By Naomi Onaga, International Coordinator, Migrant Rights International (MRI)

1. "Official" Civil Society Days of the GFMD (October 27 – 28, 2008)

Approximately 240 participants from civil society organizations, academia and business participated in the official "Civil Society Days" of the Global Forum on Migration and Development, which were held Monday, October 27 and Tuesday, October 28. The full day of October 27 and most of October 28 were workshops, which were structured on the roundtable topics to be discussed in the Global Forum on Migration and Development. On October 28, from 3 – 5:30 pm was "interface" between civil society and governments.

According to comments communicated to MRI, many civil society representatives felt that the Civil Society Days were not structured to allow for very in-depth discussion that could produce very good recommendations to governments.

Many also expressed frustrations about the lack of transparency of how the chairs and the "experts" who presented papers for each discussion were selected. There were criticisms that a number of selected "experts" did not in fact appear to be expert in the field they were speaking on. One "expert" paper, for instance, significantly undercounted the number of ratifications of the Migrant Workers Convention. Some commented that some "experts" had governmental affiliations or views, when the workshops were supposed to be for civil society. Another commented that it was impossible to talk about these broad issues in the time alotted, and preparatory events to GFMD CS Days were necessary; one person suggested that these be in different regions.

There were many frustrations expressed on the format of the "interface" with governments, held October 28 from 3 to 5:30 pm. The two and a half hour period was structured so that most of the time was taken up by presentations (including a cultural presentation) , which left little time for actual dialogue with governments. A number of participants commented that it had "turned into a show" (one commenting that it was like a game show). One commented that it was impossible for the "interface" between civil society and governments to have a significant impact when the participation of governments is by invitation to the Civil Society Day (that is, it is not integrated into the official governmental program).

Some commentators felt that regardless, the fact that the "interface" happened at all represented a step forward, as the first GFMD in Brussels in 2007 did not have this. Some groups expressed that while the Civil Society Day format was not ideal, this was no surprise because it was clear from the beginning that civil society participation in the GFMD was controlled and restricted.

With regard to the content of the discussion during the CS Days, the most widely discussed statements were probably the repeated statements by Sharan Burrow (President of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), who had been selected to be chairperson of the CS Days) that many civil society organizations are calling for the return of discussions on migration and development to the United Nations, where it originated; and the Philippine Government's statement expressing strong criticisms of the Migrant Workers' Convention. According to opinions heard by MRI, many civil society groups do consider that the return of the discussions to the UN would be an improvement to the current structure of the GFMD, though there are also concerns that the UN has flaws. All civil society groups that MRI heard from strongly condemned the Philippine Government's statements against the Migrants Workers' Convention.

2. Peoples' Global Action activities (October 22 – 30, 2008)

The Peoples' Global Action, the civil society parallel event to the GFMD, held mobilizations daily on Monday October 27 through Thursday October 30. (October 22 to 26 were opening ceremonies and workshops; October 26 was a plenary in which a Joint Statement and recommendations were adopted.)

The salient feature of the marches was state repression. The march on Monday October 27, was stopped approximately 10 blocks after their starting point. On Tuesday October 28, there were reports that the police started announcing broadly that foreigners would be arrested and deported. There were reports in the march on Wednesday October 29, that police surrounded groups of people and pointed arms at them. On Thursday October 30, there were reports that many people could not get to the PGA events because of the multitude of police presence, and the rerouting of traffic routes. At the closing ceremony of PGA on the evening of October 30, a symbolic torch march around Rajah Sulayman Park was planned, but police and military with riot gear and heavy firearms immediately surrounded the participants and prevented them from proceeding around the park.

Despite these obstacles, numerous participants in PGA expressed enthusiasm and commitment to continued work. Many new partnerships for future engagement in the GFMD as well as other forms of defense of migrants' rights were given birth through the PGA process. These include: strengthened communication and partnerships between organizations from diverse sectors that have often worked in overlapping but separate spheres, including migrant groups, labor, development, debt-cancellation, human rights, and trafficking groups; an unprecedented engagement of groups from Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean in the GFMD and the civil society parallel event, and the formation of working groups from these regions for future work; and the formation of working groups from these regions for future work; and the formation of alliance between a number of domestic worker unions to start mobilizing for the 2010 start of negotiations in the International Labour Organization to draft a convention on the rights of domestic workers.

The "Joint Declaration on Migration, Development and Human Rights" was adopted by the PGA, as well as endorsed by close to 250 organizations and additional supporting individuals from Afria, Asia, Europe, and the Americas.** The Joint Declaration was distributed to press and governments, by email as well as physically at the GFMD Civil Society Days on Monday October 27.

** ENDORSEMENT OF THE DECLARATION: The Joint Declaration was sent to through this listserv on Monday October 27, with a signatory list that was current as of Sunday October 26. Signatures are still being accepted, and the updated signature list will be posted periodically on our website. The text of the Declaration and instructions on how to sign can be found on our website, www.migrantwatch. org

3. Governmental Days of the GFMD (October 29 – 30, 2008)

Governmental representatives met from October 29 to 30, 2008 at the Philippine International Convention Center.

Civil society groups were not allowed to attend, even as observers, except for a small group of civil society organizations (17 representatives) who were allowed to enter for 30 minutes in order to present the report of the civil society days.

There was much frustration expressed about this process. First, there was no transparency about how these representatives were selected, even to many of the individuals that had been selected. Two of the representatives were members of the Ayala Foundation, which had been commissioned by the Philippine Government to organize the official Civil Society Days.

There were additional frustrations that the actual engagement of the selected civil society representatives in the governmental forum had little meaning. The actual amount of time that they were to participate in the governmental forum was reduced a number of times, apparently by order of Philippine authorities. In the end, it was limited to a half an hour from 12:30 to 1:00 pm, at the end of the morning session of 29 October. This appears to be related at least in part to active efforts by the Philippine government to exclude two Filipino civil society representatives, that had been selected to be part of the 17 delegates, because they had been identified as organizers in the PGA mobilizations.

Sharan Burrow was reportedly expected to present the report alone. However, it was agreed among the selected representatives that 4 representatives from other global regions would also help present the report, to show global solidarity and the fact that civil society is diverse.

We do not have confirmed information on the content of the governmental discussions that took place, though we have heard that a number of governments, mostly from Latin America (including Ecuador, El Salvador, and Uruguay) may have pronounced strongly in favor of the human rights of migrants. We are seeking to confirm this, and to get more information on governmental positions and discussions.

Please send us any comments or information about the GFMD, CS Days, and PGA, to migrantsrightsinternational@gmail.com.