GFMD and IAMR: Opposing views on overseas Filipino workers and worldwide migration

This is a heads up to all journalists, bloggers and pundits.

Much has been said about overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) being “modern-day heroes” but perhaps mostly because of the billions of dollars they remit back home. Meanwhile, a growing number of people have grown desensitized by endless sad stories of OFW being beaten, deprived just wages, condemned to die, or just suddenly falling off buildings. In the immediate aftermath of the US economic meltdown, some of the “bright” economists as the Bangko Sentral said the Philippines will survive the crisis — but neither because of strong economic fundamentals or of unflagging investor confidence in the Philippines but by the billions of dollars in OFW remittances to which the Arroyo government has been addicted to.

These and other issues will take centerstage in October as Manila hosts the Global Forum on Migration and Development on Oct. 27-30,  which the Department of Foreign Affairs has announced will be an opportunity for:

the Philippines [to] showcase the country’s best practices on the life-cycle approach to migration, i.e., pre-deployment, on-site protection, and migrant return and reintegration.

The GFMD carries the theme “protecting and empowering migrants for development” and includes two so-called Civil Society Days to be organized by the Ayala Foundation, the corporate social responsibility arm of the country’s oldest business conglomerate that includes the Bank of the Philippine Islands, a bank very much interested in OFW remittances.

But — here is the surprise — organizations of OFWs and migrant workers from other countries are organizing their own conference because “For many years, many have spoken on our behalf. This time, we will speak for ourselves.”

Dubbed the International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR), this daring counterpoint to the GFMD set for Oct. 28-30 also here in Manila, flatly rejects the policy of labor export as a solution to mass unemployment in countries such as ours and branded the GFMD as no less than a multi-state instrument find ways on how to further “cash in” on migrants’ hard work. Their view is that the banks’ drive to corner larger shares of migrant remittances and their call for “migrant entrepreneurship” are so dangerous as to encourage entire nations addicted to remittances and forever so underdeveloped as to be unable to provide mass employment opportunities. They have a particular distaste to the GFMD and governments such as Arroyo’s for purportedly viewing migrants as mere commodities to be examined, traded and branded.

The IAMR’s theme will be: “Stop forced migration, ensure jobs back home, end poverty ! Uphold and Protect the rights of Migrants and Refugees!”

Leading the IAMR is the multinational International Migrants Alliance, which was founded this June 2008 in Hong Kong by more than 100 organizations of OFWs and migrants from other countries. The IMA is arguably the first organization of its kind in the world.

The GFMD (the official state and business organized event) and the IAMR (the migrants’ counterpoint) are two events that deserve extensive coverage. They provide an opportunity for the people to be given not just an overview, but in-depth reports appraising them of the current levels of migration, the growing role of remittances in the economy, the policy directions of the Philippine government vis-a-vis those of countries exporting and importing our workers.

Photo courtesy of Illustrado.

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