It doesn't cost much .... 2
It would be very easy to conclude that this region is one big unmitigated disaster area. According to the WALHI-Friends of the Earth Indonesia
, Indonesia experienced 135 ecological disasters last year
due to forest and environmental degradation. The executive director of WALHI Chalid Muhammad said, "The disasters started with floods and landslides in Jember, East Java, on January 1, 2006, and closed with floods and landslides in northern Aceh which forced some 70,000 to evacuate to safer areas at the end of last year.
The ecological disasters caused big material losses, and claimed thousands of lives, he said. The floods and landslides that hit Indonesia's Sumatra and Kalimantan islands at the end of the year killed about 300 people. And, of course, they have continued into this year
He also said that over the last five year, the impacts of environmental damages have increased three times. And the main cause of these preventable disasters?
"Forest exploitations, both legally with the government's permits and illegally.
Pure greed in other words and a total lack of consideration for the consequences of these actions. Whilst the very few enrich themselves and embed themselves in political and business empires, the masses are impoverished. Those forced "to evacuate to safer areas
" have to find alternative sources of income to support their families.
Many end up in Jakarta and many more become migrant workers overseas in wealthier countries where, unfortunately, they are often further exploited.
According to Indonesia's Manpower Ministry, around 1.7 million Indonesians work in Malaysia, but 1.2 million of them work illegally. Most of these will have been smuggled in, albeit having 'paid' for their passage by getting into long-term debt as an indentured labourer. Their unjust and unfair employment contracts force them to work long hours at near-poverty level wages in slave-like working conditions.
But today, there is an opportunity for this human wrong to be righted. Leaders of ASEAN
(the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) are meeting at the 12th Summit
being held in Cebu, the Philippines.
The Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA)
, a network of 260 migrant workers' association, trade unions and migrants' rights advocates in the region, has long urged
the members of ASEAN to protect the rights of millions of migrant workers in the region.
Now they have issued a press release
"Southeast Asia has a large population of labor migrants, many of whose rights are violated on the basis of their race, ethnicity, gender or creed. We call on ASEAN to enshrine in its Charter international core labor standards including freedom of association, the right to organize and bargain collectively and elimination of all forms of discrimination at the workplace.
Today, Saturday, the 10 ASEAN member countries are due to sign a declaration on migrant worker rights which spells out the rights and duties of the receiving and origin countries of the workers. There is one potential stumbling block concerning the rights of migrant workers to have their families with them.
However, this should be resolved as there are 'higher' (UN and ILO) international conventions and agreements which the countries are, by and large, signatories of. It is to be hoped that Indonesia, in particular, will enforce this agreement. Although Indonesia has pledged to ratify the UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, it has yet to sign it.*
Given the importance to the Indonesian economy of the inflow of money to migrant worker families, money which one may presume lessens the unemployment rate (40%) and the number of those deemed to be living in poverty, today could be a red letter day. It will be if the government enforces the law.
"Labor migration provides significant economic contributions to both sending and receiving countries. Remittances from labor migrants across the region amount to billions of dollars. If used properly, remittances can be an additional means for just and people-centered development, provided that appropriate institutional support and economic opportunity exists
Of course, having agreed to protect the rights of migrant workers overseas the Indonesian government must be seen to be enforcing the domestic law on all workers
, including we 'migrants'.*Other Conventions which Indonesia has yet to ratify include the optional protocol to Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), optional protocol to CAT, optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) on the involvement of children in armed conflict, optional protocol to CRC on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.