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Side Session |  9 June
12:30-13:45 ICT
Mainstreaming Human Rights Based Approaches at All Levels of Fisheries Management to End Illegal Fishing and Forced Labor at Seas, Southeast Asia Region in Focus
Organized by: Greenpeace Southeast Asia (Greenpeace SEA), Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) and Serikat Buruh Migran Indonesia (SBMI)

Seafarers including fishers working on foreign vessels are considered migrant workers, as they work overseas for economic reasons along with its entailing vulnerabilities. Nowadays whether at land and sea setting, the revealed facts of human trafficking, forced labor, and other exploitation phenomena that can be categorized as modern forms of slavery are just the tip of the iceberg. Part of the facts, the forced labor at sea goes side by side with illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices.

Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing remains one of the greatest threats to marine ecosystems due to its potent ability to undermine national and regional efforts to manage fisheries sustainably as well as endeavors to conserve marine biodiversity. IUU fishing takes advantage of corrupt administrations and exploits weak management regimes, in particular those of developing countries lacking the capacity and resources for effective monitoring, control, and surveillance (MCS). In addition to IUU fishing, the activities of fishers and vessels that engage in IUU fishing can constitute, lead to, or go hand-in-hand with, other crimes. The examples of other crimes here are fisheries-related crimes and crimes associated with the fisheries sector, where human trafficking is a part of the latter one. 

The International Labour Organization (ILO) states that a string of recent reports indicate that forced labor and human trafficking in the fisheries sector are a severe problem. These reports suggest that fishers, many of them migrant workers, are vulnerable to severe forms of human rights abuse on board fishing vessels. Migrant workers in particular are vulnerable to being deceived and coerced by brokers and recruitment agencies and forced to work on board vessels under the threat of force or by means of debt bondage.

Greenpeace SEA welcomes the issuance of the ASEAN Declaration on the Placement and Protection of Migrant Fishers recently (on 10th May 2023) adopted by leaders of member states during the 42nd ASEAN Summit held in Labuan Bajo, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia. The declaration follows years of active campaigning by human rights advocates and civil society organizations in the region to push for stronger policies to protect the rights of Southeast Asian migrants working in fisheries.

As the flashback, in November 2020, Greenpeace Southeast Asia (Greenpeace SEA) and allies including Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) - Indonesia, Serikat Buruh Migran Indonesia (SBMI) started developing the “Working Paper on Ratifying and Implementing ILO Convention 188 for ASEAN Member States” with an aim to bear significance on ASEAN’s role in ending modern slavery at sea. Greenpeace SEA has also established some engagements with some of the ASEAN bodies which then led to a Webinar: “Ending Modern Slavery at Sea: What is ASEAN’s Role?” on 3rd December 2020, where representatives from ASEAN bodies and several organizations and institutions gave feedback to the initial draft of the Working Paper. After further robust discussion and review by the authors by considering all inputs from many stakeholders, the working paper was officially launched and submitted to ASEAN by September 2021.


As further joint and collaborative efforts, Greenpeace SEA, HRWG and SBMI in March 2022 also launched the report titled “Omission of Modern Slavery: A Study on Human Rights Violations of Vessel Crews in Southeast Asia” which substantially discusses and highlights the importance of human rights based approaches (HRBA) in ending the IUU Fishing and Forced Labor at Seas practices. Among key recommendations, the study also critically examined the need of ASEAN Member States to promote United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP) to prevent and address human rights violations in business practice. These guidelines must be socialized to the vessel owners, captain, and crews. The guidelines explain the business sector’s responsibility to continuously protect, respect, and provide access to remedy for the victims.

The human rights-based approach (HRBA) is a conceptual framework for the process of human development that is normatively based on international human rights standards and operationally directed to promoting and protecting human rights.

About the session

The session features 5 to 6 speakers from various expertises to brainstorm and share diverse insights and perspectives interactively with the session participants on why and how human rights based approaches shall be effectively integrated and mainstreamed at fisheries management at local, national, regional and global levels in ending illegal fishing and forced labor at sea practices.

  • To consolidate diverse insights and perspectives in mainstreaming the human rights based approaches at all levels of the fisheries management to end illegal fishing and forced labor at sea practices.

  • To strengthen the solidarity, collaborative campaign and multistakeholder joint efforts in enabling and accelerating the effective implementation of ASEAN Declaration on the Placement and Protection of Migrant Fishers.


Key questions
  • What exactly and why the human rights approaches are essentials to be mainstreamed in fisheries management?

  • How can human rights approaches both in strategic conceptual and operational contexts be effectively performed and applied to end illegal fishing and forced labor at sea practices, are there lessons-learned and examples?

  • What are the hardest and biggest challenges to mainstream human rights based approaches in fisheries management, how are those addressed and anticipated?

  • What are key points and highlights from ASEAN Declaration on the Placement and Protection of Migrant Fishers, why are those historic and important for the southeast asia region and beyond, what is the hope and significance this declaration can deliver? Why does it matter?

  • What inputs can we propose, based on the human rights perspectives, on how to better develop the guideline and better implement the ASEAN Declaration on the Placement and Protection of Migrant Fishers?

  • Thailand at this stage, the only ASEAN Member States (AMS) ratified the ILO C188 - Work in Fishing Convention. Why? Then, how the lessons-learned the ratification process and its implementation in Thailand and other countries can encourage other AMS to accelerate its ratification?

  • In recent years and next, what focuses and steps and how are the civil society roles at national and regional-global levels in advocating and campaigning for both domestic and migrant fishers protection?

  • As the Indonesian goverment chairs ASEAN this 2023 year, is there an advocacy agenda established by the Indonesian and regional civil society groups to pursue ASEAN’s roles under Indonesia’s chairship this year? What is ‘Team 9’ exactly?

  • Considering the IUU and forced labor at seas are transboundary and cross-jurisdictional issues, How’s the flag states, port states, coastal states and market states can play their effective-significant roles and responsibilities in addressing it. How can the existing norms and conventions be ratified and implemented effectively in operational contexts? Are there still gaps of mechanisms at local, national, regional and international levels to make those effective?

Suggested additional reading
Day1 programme
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