Joint UN Programme to support collaboration and effective labour migration governance launched on eve of International Migrants Day


Colombo, New Delhi and Bangkok – With the ultimate goal to ensure that labour migration is safe, orderly and regular for all women and men from Colombo Process Member States, three UN agencies today launched the Governance of Labour Migration in South and South-East Asia (GOALS) regional labour migration programme , on the eve of International Migrants Day.

GOALS is a three-year programme jointly implemented by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). 

The migration corridors between sending and destination countries within and beyond the Asia Pacific region represent a complex web of opportunities and challenges both for governments and women and men migrants.  For the first time, three UN agencies have joined forces to put their combined expertise into ramping up innovative and gender responsive initiatives to meet the labour and skills needs of governments at the same time as ensuring the protection of the rights of women and men migrants.

The programme will work closely with the 12 member states of the Colombo Process[1] a regional consultative process established in 2003 to facilitate international co-operation on labour migration issues across South, South East and East Asia.

GOALS programme activities will have a specific focus on countries in South Asia for national implementation to improve labour migration policies and promote effective migration management through strengthened multilateral collaboration.

 “GOALS will work with all Colombo Process Member states through their Thematic Area Working Groups to develop and implement initiatives to strengthen labour migration governance at regional and national levels. The programme will also support member states in South Asia to improve skills development and qualifications recognition, to foster fair and ethical recruitment, and to develop frameworks for the sustainable reintegration of returning labour migrants,” said Sarat Dash, the IOM Chief of Mission for Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

 “The impacts of current pandemic on migrant workers are disruptive and demand immediate and coordinated multilateral efforts for the improvement of overall labour migration governance. On the eve of International Migrants Day, let us commit to come together through a whole-of-government and whole-of society approach including social dialogue and adherence to international labour standards for the welfare and protection of migrant workers from South Asia”, said Dagmar Walter, Director of ILO’s Decent Work Technical Support Team for South Asia and Country Office for India.

The programme will also strengthen the evidence base on labour migration issues, by establishing a knowledge hub to address information gaps on migration in South and South East Asia, strengthening the data collection capacity of member states and in supporting knowledge development by regional employers and workers’ organisations. Policy frameworks and tools developed through the programme will be implemented on a pilot basis in selected South Asian countries.

“GOALS aims to empower and protect the rights of women and men migrants and will be guided by international commitments on human rights, including women’s rights and labour rights. A rights-based and gender sensitive approach will be mainstreamed across all programme activities,” said Sarah Knibbs, Deputy Regional Director , a.i. for UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific and   added, “The programme will also support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and a quite appropriately the Global Compact for Migration (GCM), which is the focus and theme of this year’s International Migrants Day tomorrow”.

 “Migration contributes to the economic growth and human development. However, migration is not always a positive and rewarding experience, where many individuals are subjected to abuse, discrimination and exploitation at every stage of the migration cycle. Therefore, the GOALS intends to provide technical support to the member states of the Colombo Process to focus on the prevailing gaps and new challenges relating to labour migration in South and South-East Asia region. GOALS will further support the member states to translate the regional policy discussion and learnings into concrete follow-up action at the national level. Thus, the engagement, commitment and contribution of the governments, civil society, trade union, employers organizations and all other relevant stakeholders including the private sector remains vital and significant to find practical solutions for migrant workers and to improve the governance of migration in the region” said Benil Thavarasa, the Regional Programme Manager for  the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

Representatives from the three UN agencies opened the event, which included a presentation on the programme and a discussion session on its implementation.  Also participating in this event were representatives from the Member States of the Colombo Process and members of civil society, trade unions, employers organisations and academic institutions.


GOALS is a three-year regional programme funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.  GOALS programme is supported under  the SDC regional programme – “Decent Work for Migrant Workers from South Asia.”

The programme is built on three interlinked outcomes:

  • Colombo Process Member States develop and progress actionable commitments for strengthened labour migration governance and policy coherence through multilateral dialogue;
  • Selected members states in South Asia have improved labour migration policies and practices, on skills development and qualifications recognition, fostering fair and ethical recruitment, and sustainable reintegration;
  • The evidence base on labour migration is strengthened to inform knowledge, dialogue, policy making and action.

The Regional Consultative Process on Overseas Employment and Contractual Labour for Countries of Origin in Asia (the Colombo Process) currently has twelve member states: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam. The work of the Colombo process is coordinated by a chair, selected on a rotating basis from the member states and much of the detailed work of cooperation and policy development is delivered through its five  Thematic Area Working Groups (TAWGs) -focussing on: fostering ethical recruitment practices; pre departure orientation and empowerment; skills and qualification recognition; the promotion of cheaper, faster and safer transfer of remittances and labour market analysis. GOALS will work directly with the TAWGs.

18 December is International Migrants Day and this year’s focus is the Global Compact for Migration with the theme ‘Reimagining Human Mobility’

For more information, please contact at

IOM, Andrew Gray Tel: +447483885260 , Email: [ Click to reveal ] 
ILO, Shabarinath Nair  Tel: +91 11 4750 9238, Email: [ Click to reveal ] 
UN Women, Katja Freiwald, Tel: +66988206990 Email: [ Click to reveal ]  



[1] the full name of the Colombo process is “The Regional Consultative Process on Overseas Employment and Contractual Labour for Countries of Origin in Asia . Home - Colombo Process