Despite the importance of labour migration in Southeast Asia, the mechanism of migrant workers protection in the region is still lacking. Because of that, cases show that often the undocumented and/or the low-skilled workers receive inappropriate treatment in the host countries. In certain cases, they were treated as second-class citizens – this is despite the work that they do. To address these issues, ASEAN has conducted a series of dialog forums and issued various agreements. In doing so, ASEAN have been involving different key stakeholders working on the issue, including international organizations, regional and national civil society organizations, and employers’ union. Unlike mainstream study which mainly focusses on the role of member states or ASEAN in developing regional mechanisms in the region, this research highlights the strategic role of International Labour Organizations (ILO). We argue that ILO is the powerful entities (aside of the member states) behind the region’s decision to pay more serious attention to the issue. This research shows how the ASEAN member states tend to be more open towards ILO’s involvement in their issues – while, because of the region’s norms of non-interference, they usually are reluctant to take any kind of external intervention to the region. Within this context, from the three possible type of roles of international organization in international system proposed by Clive Archer, i.e. as arena, instrument or actor, this article argues that ILO plays a role more as an actor that act independently to fill the gap left by the inability (unwillingness) of ASEAN member state to provide protection to their own migrant workers.

Bahasa Abstract

Meskipun pekerja migran berperan penting di perekonomian Asia Tenggara, mekanisme perlindungan pekerja migran di kawasan ini masih lemah. Berbagai kasus menunjukkan bagaimana pekerja migrant, terutama yang tidak terdokumentasi dan/atau berketerampilan rendah mendapatkan perlakuan yang tidak pantas di negara penerima. Untuk mengatasi permasalahan tersebut, ASEAN memfasilitasi serangkaian forum dialog dan mengeluarkan berbagai kesepakatan. Dalam melakukan hal ini, ASEAN melibatkan berbagai pemangku kepentingan utama, termasuk organisasi internasional, organisasi masyarakat sipil regional dan nasional, dan serikat pekerja. Berbeda dengan berbagai kajian arus utama yang berfokus pada peran negara anggota atau ASEAN dalam mengembangkan mekanisme regional di kawasan, penelitian ini menyoroti peran strategis International Labour Organizations (ILO). Penulis berargumen bahwa ILO adalah pihak yang paling berpengaruh (selain negara-negara anggota ASEAN) di balik keputusan ASEAN untuk memberikan perhatian yang lebih serius terhadap permasalahan pekerja migran. Penelitian ini menunjukkan bagaimana negara-negara anggota ASEAN cenderung lebih terbuka terhadap keterlibatan ILO – sementara, karena norma non-intervensi yang berlaku di kawasan, mereka biasanya enggan menerima intervensi eksternal dalam bentuk apa pun atas kebijakan domestik atau regional mereka. Dalam konteks ini, dari tiga kemungkinan peran organisasi internasional dalam sistem internasional yang dikemukakan oleh Clive Archer, yaitu sebagai arena, instrumen atau aktor, penulis berargumen bahwa ILO lebih berperan sebagai aktor yang bertindak independen untuk mengisi kesenjangan yang diakibatkan oleh ketidakmampuan (keengganan) negara anggota ASEAN untuk memberikan perlindungan kepada pekerja migran di Kawasan.


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