The Secretariat of the Asia Dialogue on Forced Migration (ADFM) was pleased to co-convene a Regional Roundtable on Alternative Care Arrangements for Children in the Context of International Migration in the Asia Pacific. The roundtable was jointly organised by the Department of Children and Youth (DCY) within the Thai Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, and the International Detention Coalition (IDC).
This roundtable was first suggested at the seventh meeting of the ADFM in Bangkok in November 2018, where participants supported the idea of creating a regional peer-learning platform on this issue.
On 21-22 November, thirty-five representatives from implementing and policy agencies within the governments of Thailand, Australia, Malaysia and Indonesia, as well as civil society and international organisations, came together in Bangkok to share their experiences and positive practice and assist each other to meet and address implementation challenges.
The last time regional governments came together on this issue was in 2015. Now, on the thirtieth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, with the Global Compacts receiving widespread support in the region, and following the recent passage of the ASEAN Declaration on the Rights of Children in the Context of Migration, there is a real sense of momentum in the region for action and change.
We were pleased to find a strong desire among participants to develop policies and programming in the best interests of the child, and also welcomed agreement on the benefit of an ongoing peer-learning platform in the region to continue this program of learning and action. Areas of agreement included:
- recognition of the need for improved coordination between relevant authorities (among government agencies and between government/non-government) on issues relevant to alternative care in each country;
- the desire for further technical assistance and training for front-line staff in dealing with refugee, asylum seeker and migrant children and their families.
Among the tangible ideas that came up for continuing this platform were:
- engaging nationally and regionally on the benefits of alternative care arrangements;
- building or using an existing online information-sharing platform to exchange positive practice, toolkits, manuals, handbooks and other relevant information;
- bilateral country information exchanges and site visits to observe models and programs that could be adapted for other country contexts;
- peer-learning through holding further, smaller intra-regional and country-specific meetings on areas of interest;
- setting benchmarks for what good practice looks like in inter-agency cooperation on implementing alternatives to detention.
CPD and IDC are grateful to the Thai Department of Children and Youth and the Australian Department of Home Affairs for their support of the meeting, and to Host International and UNICEF Thailand for their expert assistance and coordination throughout the two day event.