is to elaborate on the consolidated report we have created, by pursuing further research to strengthen our knowledge on the issues highlighted in our consultation workshops. This document will serve as our shadow report during the government’s consultation, so that when we speak up on certain issues we have the research to back up our position.

I relish this kind of work because it involves research on a subject matter I’m already passionate about. Still, it comes with challenges. One big stumbling block is despite my prior interest in the Philippines, I still lack the first-hand knowledge and experience necessary when working on policy and legislation. Thankfully, CMA is supportive of me during this process. My colleagues recognise my limitations, while still entrusting me with tasks that test me. It’s like learning how to swim, with my organisation encouraging me to advance to the next skill level, instead of being content to remain treading water. I can’t believe I’ve been here for less than two months. I feel like I’ve been here forever, yet time is flying by. I can’t really express in words how challenged I am here, but challenged in ways that (I hope) improve my character.