Friday, 1 February 2019

ISIA : l’action en faveur des travailleurs migrants asiatiques au Maroc


Ce rapport présente en détails le travail de l'association Instance de Solidarité avec les Immigrés Asiatiques (ISIA)[1] en faveur des travailleurs asiatiques migrants au Maroc, notamment leur plaidoyer et la mise en œuvre d'un réseau de soutien unique alors que leur emploi en tant que travailleurs du secteur domestique ou de service, couplé à un manque de statut d'immigration au Maroc, les rend particulièrement vulnérables à la traite des êtres humains et à d'autres formes d'exploitation. ISIA a réussi, malgré un climat adverse, à tenir les autorités nationales et internationales responsables de violations persistantes des droits de l'homme. En posant la question: pourquoi l'ISIA est-elle en mesure d'apporter un soutien efficace et pertinent aux personnes marginalisées, cette étude vise à faciliter la réflexion sur le point d’interaction entre les systèmes de migration et des organisations locales, et à explorer les types d'intervention qui pourraient davantage réduire, voire éliminer l'incidence de la traite des êtres humains au sein de cette population.

En utilisant Facebook et son application Messenger associée, ISIA a établi un réseau social par lequel les travailleurs asiatiques migrants géographiquement dispersés restent en contact les uns avec les autres en utilisant des langages familiers tels que l'anglais, l'indonésien ou le tagalog. Ce réseau permet aux victimes de l'exploitation flagrante d'être identifiées, conseillées, et de solliciter l'aide de l'ISIA – qui facilite leur sortie des foyers ou elles ont été abusées, qui offre un refuge pendant des semaines voir des mois au foyer de l'ISIA à Salé (la ville jumelle de Rabat, la capitale du Maroc), et qui formule un plaidoyer pour la récupération de leurs passeports, saisis par les employeurs. L’ISIA fournit aussi l'accès aux services locaux, nationaux et internationaux, y compris les services de police, de santé, et des services consulaires, y compris le rapatriement grâce à ses contacts avec l'Organisation Internationale pour les Migrations. Ces services sont fournis de manière bénévole, sans frais pour les victimes d'exploitation ou de traite des êtres humains. Il y a en moyenne entre 5 et 10 travailleuses migrantes hébergées au refuge de l'ISIA, qui ont fui des conditions de travail brutales, mais qui ne peuvent pas quitter le Maroc tant que leurs passeports ne sont pas resitués.

Le Maroc est un pays de destination pour les travailleurs migrants des pays asiatiques tels que l'Indonésie et les Philippines, dont les ressortissants n'exigent pas de visa pour entrer dans le pays. Le visa touristique permet des séjours de 3 mois. Les personnes séjournant plus longtemps doivent demander un titre de séjour, cependant aucun statut n’est prévu pour les travailleurs domestiques asiatiques. Toutefois, il existe une forte demande par les Marocains aisés pour les travailleurs domestiques asiatiques (ainsi que pour les chefs du secteur des restaurants) qui jouissent d’une excellente réputation (compétences en anglais). Cette demande, en l'absence d'un système réglementaire officiel régissant le travail des travailleurs migrants asiatiques, a généré la mise en place d’un système non réglementé par les autorités.

L’appel d’offre pour le travail domestique au Maroc se fait en ligne par le biais des réseaux sociaux où les travailleurs sont attirés par l'absence des frais d'agence qui sont généralement imposés par d’autres pays d’accueil plus réglementés comme Hong Kong ou Singapour. Le recrutement est assuré par des organismes sans statut juridique et sans conformité au code du travail marocain, qui facilitent leur sortie de pays, par exemple les Philippines, en leurs fournissant des documents falsifiés. Ensuite, le travailleur domestique se trouvent piégé dans son pays d’accueil puisque le passeport sont confisque soit par l’employeur, soit par l’agence, sous des prétextes fallacieux. Les travailleurs domestiques ne sont souvent même pas conscients qu’ils sont tombés dans un statut de migrants sans papiers.

Les employeurs marocains paient à l'agence des honoraires ainsi que les frais de voyage du travailleur. La pratique de tromper le travailleur domestique sur son droit au travail et son droit à conserver son passeport, ainsi que la pratique de non-paiement des salaires et les menaces de violence, rentrent dans la définition de la « traite des personnes » telle qu'elle est énoncée à l'article 3 (a) du Protocole Additionnel à la Convention des Nations Unies contre la Criminalité Transnationale Organisée Visant à Prévenir, Réprimer et Punir la Traite des Personnes[2]. Cette pratique est toutefois répandue et même tolérée par les autorités marocaines[3]. Pourtant, le paysage migratoire a évolué: en 2014, le Maroc a mis en œuvre une nouvelle politique sur l'asile et l'immigration, connue sous le nom de « nouvelle politique migratoire » (NPM), qui a permis de reconnaître officiellement des dizaines de milliers d'subsahariens jusque-là des migrants sans papiers.  En conséquence, le Maroc a été reconnu internationalement, et a accueilli la conférence intergouvernementale des Nations Unis pour l’adoption du Pacte mondial sur les migrations sûres, ordonnées et réguliers en 2018. Toutefois, l'absence continue de réglementation couvrant l'emploi des travailleurs domestiques asiatiques – qui demeurent sans papiers – reste un facteur négatif qui engendre la traite des êtres humains dans le pays.

ISIA a été fondée par Hayat Baraho et son mari Ismail El Ammari, deux professionnels de santé à l'hôpital de Salé. Parlant couramment anglais, Hayat a travaillée comme infirmière au Moyen-Orient où elle a été exposée pour la première fois aux difficultés des travailleurs migrants asiatiques.  Ayant déjà mené les efforts d'organisation des travailleurs domestiques asiatiques au sein d’un syndicat, Hayat a été particulièrement touchée par le traitement du gouvernement marocain réservé aux travailleurs domestiques asiatiques suite à l'introduction du NPM, leur statut restant extrêmement précaires et sans protections contre l'exploitation et la traite des êtres humains. En tant que ressortissant marocain avec un réseau solide de relations au sein de sa communauté, Hayat a pu obtenir des résultats qui auraient été impossibles à réaliser par le biais des travailleurs migrants asiatiques eux-mêmes. En tant que telle, l'ISIA facilite l'accès au transport vers le foyer d’accueil et les soins de santé, et signale les cas de traite des êtres humains aux autorités policières et judiciaires.

Depuis 2012, Hayat a facilité la restitution de dizaines de passeports confisqués et le rapatriement des victimes. En tant que femme, elle est en mesure d'établir une relation honnête et confiante avec la population principalement féminine de travailleurs domestiques asiatiques, et elles sont à leur tour en mesure de partager leurs expériences d'abus et d'exploitation qui, autrement, resteraient étouffés. En tant que leader, Hayat maintient un accès direct aux personnes influentes dans les structures institutionnelles du Maroc, y compris la CNDH, les ministères et les ambassades, ainsi que le mouvement syndical.

L'ISIA est à un stade critique et l'organisation a besoin d'un soutien pour développer: 
  1. La prestation de services pour les cas d'abus et de traite des êtres humains; 
  2. La sensibilisation et protection des droits de l'homme des travailleurs domestiques asiatiques; 
  3. Des mécanismes informels pour réduire ou éliminer l'incidence de la traite des êtres humains; et 
  4. La rédaction des témoignages de traite humaine et de violence en arabe pour permettre aux autorités d’inciter les procédures de justice en faveur des victimes.

En tant que première priorité de l'organisation, l'ISIA a mis au point des mécanismes efficaces pour identifier et extraire les travailleurs domestiques abusés des situations de traite des êtres humains. Le défi pour l'organisation est d'absorber les coûts de la fourniture d'abris à ces femmes, qui restent souvent pendant des semaines ou des mois avant que leurs passeports puissent être récupérés et les voyages de retour organisés. Les coûts impliqués sont assumés de manière bénévole par Hayat et Ismail, reflétant à la fois la précarité du travail domestique et la difficulté d'établir une structure formelle pour représenter les travailleurs sans papiers. La priorité la plus urgente est d'aider à obtenir d'autres sources de financement pour le fonctionnement des opérations au quotidien et ses autres prestations de services.

La sensibilisation aux droits des migrants asiatiques pose le défi qu'un contrat d'emploi en tant que travailleur domestique est actuellement peu susceptible d'être approuvé par le ministère du travail – condition préalable à la demande de permis de séjour. Néanmoins, étant donné que la législation régissant le travail domestique[4] est entrée en vigueur le 2 octobre 2018, l'instauration de normes minimales d'emploi doit être considérée comme une opportunité de sensibiliser à la fois l'employeur et l'employé de leurs droits et obligations mutuels. Il s'agit d'informations qui, avec un soutien assez limité, pourraient facilement être rendues accessibles aux travailleurs domestiques asiatiques par le biais des réseaux sociaux établis par l'ISIA.

Depuis la naissance de l'ISIA, les agences de recrutement de travailleurs domestiques asiatiques ont souvent tenté de discréditer et de miner le travail accompli par Hayat et son mari avec des campagnes ciblées de désinformation et de diffamation. Il y a toutefois des signes encourageants que ces agences pourraient être persuadés de trouver une solution négociée, ou à défaut une solution amiable. Le soutien de médiateurs expérimentés pourrait permettre à l'ISIA d'établir des mécanismes acceptables en matière d'emploi pour les travailleurs domestiques asiatiques par le biais d'un code de pratique qui permettrait de réduire ou même d'éliminer l'incidence de la traite des êtres humains des travailleurs asiatiques employés au Maroc. 

Pour plus d'informations sur la façon de soutenir ISIA, veuillez contacter Hayat Baraho au + 212 6 67 74 01 81, ou par courriel à ass.isia2015@gmail.com.  

Ce rapport a été rédigé par Michael Schwaabe, directeur en développement international avec plus de 25 ans d'expérience dans le soutien des droits des travailleurs et près de 10 ans d'expérience spécifique de soutien des organisations de droits des travailleurs migrants au Maroc. Michael peut être contacté par courriel à mschwaabe@gmail.com.   

ISIA’s support of Asian Migrant Workers in Morocco


This report examines the work of Instance de Solidarité avec les Immigrés Asiatiques (ISIA)[1] in representing and providing a unique safety net for Asian migrant workers whose employment as domestic- or service-sector workers, coupled with a lack of a formal immigration status in Morocco, renders them especially vulnerable to human trafficking and other forms of exploitation. The fact that ISIA has been successful, against the odds, in holding national and international authorities accountable to persistent human rights violations, suggests that ISIA’s work is an example of success against the odds. In posing the question: why is ISIA able to provide effective support to marginalised persons, this study aims to facilitate reflection on where systems of migration and local organising interact, and explore the types of intervention that could support further reductions, and possibly eliminate, the incidence of human trafficking amongst this population. 

Using Facebook and its associated Messenger app, ISIA has established a social network through which geographically dispersed migrant Asian workers remain in contact with one another using familiar languages such as English, Indonesian or Tagalog. This network allows victims of gross exploitation to be identified, counselled and seek help from ISIA – including rescue from abusive employers, providing refuge for weeks or even months at ISIA’s shelter in Salé (the twin city to Rabat – Morocco’s capital), advocacy in recovering seized passports from employers, and support in accessing local, national and international services, including the Police, hospitals, consular services, as well as repatriation through the International Organisation for Migration. These services are provided benevolently, with no charge to the victims of exploitation or human trafficking. At any given moment in time, there are between 5 and 10 women migrant workers living at the ISIA shelter, who have fled brutal working conditions, but cannot leave the country until such time as their passports can be recovered from their employers.

Morocco is a destination country for migrant workers from Asian countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines, whose nationals do not require a visa to enter the country. Tourist entry allows for stays of up to 3 months. Persons staying longer than this need to apply for an appropriate form of official residency, but there is no such category available for domestic workers. There is a high demand from wealthy Moroccans for Asian domestic workers (as well as for chefs in the restaurant sector) who have an excellent reputation (and English language skills). This, coupled with the absence of an official regulatory system governing the work done by Asian migrant workers, has allowed an unregulated system to develop.

Advertisement for domestic work in Morocco happens online through social networks where workers are attracted by the lack of an agency fee which is typically imposed by more regulated markets for Asian domestic workers such as Hong Kong or Singapore. Recruitment is handled by agencies without any legal status under the Moroccan Labour Code, and who facilitate the worker’s exit from countries such as the Philippines by providing false documentation. The domestic worker is then often trapped with the employer in the host country since the worker’s identity documents are retained either by the agency or by employer. The domestic workers are frequently unaware of their own status as undocumented migrants.

Moroccan employers typically pay the agency a fee as well as the worker’s travel costs. The practice of deceiving the domestic worker regarding their right to work and then retaining their passport, when coupled with exploitative employment practices such as non-payment of wages or abusive working conditions would meet the definition of “trafficking in persons” as set out in Article 3(a) of the United Nation’s Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons[2]. This practice is however widespread and even condoned by the Moroccan authorities[3]. Yet the landscape of migration has been evolving: in 2014, Morocco implemented a new policy on asylum and immigration known as the ‘nouvelle politique migratoire’ (NPM) resulting in the formal recognition of tens of thousands of hitherto undocumented sub-Saharan migrants.  As a result, Morocco gained significant international recognition as seen by the country’s recent hosting of the United Nation’s adoption of Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration in 2018. However, the ongoing absence of regulation covering the employment of Asian domestic workers – who remain undocumented – remains a significant facilitating factor of human trafficking in the country.

ISIA was founded by Hayat Baraho and her husband Ismail El Ammari, both health care professionals with the Sale hospital. A fluent English speaker, Hayat previously worked as a nurse in the Middle East where she also came into contact with the difficulties experienced by migrant workers from Asia.  Having previously led the efforts to organise Asian domestic workers within a union, Hayat was particularly affected by the government of Morocco’s treatment of Asian domestic workers following the introduction of the NPM, whose status and protections barely changed and who remain extremely vulnerable to exploitation and human trafficking. As a Moroccan national with a strong network of relationships within the community, Hayat can achieve outcomes unavailable to most Asian migrant workers. As such ISIA facilitates transport to the shelter and access to health care services, as well as reporting incidents of human trafficking to the Police and Judicial authorities.

Since 2012, Hayat has successful recovered dozens of sequestered passports thus facilitating the repatriation of the victims. As a woman, she is able to establish an honest and trusting relationship with the mainly female population of Asian domestic workers, and they in turn are able to share their stories of abuse and exploitation which otherwise would remain untold. As a leader, Hayat has direct access to influencers within Morocco’s institutional structures, including the CNDH, government ministries and embassies, as well as the trade union movement.

ISIA is at a critical juncture and the organisation needs support to develop:
  1. Service provision for cases of abuse and human trafficking; 
  2. Awareness and protection of the human rights of Asian domestic workers;
  3. Informal mechanisms to reduce or eliminate the incidence of human trafficking; and
  4. Preparation of witness statements in Arabic to allow the authorities to initiate judicial proceedings on behalf of the victims of human trafficking and violence.
As the organisation’s first priority, ISIA has developed effective mechanisms to identify and extract abused domestic workers from situations of human trafficking and abuse. The challenge for the organisation is absorbing the costs of providing shelter to these women, who often remain for weeks or months before their passports can be recovered and return travel organised. The costs involved are benevolently borne by Hayat and Ismail, reflecting both the precarious nature of domestic work and the difficulty of establishing a formal structure to represent undocumented workers. Help in securing other sources of funding for ISIA’s daily operation and service provision is the most urgent priority.

Building awareness of the rights of Asian migrants presents the challenge that a contract for employment as a domestic worker is currently unlikely to be approved by the Ministry of Labour – a prerequisite to applying for a residency permit. Nonetheless, since legislation regulating domestic work[4] came into force on 2 October 2018, the establishment of legally enforceable minimum standards of employment should be seen as an opportunity to educate both employer and employee of their mutual rights and obligations. This is information which, with quite limited support, could easily be made accessible to Asian domestic workers via the social networks established by ISIA.

Over the years that ISIA has been operating, the recruitment agencies of Asian domestic workers have frequently attempted to discredit and undermine the work done by Hayat and her husband with targeted campaigns of misinformation and smears. There are however encouraging signs that these agencies might be persuaded to find a negotiated solution, or failing that a BATNA[5]. Support from experienced mediators could allow ISIA to establish employment arrangements for Asian domestic workers through a code of practice or similar mechanism that would help reduce or even eliminate the incidence of human trafficking among Asian domestic workers in Morocco. 

For more information about how to support ISIA, please contact Hayat Baraho on + 212 6 67 74 01 81, or by email at ass.isia2015@gmail.com.

This report was authored on 26 January 2019 by Michael Schwaabe, a development manager with over 25 years of experience working in support of workers’ rights and close to 10 years specific experience of supporting migrant worker rights organisations in Morocco. Michael can be contacted by email at mschwaabe@gmail.com.


[1] www.facebook.com/ISIAsian/
[3] Author interview, 22 Feb 2017
[5] Best Alternative To A Negotiated Agreement, Fisher and William (1981)

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

A new charity?

When I started this blog last August, one of the options that I'd laid out for "becoming directly and personally involved with people who are struggling for their rights" was to establish a charitable organisation. Several factors now seem to prod me in this direction - a somewhat idiosyncratic profile, a need to maintain the status quo, and some very specific ideas about how best to help and work with people.

So what follows is a draft of what I believe the guiding principles of this charitable organisation, which I propose to call the Conversare Foundation, should be. The idea being that we - by which I mean us in the West - work with marginalised people from emerging world countries and support them in realizing their own goals. By acting as advisers, friends and partners, what we can do is facilitate the interaction with Western institutions - work that may range from engaging on their behalf within the organisations with which we are familiar and so act as advocates, to, say, supporting their applications for funding (which is often way beyond the technical or linguistic capacity of any small emerging country organisation). My experience suggests that this type work can be achieved inexpensively, but can greatly facilitate the ability of people to exercise agency. Furthermore - and perhaps most significantly -  the key to this venture is the idea that we learn by doing, and we learn by conversing with one another. This means that the additional aim of the Conversare Foundation is to stimulate the process of information sharing as to how the institutional mechanisms that keep people poor and vulnerable can be overcome.

Thoughts and feedback would be greatly welcomed - as would be volunteers who might like to be either Trustees of the new charity, or activists who might like to participate in our work.

Guiding Principles of the Conversare Foundation

Using the social capital with which it has been endowed, the Conversare Foundation hopes to build authentic and dynamic conversation with disadvantaged, marginalised and vulnerable people in the hope of 'turning together', from the Latin com versare, meaning to turn together[1]

For the purpose of this Constitution of the Conversare Foundation, the term ‘capital’ refers to an attribute of individuals and organisations. Capital, in any of its interdependent economic, political or social forms, drives positive feedback loops, changes social relations, and accumulates power for the individual or the organisation. This, and the ability to exchange capital for other forms of capital in proportion to an individual’s or an organisation’s collective endowments, makes capital both desirable and fungible[2].  

An attribute of inadequate capital is marginalisation, resulting in people becoming disadvantaged or vulnerable. Inadequate capital is not merely the lack of financial resources, it is also the inability to exchange individual or collective endowments on favourable terms, so feedback loops remain negative, social relations remain unchanged, and power is not accumulated. Poverty cannot be overcome by merely addressing the symptoms of disadvantage or vulnerability – the deeper systematic problem of marginalisation must also be resolved.

At the Conversare Foundation, we aim to build the capital of disadvantaged, marginalised and vulnerable people by investing in relationships that bridge diametric disparities through friendship and respect; whereby growing awareness and mutual trust then builds the foundation for further development. We believe that disadvantaged, marginalised, and vulnerable people can realise the outcomes they envision for themselves by organising, through engagement with the establishment, and by participating as equals in decision-making processes.

On this basis, the Conversare Foundation has the specific goal of facilitating access to the tools of meaningful engagement with the full range of institutions of the development establishment, be they government, non-government, or international, public, private or other forms of collective organisation, so that the appeals of the disadvantaged, marginalised and vulnerable cannot simply be excluded or ignored through lack of technical capacity or knowledge.

A further aim of the Conversare Foundation is the establishment of a Community of Practice to help shift attitudes as to how the systemic problems of disadvantage, marginalisation and vulnerability are collectively understood and can be strategically overcome.

In order to achieve these goals, the specific objects of the Conversare Foundation are:


  1. To encourage, facilitate and support the growth and development of diverse forms of civil society organisations (“CSO”) that are organised and run by disadvantaged, marginalised, or vulnerable people of the emerging world whose principal object is the alleviation of the economic, political, and social poverty affecting them; 
  2. To endow those CSOs with the technical expertise, support and training they may need in order to engage effectively with the government, non-government, or international, public, private or other forms of collective institutions of the development establishment; 
  3. Where relevant to the achievement of mutual aims, to partner with individual CSOs in order to provide them with the administrative or professional capacity necessary for the effective and responsible management of funding awards or grants until such time as the CSO can effectively manage awards or grants independently of external support;


For the avoidance of doubt:



  • All expertise, partnership arrangements, or services provided by the Conversare Foundation to participating CSOs shall be done at no cost to the latter;
  • With the exception of staff time and communication expenses, any costs borne by participating CSOs associated with their interaction with the Conversare Foundation shall be reimbursed by the latter upon presentation of suitable receipts.


And...

  1. To support collective learning about the systemic problems of disadvantage, marginalisation and vulnerability and how these may be strategically overcome through the establishment of a Community of Practice that documents and disseminates mutual learning as this is generated;
  2. To seek funding in support of realising the aims of the Conversare Foundation.






[1] We acknowledge our debt to Ison, R. (2010) ‘Systems Practice: How to Act in a Climate-Change World’ [Ed], Springer, London, The Open University, Milton Keynes
[2] We acknowledge Freinacht, H. (2017) ‘How to Outcompete Capitalism?’ Metamoderna Blogpost [online], available at: http://metamoderna.org/how-to-outcompete-capitalism?lang=en for key elements of this definition.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

The impossibility of saying anything even remotely comprehensible...


This blog was written as a result of a request by my friend and brilliant writer Poornima Manco and first appeared on her blog at: poornimamanco.wordpress.com. I really enjoy Poornima's stories - she has a great range, including one of my favourite genres which is Science Fiction. So thank you Poornima for inspiring and encouraging me to write this short piece!

One of my favourite pastimes and one that I had significant opportunities for indulging in as a younger man, was sitting round a table nursing a pint of beer (real ale please) and solving all the world’s problems in conversation with one or two good friends. We usually had everything solved by the third pint, which in turn, opened the way for a celebratory fourth thus reaching my upper limit, especially if I wanted to function well enough to navigate back home. Which describes a particular conceit of mine; in that the world’s problems are solvable. This was an odd thing to be doing and perhaps a greater reflection of the cultural privilege that a white Western man enjoys – although I could not have framed it in quite that way at the time. The conversations were usually between men and, since they only rarely extended to include women, they beg the question (which I could blissfully disregard at the time, although the alcohol-based mental lubrication may have helped somewhat): how are you going to solve anything if fifty per cent of humanity isn’t even represented? Or even, as was definitely the case for this young man in his twenties, I really didn’t control very much at all and actually still don’t. It’s not like I could set global transport policies, or make State planning decisions, or initiate a comprehensive waste recycling scheme – to mention just a few.

That’s not to say that nothing good has come of this particular pastime – on the contrary, some problems did get solved as a direct result. But many fewer than the number and grandeur of those mental palaces I constructed. Worse still, my ability to effectively capture the problem in words seems to be failing. Every time I try to nail something down the issue either slips through my metaphors or my preamble becomes so overly top-heavy that I’ve lost my audience before we can really get started. As there’s less beer involved too, this may underlie part of the difficulty. These days it’s usually my wife who will cut me off leaving just my progeny who occasionally has the patience to put up with her father when he goes off on one of his overbearing rants. But the problem remains – defining issues has become considerably more difficult for me. The thought builds, I try to speak, and in that precise moment a multitude of other issues occur to me demanding my urgent attention, all of which have a direct bearing on the relevance of the issue, and I then feel the need to systematically explore each one. Little wonder perhaps that my family’s switch from good natured tolerance to extreme exasperation sits on a hairpin trigger. Worse still is when I try to write, because most of the time, the effort involved in setting thoughts on paper (computer screen nowadays), it’s like swimming uphill through a sea of mental treacle.

Why are words so damn difficult? Each word is a box inside of which sits the idea of what it is you want to say. Except it’s not really your idea. A “cup of tea” clearly means a mug-shaped vessel made of some kind of porcelain containing about 250ml of recently poured boiling water over brown tea leaves, usually held in a porous paper sachet or bag, with about 30ml of added cold milk. Except it doesn’t, to people who don’t like milk in their tea, or who prefer green tea, or insist on a cup and saucer, or it might even mean a cup filled with tea leaves. Ultimately, you won’t know what the other person understands unless you ask, and if you have to ask about every little thing then life can become quite exhausting. So most people prefer to rely on a form of shorthand and assume that their “cup of tea” is exactly what they imagine it to be. How easy it is to be fooled into a false sense of security, as anybody who has ever had the experience of being asked for “hot tea” by an American. Of course it’s hot, dammit, otherwise it wouldn’t be tea! All this confusion arises from three little words. What these words, these boxes surrounding ideas, these forms of mental shorthand really represent is a social construct – a “cup of tea” is like this because, well because everybody else around me who is like me thinks that this, and only this, is a cup of tea.

This social construct is my identity, and the brilliant thing is that I have many which express themselves in all the different roles I assume every day, as a parent, a husband, a friend, at work or while playing around. Here’s the rub – certain identities carry consequences, whether I like them or not, and I may not even be consciously aware of them. Things such as national origin, religious affiliation, as well as gender, ethnicity, degree of privilege, all define the boundaries – that is – the outer limits of what I’m prepared to accept that each word box will surround. And this has a real bearing on solving all the world’s problems, even when lubricated by my favourite beer. For example, I tend to assume that governments are benign structures mandated to help improve their citizens’ lives. Clearly, most governments are neither benign, nor do their officers feel in any way compelled to act in accordance with enacting or enforcing fundamental human rights principles. So, sitting in the pub, enjoyable though that may be and the odd exception aside, is not the most direct route to solving the world’s problems.

So this is my understanding: fixing anything requires us to understand that everything is a social construct that has been collectively invented by people who share the same identity. So if something is broken, or a problem, a big part of understanding the issue is understanding where the boundaries of our word boxes have been set. Commonly referred to as the paradigm, but that is only a particular word box which contains the idea of a commonly understood idea (I hope you begin to understand why I often feel like I’m swimming uphill through a sea of treacle).

When you are in the forest you can’t see the wood for the trees – what is required is a different perspective. And that means seeking out those who have a different identity, persuading them to share their understanding and taking the time to learn.

Anybody fancy a beer?

Michael in his own words:

For several years, my day job was largely (though not entirely) based on my skills in both the English and French languages – which I found highly amusing as these were, PE aside, the things I was worst in at school. The skills of caring, attention to detail, and customer focus I need for my current day job were essentially acquired through the example given to me by my parents, and most significantly my mother. Married with one lovely child, I live in London. I used to ride motorcycles, but development work and a Masters got in the way, leading to the occasional blog at: http://www.conversareblog.net/.

I aspire to do so again.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Who gets custody of the kids? Why Brexit resembles nothing so much as a divorce.

[I felt the need to write about something else...]

Britain. Europe. Two people who eventually managed to get married back in 1973, once the objecting parent in the shape of France’s Charles de Gaulle had passed away, thus opening the door to their union. As in any marriage, some effort at compromise and adjustment to each other’s behaviours and idiosyncrasies was required, yet the whole was greater than the sum of the parts. With Europe’s support, Britain finally achieved settlement to a hitherto intractable and long-running dispute with Northern Ireland on its side of the family, whereas Europe, with Britain’s support, welcomed family members back into the fold who had been frozen out behind the Iron Curtain for decades. And yet, a problem common among many married couples, was money management, which became a significant source of friction within the couple.

From the get-go, Britain wasn’t too keen on Europe’s CAP outgoings. The issue remained intractable until a marriage guidance counsellor called Thatcher persuaded Europe that compromise could be achieved by contributing slightly less to the household budget in the shape of the 1984 “opt-out”. And then there were things that one partner did that, try as they might, the other partner simply couldn’t get to grips with. Such as the Euro, for example. Or deciding to let certain family members play with the Euro (I mention no names). Or then beating up on that family member (whose name remains un-mentioned) when they got all the rules of the game wrong… But, hey – unlike your friends, you don’t get to choose family. But it’s not a healthy sign when the partners in a marriage decide on having separate bank accounts.

 So at this point I think we’ll skip forward past the acrimonious accusations of whose fault it really is – in a divorcing marriage both sides are invariably at fault even if you really, really don’t think you’ve done anything wrong (if you think that, then the communication broke down years ago, so it’s your fault). One partner went to see their lawyer and, because lawyers don’t get paid for being marriage counsellors, divorce papers got served on the other. And as with all consummated and fruitful marriages (I mean divorces), the most contentious issues revolve around who gets the house, who gets custody of the kids, and how do we split up the pets that we both had while we were still together? Meaning, respectively: the EU divorce bill; the EU nationals living in Britain and vice versa; and Northern Ireland and Gibraltar.

The house: think of it as the common home established by Britain and Europe, but which Britain has decided to leave. You can ‘not pay’, but ‘not pay’ is rather like saying “I’m leaving, you move out!” Far safer – as far as divorce proceedings go – is to ‘pay’, that is to say “I’m leaving, and I’ll help you keep the house”. The kids: “…well, I’d love to continue caring for our children, but now that I’m on my own again – you see – I need to be free…” Most divorce lawyers would probably take a dim view of this sentiment and advise against expressing it during the proceedings. The kids were born to both parents, and duties and obligations that arise as a result need to continue. Treating one child as less deserving than another wouldn’t cut it in a divorce court and it certainly shouldn’t with EU or British nationals’ post-Brexit. The pets: and the divorcing couple are particularly attached to them. We can’t split up the pets without causing them serious emotional harm, and neither side wants to ‘give’ the pet to the other in perpetuity, so the best the couple can do now that they are separating is to find some way of sharing. Which means that they need to work out how.


It’s not too late to go back to marriage guidance counselling…

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Migrant workers’ rights in Morocco: developing a proposal

This next story, represent my attempt to resolve a personal dilemma by tying together some the different elements explored in earlier blogs. I have been asked to help a small migrant association in Morocco respond to a grant application issued by the EU with the specific aim of helping migrants integrate into Morocco. The grant is politically motivated, since it supports EU policy of externalising its borders (in this case by getting Morocco to police the land and sea borders with Spain in order to reduce clandestine migration) and because it supports the Moroccan Monarch’s vision of welcoming and integrating migrants from sub-Saharan Africa into the country (and for which the government of Morocco has conducted two exceptional amnesties in 2014 and 2017 that allowed undocumented migrants to become registered). Morocco was recently readmitted into the African Union, and I suspect that the improved treatment of their fellow African’s may have played an important role. The migrant association played an important role throughout all this through its advocacy for improved migrant rights; by educating and raising awareness amongst migrants about the exceptional amnesties; and has gained real hands-on experience of the difficulties involved in achieving migrant integration.

Research I conducted earlier this year suggests that migrants and Moroccans share an important characteristic – neither have conceptualised Morocco as a migrant destination country. Certainly many sub-Saharan migrants with whom I spoke explained that they often felt harassed or threatened in Morocco and which contradicts the “terre d’acceuil” image the country likes to project. Furthermore, this association has effectively run out of money, which means that it is at a critical point since my research also indicates that leadership amongst sub-Saharan African migrants depends almost exclusively on the leader’s ability to provide resources and support to their community. Thirdly, I am conscious of significant difficulties in communication, and this creates a pervading sense of distrust – between migrants and Moroccans, between migrants and Westerners, and even amongst migrants themselves. There are deeper issues at work here, which can probably only be explored at the level of the underlying institutional systems.

This migrant association is extremely well-networked both within Morocco and internationally and consequently discovers opportunities for grant funding. However, the nature of multi-dimensional poverty seems, much like the mythological figure of Tantalus whose reach for grapes that are just out of reach, to condemn both to an eternity of suffering. Grants are not neutral devices for combatting poverty since they require the acquisition and mastery of social technologies that this association does not currently possess. And the development processes that I am familiar with using and which are integral to any grant proposal do not appear to elicit the kinds of critical responses from my interlocutors at the migrants association that would allow me to help them further. We are not, in other words, turning together by engaging in a conversation. The Cynefin framework described in an earlier blog helps me here: if all concerned understood the social technology of grant applications, then we would find ourselves in the “simple” or “complicated” quadrants where either the relationship is obvious, or just requires “expert” knowledge. However, reflecting on my recent experiences gives me the insight that this situation is best described as “complex”, verging on “chaotic” and I have to acknowledge that any attempts at intervention represent attempts to explore this system, and do not construe action, since I cannot predict the outcomes.

This EU grant aims to integrate migrants economically into Morocco by facilitating access to employment, understood in terms of acquiring professional qualifications, securing paid employment, and establishing businesses. There is no mention of fundamental rights at work, let alone the importance of the right to organise and collective bargaining. This important omission suggests deeper institutional attitudes within the EU’s bureaucracy and accurately reflects Morocco’s own failure to ratify ILO Convention 87. There is an ethical dilemma as well that needs to be explored further. I have a deontological approach to fundamental rights (see blog) and believe that protecting these is always good, irrespective of the consequences. Furthermore, I also take a situationist approach as far as migrants in Morocco are concerned, in that – irrespective of any traditional prohibitions in Moroccan law for non-Moroccans to organise – I believe that it is strategically important for them to do so. The migrant association is different – they appear to be less concerned about morals, but have clear views on right or wrong depending on the practical outcome for migrants, suggesting a teleological approach to ethics within the absolutist quadrant. Acknowledging the differences in our respective positions is important because it provides clues as to what we value on a personal level – I can commit to supporting their efforts when I see progress towards the establishment of migrant collective structures; and the association can commit to conversing with me when they see real practical progress that meets migrants’ needs.

Here perhaps is a clue as to how to find a way of working with the migrants association on this EU grant proposal…

Monday, 25 September 2017

A Model for analysing Fundamental Worker Rights


In my previous blogs I started exploring Fundamental Worker Rights by situating these within the universally recognised core principles of the ILO whose expression, understanding and enforcement is directly linked to ethical and moral values. Something is ‘fundamental’ because it is vital to human beings and where denial may destroy its victims. And yet, few societies are successfully able to establish the conditions within which these rights find effective expression. Most, but not all, societies invest resources into education with the aim of eliminating child labour which protects this ‘fundamental’ worker right. Contrast this with “human trafficking” (the modern neologism for slavery or forced labour) is which is extremely difficult to eliminate because, while homo sapiens is an extraordinarily cooperative species, we are also ruthlessly exploitative of those perceived as ‘other’. Effectively, our limitless capacity at inventing ‘otherness’ facilitates this ability by enabling us to become blind to, ignorant of, or worse still – find justifications for exploitation.

Social institutions then, produce and anchor inequality – and do so despite the universal acknowledgement by nations around the world of ‘fundamental’ worker rights. How can such disconnect between rights and reality be explained? It is fairly easy to understand how child labour destroys life chances through stunted growth and lack of access to education. The remedy is also tried and tested: quality education and sufficient resources to allow children to stay in school. Such awareness of the problem and solutions is much more difficult with respect to trafficking or inequality since it requires critical awareness of how culture affects societal outcomes and thus life chances. Awareness distinguishes the importance of and underscores the need for the fourth ‘fundamental’ worker right. Unlike the other three ‘fundamental’ worker rights which are passive and invoke protection against inequality, forced or child labour, the fourth right is active: the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining are rights to agency and self-determination – in other words, the right to exercise power.

As forms of socially constructed norm or value, ‘fundamental’ worker rights represent attempts to establish and set limits on human behaviour. Rights are a form of intervention in the complex and chaotic processes of social change, which are directly and inextricably linked with power and conflict. The tools we use to explore this terrain must therefore account for complexity, be conflict-aware, and recognise that outcomes only become embedded through processes of social learning. Such a multi-dimensional model is proposed below:

 

Central to this analytical model is the recognition that the world is a disordered place upon which societies’ merely project permanence and stability through the establishment of institutions with their accompanying rules, norms, meanings and values. Institutions achieve stability – to paraphrase Hannah Arendt [1] – because they allow people to develop shared purpose that rely solely on valid and binding promises through which an unknowable future can be disposed of as if it were the present – and which consequently underpins all forms of collective human interaction by providing us with the sovereignty to manage our own affairs.

The “Cynefin” model, developed by Snowden [2], allows for the distinguishing of systems within this disorder defined as ‘simple’, ‘complicated’, ‘complex’, or ‘chaotic’, based on the relationship between cause and effect and proposes forms of interaction with each system type. In a ‘simple’ system cause and effect appears obvious allowing interaction to be described as sense, categorise and respond. ‘Complicated’ systems are ones where the cause and effect relationship requires investigation or expert knowledge, interaction requires sense, analysis and then response. In ‘complex’ systems the relationship between cause and effect is only knowable with hindsight; accordingly interaction is defined in terms as probe, sense and respond, and leads to emergent practice. Last are ‘chaotic’ systems, where the relationship between cause and effect is not visible at the level of that system. Interaction here is defined as act, sense and respond which in turn leads to novel practice. An institution’s ability to define and set the terms of the system in which it operates reflects the degree to which the players wield power within that system. Snowden adds one final feature to this model – a cliff marking the boundary between simple and chaotic systems and which represents the danger that lurks to catch out the unwary who, believing they are in a simple system, commit grievous errors when in fact it is not. It is safer to develop understanding by crossing systems boundaries from ‘simple’, to ‘complicated’, ‘complex’ and on to ‘chaotic’.

This progression from simple to chaotic is reflected in the next level of the model which incorporates conflict as developed by Goodhand [3]. Merely becoming conflict aware is not sufficient agency to overcome the dangers of conflict blindness. While it is a useful first step to allow individuals and organisations to work around conflict in an attempt to “do no harm”, conflict is a necessary and unavoidable part of social life. Denying the existence of conflict represents a form of privilege – by which I mean that those who benefit most from a culture are frequently ignorant of the challenges facing those who benefit least. By recognising that their agency is a form of working “on” conflict, individuals and organisations are taking a moral stand (and which I discuss in my Blog “Ethics, development and worker rights”) with the aim of achieving transformation.

This leads to the third level of critical social leaning systems as developed by Bawden [4] and into which the earlier models have two entry points – the intertwined insightful and experiential learning systems in which emotion interlinks with meaning to form bridges between our concrete and spiritual worlds. Observations are the perceptions that result from experience, by meditating and contemplation. Understanding leads to conceptualisation, as focusing leads to insight. This paves the way for acting to lead to experimentation, and accepting to application. The cycle then comes full circle with applying and planning leading to yet more experience.

Next, I want to look at how this model might be applied to situations where workers are being denied one or more of their ‘fundamental’ rights.

[1] Arendt, H. (1958/1998) The Human Condition (2nd Edition), The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, London, p.245
[2] Cognitive Edge (2017) Cynefin Framework Introduction [online], available at: http://cognitive-edge.com/videos/cynefin-framework-introduction/, accessed on 19th September 2017
[3] see also: GSDRC (2017) The evolution of conflict sensitivity and the spectrum of ambition [online], available at: http://www.gsdrc.org/topic-guides/conflict-sensitivity/concepts/the-evolution-of-conflict-sensitivity/, accessed on 19th September 2017
[4] Bawden, R. (2010) The Community Challenge: The Learning Response, in Blackmore, C. (2010) Social Learning Systems and Communities of Practice (Ed), Springer, London, The Open University, Milton Keynes, p.53

ISIA : l’action en faveur des travailleurs migrants asiatiques au Maroc

Ce rapport présente en détails le travail de l'association Instance de Solidarité avec les Immigrés Asiatiques (ISIA) [1] en faveur...