Remarks of Resident Coordinator in Thailand at the 3rd National Programme Advisory Committee Meeting for Safe and Fair.

Remarks of Resident Coordinator in Thailand at the 3rd National Programme Advisory Committee Meeting for Safe and Fair programme, at the Centara Grand.

It is my pleasure to be here today to participate in this Third National Programme Advisory Committee Meeting for Safe and Fair.

As you all know, I am new to the country and on a steep learning curve. Being part of this meeting today, provides me with a perfect opportunity to deepen my understanding of an important joint programme that is being collectively led by the Royal Thai Government, the EU and the UN to make migration safe and fair for all women in the ASEAN region. 

Joint initiatives like this, which are becoming the norm for the UN, play a critical role in ensuring a joined up approach by bringing to bear the best of UN’s technical and integrated policy expertise through ILO, UN Women and UNODC – to advance Sustainable Development Goals.  It also ensures a whole of government approach by bringing the Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, Ministry of Public Health and the Office of the Attorney General together, for a coordinated policy response to realise women migrant workers’ rights and opportunities. 

The Safe and Fair progamme in Thailand is very important – as this country sets the trend for the region while directly contributing to advancing the SDGs – specifically SDGs 5, 10 and 16, relating to gender equality, reducing inequality and supporting peace, justice and strong institutions. If our partnership, through the safe and fair programme can (a) strengthen the labour migration governance framework, (b) address issues of violence, and sexual harassment, (c) develop a wide network of Trade Unions, civil society and community based organisations to protect and promote migrant women’s rights, I believe, Thailand will set the trend for countries in the region to adopt similar policy measures. It is in this context, that the UN believes that the consideration to ratify the latest ILO Convention, 190, on Violence and Harassment in the World of Work by Thailand, will serve to set the momentum for the country and across the region. 

I would like to take this opportunity to recognize the contribution of women migrant workers to the labour market in Thailand. As we know, women migrant workers have the potential to foster a more equitable, inclusive, and sustainable growth and human development for both, countries of origin and destination. We know that nearly half of the documented migrants in Thailand are women, who serve to keep the economy churning, specifically in the service and manufacturing sectors. They serve as an important buffer for the labour market given the demographic shifts that are becoming evident and more broadly, contributing to the overall wellbeing of the society in Thailand. 

Despite growing recognition of women migrant’s contribution to the labour market, their vulnerability to abuse, exploitation, and violence, is a grave concern. His Excellency, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, highlighted the vulnerability of migrant workers in his recent speech at the UN General Assembly, and the responsibility of states to adhere to relevant international human rights obligations. In that light, the Royal Thai government’s legal protective measures for domestic workers, which institutionalises one rest day per week and paid holiday leave of no less than six days annually - has therefore been most welcome. 

Our analysis, specifically the latest evidence generated by ILO and UN Women, tells us that the pandemic is resulting in an increase in violence against women including for women migrants in Thailand. In this context, I would like to commend Thailand’s endorsement of the UN Secretary-General’s statement to end violence everywhere and to make the prevention and redress of violence against women, including women migrant workers, a key part of the national response plans for COVID-19. 

I would like to conclude with a sincere note of thanks to the EU, and specifically to the Delegation here in Thailand, for their consistent and ongoing support for this crucial programme. The safe and fair programme is pathbreaking in the overall Spotlight initiative, demonstrating global leadership of the EU and the UN in eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls. It is only with this support, trust and partnership, that we are here today to review our collective efforts towards the goal of realising rights and opportunities for women migrant workers in Thailand.  

Speech by
Gita Sabharwal
Resident Coordinator
Ms Gita Sabharwal
UN entities involved in this initiative
UN Women
United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women