Third Asia Dialogue on Forced Migration meeting




The Third Asia Dialogue on Forced Migration meeting was held in Kuala Lumpur during September 2016.

The Dialogue meeting was hosted by the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS), Malaysia.

The Dialogue is going from strength to strength, proving its value as a neutral place to discuss policy and operational options for States and others who are grappling with complex forced migration issues in the region.

After successfully engaging and influencing the Bali Process earlier in 2016, we intended to follow up with a solid policy agenda and outreach to a broader set of stakeholders in the second year of the Dialogue. We achieved much of this in our Kuala Lumpur meeting.


We once again had an excellent group of individuals participating. We were honoured to have Khun Kasit Piromya, former Foreign Minister of Thailand, participate in the meeting and address us at our Dialogue Dinner. He reminded us of the need to maintain a focus on our common humanity as well as striving for the political and institutional leadership needed to address forced migration in the region.

New Dialogue members included Hasan Kleib (Director General of Multilateral Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Indonesia), Chowdhury Abrar (Director of Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh), Patcharamon Siriwatana (Department of International Organisations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand), Elina Noor (Director of Foreign Policy and Security Studies, ISIS Malaysia).

In a special Business Panel Session, the Dialogue heard from regional business leaders, including John WH Denton (Partner and CEO of Corrs Chambers Westgarth, and First Vice Chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce), Hui Mien Lee (Head of Sustainability, IKEA South East Asia) and Simon Lord (Group Sustainability Officer, Sime Darby Berhard). Dialogue members also visited the Rohingya Society in Malaysia and spoke with members of the Rohingya community in Kuala Lumpur.

Discussion and resolutions from the Third Asia Dialogue on Forced Migration meeting

The Dialogue continued its focus on better long-term preparedness for mass displacement in the region, including the national capacities, policies, standards and regional structures needed to respond better to all forms of forced migration now, and into the future.

Dialogue members explored the security considerations of forced migration, recognising that law and order and community safety issues are legitimate priorities and responsibilities of governments in the region. Although the links between these concerns and forced migration can be misperceived, Dialogue members noted that there is a particular security threat in not knowing who is in one’s territory. Members agreed to communicate to regional stakeholders that responding to the challenge of identification and registration of forced migrants in a predictable and coordinated way is a necessary condition to facilitating more secure and prosperous outcomes for governments, communities and individuals.

The private sector are increasingly aware of the commercial and geostrategic risks associated with mass displacement crises. Business can and do play an influential role in addressing forced migration through investing in humanitarian support for fragile environments, counteracting trafficking and exploitation in recruitment and supply chains, and working with government to expand labour migration pathways for forced migrants. We agreed to the inclusion of business representatives in future Dialogue meetings and to engage the private sector strategically to build a business case for more concerted action on forced migration.

Dialogue members plotted the key points we will make in our submission to the Bali Process Andaman Sea Crisis Review. This will include detailed consideration of how the Bali Process might operationalise the commitments made in the Bali Declaration to respond effectively to future mass displacement in the region. Of particular focus will be how the new consultation mechanism can be developed to broker early understanding of situations of potential, and actual, displacement, and generate co-ordinated and effective responses. This may include leveraging core contact groups in affected countries and developing an early warning system to prevent and manage displacement.

We considered how ASEAN can take a more constructive role in the interest of its member states, including by expanding its disaster management activities to include mass displacement, and will write directly to ASEAN and encourage it to take a coordinated approach to the governance of forced migration issues in the region. The ASEAN Secretariat will be invited to participate in our next meeting.

The fourth Dialogue meeting will be held in Indonesia in March 2017 and will focus on human trafficking. The fifth meeting will be held in the second half of 2017.

As the world negotiates the Global Compacts on Refugees and Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, the Asia Dialogue on Forced Migration will continue to advance an effective, dignified and durable approach to forced migration in our region.

The third ADFM meeting was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from 4-6 September. This followed meetings in Melbourne in August 2015 and Bangkok in January 2016. The ADFM’s first set of recommendations were adopted in March by the Ministerial Conference of the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime.

Travers McLeod, CEO of the Centre for Policy Development, one of the ADFM’s conveners, said the Asia-Pacific region was poised to play a leading global role.

“The Summits have generated important new pledges, but their lasting contribution is to kick-start two years of negotiations for separate Global Compacts on Refugees and Migrants. Concerted progress in the Asia-Pacific region on trafficking, disaster preparedness and the new Bali Process consultation mechanism on mass displacement are a catalyst for greater global ambition.”

“Our region could be on the cusp of a collective, regional approach if we sharpen the focus on preventing crises like that in the Andaman Sea in 2015 from happening again, and if all countries step up to the plate. This will only occur when domestic and regional approaches are in sync.”

“Asia has seen large forced migration flows in the past but the last year has witnessed a respite”, said Sriprapha Petcharamesree, from Mahidol University’s Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies. “This presents policymakers with the space to deal more effectively with human trafficking, asylum seeker protection and refugee status determination, and improve regional cooperation.”

Steven Wong, Deputy CEO of the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia, which hosted the third ADFM meeting, reinforced this view.

“The Bali Process Review of responses to the Andaman Sea crisis is underway and will consider how national, regional and subregional contingency preparedness can be improved.”

“The ADFM made important progress in Kuala Lumpur in the examination of national security concerns arising from forced migration flows and the need for better regional information cooperation and national identification and registration systems. It also considered how ASEAN can take a more constructive role in the interest of its member states and how the private sector could be strategically engaged. Our next meeting in Indonesia in March 2017 will focus on human trafficking networks.”

“New York is where the global talks have been, but this region may be where the action is. Countries must shy away from short-term, unilateral responses on forced migration and prioritise building a system with staying power that allows countries and people to flourish.”

Key documents from the Third Asia Dialogue on Forced Migration meeting