The regional consultative process (RCP), a series of non-binding forums that bring together representatives of States, civil society and international organizations in the regional level to discuss migration-related issues in a cooperative manner (Klekowski von Koppenfels 2001) was introduced in the 1990s. It has three key characteristics that contribute to global migration governance:
- Agenda setting—establishing a common ground among States that are willing to discuss migration in a regional context. This approach aims to develop a common understanding of the different types of migration and the issues pertaining to them and consequently drawing up a common set of terms and concepts used to understand migration.
- Consensus building through communication—developing communication and coordination among States often to the point in which they become ingrained in the governance process and eventually lead to position convergence on a particular aspect of migration, or an issue of particular concern.
- Introduction of changes in concrete laws, policies or practices governing how migration is managed at the national and regional level (Hansen 2010).
RCPs have provided positive results for policy makers in participating countries. Examples of processes that are playing key roles in South and South-West Asia are the following:
- The Ministerial Consultations on Overseas Employment and Contractual Labor for Countries of Origin in Asia (Colombo Process);
- The Ministerial Consultations on Overseas Employment and Contractual Labour for Countries of Origin and Destination in Asia (Abu Dhabi Dialogue);
- The Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime (Bali Process).
The Colombo Process has been a key platform for dealing with labour migration issues. The Process, established in 2003 as a ministerial consultation of countries of origin, has 11 member States,7 of which six are from South and South-West Asia, with Bangladesh serving as the chair (table 1).
Discussions at the high-level Colombo Process consultations resulted in various trainings, regional meetings8 and research opportunities. The third consultation was enhanced by the active participation of countries of destination acting as observers, namely Bahrain, Italy, Kuwait, Malaysia, Qatar, the Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The fourth Colombo Process consultation was held in April 2011 in Bangladesh. The outcome of this conference, the Dhaka Declaration, finalized the recommendations of the Process related to the promotion of rights, welfare and dignity of migrant workers, services and capacity building, emergency response and emerging issues and enhanced dialogue and cooperation between Colombo Process members, countries of transit and countries of destination.
The Abu Dhabi Dialogue aims to encourage discussions on the development of a comprehensive and practical framework for the management of temporary contractual labour mobility in Asia. It focuses on promoting the welfare and well-being of workers, developing both origin and destination countries through labour mobility and fostering greater intergovernmental cooperation and collaboration with the active support of international and regional partners.9
The Abu Dhabi Dialogue is notably the first ministerial dialogue that brought together countries and host countries for labour migrants in order to enhance cooperation on contractual labour mobility and migration dialogues in the region. The countries of destination at the meeting included the GCC States and Malaysia, Singapore and Yemen.10
The outcome of the 2008 Abu Dhabi Dialogue11 resulted in the establishment of the following four partnerships:12
- Partnership 1: Enhancing knowledge in the areas of labour market trends, skills profiles, temporary contractual workers and remittances policies and flows and their interplay with development in the region.
- Partnership 2: Building capacity for effectively matching labour demand and supply.
- Partnership 3: Preventing illegal recruitment practices and promoting welfare and protection measures for contractual workers supportive of their well-being and preventing them from being exploited in the origin and destination countries.
- Partnership 4: Developing a framework for a comprehensive approach to managing the entire cycle of temporary contractual mobility that fosters the mutual interests of countries of origin and destination.
The Bali Process is another ongoing RCP in Asia and the Pacific. Established in 2002, the Process aims to foster cooperation among member States in regulating irregular migration. Its specific objective is to raise awareness, encourage cooperative action and develop practical regional measures to prevent, intercept and disrupt people smuggling, trafficking of persons, and related transnational crime (Köhler 2011). The Bali Process targets law enforcement officials as compared to the Colombo Process which gathers government officials involved in labour migration.
7 Ten Asian countries of origin of labour migrants took part in that event, namely Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Viet Nam.
8 EU dialogue on Labour Migration was held in February 2011 as part of the Colombo Process initiated events.
9 See www.colomboprocess.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=46:abu-dhabi-dialogue&catid=9:other-rcps&Itemid=85.
10 See www.colomboprocess.org/.
11 The second Abu Dhabi Dialogue was planned for 2010, but was postponed to 2012.
12 See www.colomboprocess.org/images/stories/abu%20dhabi%20declaration.pdf.