On 27, 28 and 29 March, the first meetings of the five thematic Working Groups of the SEA Forum for Fishers were successfully convened online. Overall 61 participants logged into the 5 meetings from 11 countries, including Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Cambodia, Singapore, Hong Kong, UK and the US. Some coming on board for two or more Working Groups. Reflecting the multi-stakeholder nature of the Forum, participants were from trade unions, workers’ organizations, CSOs and non-profits, employers’ organizations, private-sector facing service providers, recruitment agencies, and of course, government authorities.
Read about the Working Group highlights and download full Meeting Notes with participant lists in this dispatch. Also included are updates and save the dates!
Highlights from the Working Groups Meetings
Rich and varied discussions across all five Working Groups guided by Technical Advisors including FAO, Interpol, Bali Process Regional Support Office, IOM, IJM, EJF, HRDF, Liberty Shared, C4ADS and others.
OceanMind‘s Natalie Tellwright told WG1 about a new project trying to use machine learning algorithms to link fishing vessel monitoring data to working and rest hours of fishers on board. She needs to hear from fishers who can help them to understand the realities on vessels for fishers. Email her here if you can help.
Stuart Beban also spoke to WG1 about Interpol‘s work and the way in which it gathers and shares data on human trafficking and forced labour. See Interpol’s recent Purple Notice (on Modus Operandi) on Human Trafficking and Forced Labour: The deceptive and coercive practices undertaken within the recruitment process to work on fishing vessels.
FAO‘s Simon Nicols led lively discussions in WG2 and WG3 by briefing the WGs on the way in which port State control works from a fisheries management perspective through the PSMA regime, and regional labour standard-setting efforts by the Western & Central Pacific Fisheries Commission through their Resolution on Labour Standards for Crew on Fishing Vessels. Both these examples can provide lessons learnt for the work of the Forum, even if they do not immediately solve the challenges facing fishers. Both WG2 and WG3 agreed that the Forum can build on and improve upon these initiatives to end forced labour and human trafficking of fishers.
WG4 learnt from the expertise of Eric Dollette from the Philippines Overseas Employment Administration (POEA). The WG heard about Philippine’s labour migration governance regime for sea-based workers including fishers and seafarers, and the licensing scheme for manning agencies. This inspired a lively discussion on how to regulate manning agents who recruit and place sea-based workers; and how to allocate responsibility and liability between manning agents and employers; and how to protect workers. The WG was particularly interested to hear more about how the POEA enforces the law in cases of illegal recruitment activities through case studies.
Archana Kotecha spoke to WG5 about Liberty Shared‘s work on typologies of transnational crime and their work with financial institutions to disrupt the business of human trafficking and forced labour. This, together with C4ADS‘s contributions on how to use publicly available data, helped to stimulate a conversation that opened up the possibilities of multiple avenues of redress for victims/survivors of trafficking and forced labour. Specifically, the WG recognised the under-explored area of civil litigation, which – in many jurisdictions – has a lower standard of proof and can provide more victim-centred remedies such as compensation. WG5 agreed to explore this and other avenues of redress for victims/survivors further.
What’s next? Save the date!
ILO – as the Secretariat of the SEA Forum for Fishers – will convene the SECOND MEETINGS of the five Working Groups between 8 and 12 July. These dates a slightly later than originally planned, but accommodates some other activities in the region and internationally. Similar to the meetings in March, the Working Group meetings will be again held virtually.
There is no need to do anything now, but we will send out the instructions to join the meetings in advance. Each Working Group meeting will be a maximum of 2 hours and we will distribute the schedule, agenda and preparation documents shortly. We will again host a Technical Check in advance to ensure the smooth running of the meetings.
In addition, as resolved in November 2018, the Inaugural Plenary Meeting of the SEA Forum for Fishers is to be held in 2019. The meeting is currently tentatively scheduled for two days in the last week of September or first week of October 2019. The meeting will take place in Indonesia. We will send updates as soon as we can.
We have recently updated the knowledge platform, which functions as a repository of International Conventions and Guidelines, National Laws and Policies from around Southeast Asia. It also has links to various organizations and agencies (including yours, we hope!) that contribute to ending human trafficking and forced labour in fisheries and seafood sectors. Please email us if you have updates to include on the platform. We will update the content regularly.
News from Southeast Asia and Beyond
- The EU-funded ILO Ship to Shore Rights Project has published the Good labour Practices Guidelines in Thailand’s Seafood Industry. Led by the ILO, this is the result of the collective efforts of the Royal Thai Government, industry associations, trade unions, and CSOs. These updated GLP guidelines respond to urgent changes in the Thai and global seafood industries and help industry associations to identify and end unacceptable forms of work.
- Taiwanese government agencies, including the Fisheries Agency, censured by the central government watchdog for their inadequate response to the Taiwanese fishing vessel detained by South Africa in 2018 for violation of ILO’s Work in Fishing Convention (No. 188).
- Migrant fishers in Ireland get improved protections against human trafficking forced labour and modern slavery as the result of a deal between the Irish government and the International Transport Workers’ Federation.
- On 10 May 2019, the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency decided to incorporate standard Crew Employment Conditions as a part of the minimum requirements for fishing licenses, thus taking a step forward to ending slavery at sea in the Pacific. Read more here.