Convention time pt. 2 – mixed birthday blessings for the UN Migrant Workers Convention (MWC)

The good news first:  The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (MCW) has managed to receive its 44th ratification on October 29 this year. The not exactly bad but definitely sobering news: The ratifying country is St. Vincent and the Grenadines. There is strength in numbers, for sure, but still no major receiving country has signed the MCW. Several events during the PGA dealt with the convention, with the participants’ attitude ranging from frustration to determination…

“At least St. Vincent and the Grenadines is in the Commonwealth, so that is our first step towards the EU”, was the comment of one participant. Hard to say if this can be seen as a sign of hope or desperation.

But even if ratification has been an excruciatingly slow process, the 20th anniversary of the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly is an occasion for celebrations as well. Foremost, it has certainly given a boost to migrant right’s advocacy. The roots of Migrants Rights’ International (MRI) lie in the campaign for the convention and the network ” December 18″ has even derived its name from the date of the adoption of the convention. The decision by the UN, to declare December 18 “International Migrants Day” was the result of the advocacy work of migrant organisations.

MRI website:

December 18:

But the attitude of migrant receiving countries still seems to be “Nobody Move!” Participants reported from talks with governments in Europe who have stated that they would not sign the convention unless another developed country would do so or the EU would get active…

Other arguments: Singapore declares, it will sign the convention when it is “ready” to do so , India is worried about the many Bangladeshis in the country, Thailand apparently would see a ratification as a threat to security and Nepal may sign it but has problems with the mutuality condition, i.e. providing for the Indians in their country…

But during the PGA session, even countries who had ratified the convention were accused of hypocrisy when it comes to implementation. Still, the convention gives civil society tools for blaming and shaming strategies because these countries have to report to the respective committee – an endeavour that recently went not particularly well for the Philippines…

But, as William Gois from MFA pointed out, at least those two countries decided to include the issue of human rights and in the Mexican case even refugees on the agenda for their chairmanship of the GFMD.

We will see if that will influence attempts to further water down the convention, resort to soft instruments like “best practices” etc.

Although there have been many efforts made, awareness of the convention differs dramatically from region to region – in Germany, for example, the MWC is virtually unheard of. Here, even debating about the convention, may be considered a modest birthday present already…


About Stefan Rother

Lecturer and Researcher at the Department of Political Science, University of Freiburg -- Freelance journalist -- You can find my CV at the links below:
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One Response to Convention time pt. 2 – mixed birthday blessings for the UN Migrant Workers Convention (MWC)

  1. Pingback: International Migrants’ Day – a date with its own radio station | GFMD-BLOG

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