CMW Timeline

Labor migration timeline: Almost a 100 years of policies, and 25 years since the Migrant Workers’ Convention


The International Labor Organization established at the Peace Conference in Paris. In the preamble to its constitution, the newly established ILO states its intent to improve “the protection of the interests of workers when employed in countries other than their own”.

Source: ILO Constitution


The Forced Labor Convention adopted by the ILO as a fundamental document on labor rights and prohibition of forced labor in member-states. While the convention is designed to protect all workers globally, migrants are not explicitly mentioned. 177 countries out of the total 185 ILO member-states have ratified the convention.

Source: C029 – Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29)


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the UN General Assembly, the first document to guarantee universal human rights for all people regardless of nationality and occupation.

Source: Universal Declaration of Human Rights


The ILO establishes the Migration for Employment Convention, mandating that member-states guarantee certain rights to migrant workers:

  • free and adequate employment assistance
  • facilitation of departure, journey and arrival of migrants
  • access to medical services
  • equal treatment of migrant workers in terms of labor rights
  • right to remain in the destination country in cases of injury or illness
  • freedom to transfer and savings abroad

Source: C097 – Migration for Employment Convention (Revised), 1949 (No. 97)


The UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees is established to guarantee the protection of refugee rights. Initially designed to address the post-war refugee crisis in Europe, the Convention is later expanded under the 1967 Protocol to include refugees irrespective of their location.

Source: The 1951 Refugee Convention


The ILO adopts the Convention concerning Migrations in Abusive Conditions and the Promotion of Equality of Opportunity and Treatment of Migrant Workers. The 1974 Convention outlines the rights of irregular migrants and stipulates the need for strict measures against migrant smugglers. A migrant worker is defined as “a person who migrates or who has migrated from one country to another with a view to being employed otherwise than on his own account and includes any person regularly admitted as a migrant worker” (Article 11).

Source: C143 – Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions) Convention, 1975 (No. 143)


UN hosts seminar on human rights of migrants in Tunis on 12 to 24 November 1975 to address issues of migrant inequality, discrimination and abuse.

Source: Fact Sheet No.24, The Rights of Migrant Workers


UN General Assembly adopts Resolution 3449 on ensuring the rights and dignity of all migrants, requesting that the terms “non-documented or irregular migrant workers” be used in reference to migrants working without proper documentation.

Source: UN Resolution 3449


The 31st session of the UN General Assembly passes Resolution 31/127 calling on member-states to ratify the 1975 ILO Migrant Worker Convention and expressing concern over the “de facto discrimination frequently suffered by alien workers in some countries despite the legislative and other efforts exerted to prevent and punish it”.

Source: UN Resolution 31/127


UNESCO organizes the first World Conference Against Racism in Geneva, Switzerland on 14 to 25 August 1978 to combat racism and discrimination. The Conference also issues a recommendation to improve the protection of migrant worker rights through a new international convention.

Source: The Declarations and Programmes of Action adopted by the First (1978) World Conference to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination

The UN General Assembly Resolution 33/163 calls for the exploration into the possibility of drafting a new international convention in migrant rights based on recommendations from the World Conference Against Racism, the UN Economic and Social Council and the UN Commission on Human Rights.

Source: UN Resolution 33/163


UN General Assembly creates a working group for the drafting of an international convention to protect the rights of migrant workers and their families (UN Resolution 34/172).

Source: UN Resolution 34/172


A first draft of the Convention is completed under the chairmanship of Mexican ambassador Gonzalez de Leon and signed by Algeria, Mexico, Pakistan, Turkey, Yugolsavia, Barbados and Egypt (UN Doc. A/C.3/35/WG.1CPRP.7).  Many Western European countries along with US, Australia and India reject the first draft believing that extending rights to undocumented migrants would encourage irregular migration.

Source: Graziano Battistella. (2009). Migration and human rights: the uneasy but essential relationship. In: Ryszard Cholewinski et al. (eds.) Migration and Human Rights. pp. 47-69. [Online]. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Available from: Cambridge Books Online 


A new reworked proposal is drafted based on an outline developed in large part by an alliance of Mediterranean and Scandinavian countries known as the MESCA group (UN Doc. A/C.3/39/4 of 11 October 1984.)

Source: Graziano Battistella. (2009). Migration and human rights: the uneasy but essential relationship. In: Ryszard Cholewinski et al. (eds.) Migration and Human Rights. pp. 47-69. [Online]. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Available from: Cambridge Books Online 


UN General Assembly adopts the Declaration on the Human Rights of Individuals Who are not Nationals of the Country in which They Live.  This declaration marks an important step in the extension of international human rights to aliens and non-citizens (UN Resolution A/RES/40/144).

Source: UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/40/144


US Congress passes the Immigration Reform and Control Act, creating a massive legalization program while enacting stricter border controls and criminalizing irregular migration.

Source: Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA)


18 December – International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (ICRMW) adopted by UN General Assembly Resolution 45/158

Source: International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families

Number of foreign laborers in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states is around 5.2 million

Source: Migration and the Gulf


Mexico becomes first signatory of the ICRMW Convention on 22 May 1991


Egypt is the first state to ratify the ICRMW convention on 19 February 1993

Ratified by Morocco


International Migrants Rights Watch Committee comprised of representatives from human rights advocacy groups, church organization, trade unions and international agencies established at the UN International Conference on Population and Development.  Since 2000 known as Migrants Rights International (MRI).

Source: Migrants Rights International

Migration Forum in Asia (MFA) comes into existence as a network of 290 migrant organizations focused on promoting the rights and welfare of migrant workers enshrined in the UN Convention on Migrant Workers.

Source: Labour migration policies and programmes – Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA)

Ratified by Seychelles


Ratified by Colombia, Philippines and Uganda


Ratified by Bosnia & Herzegovina and Sri Lanka


Ratified by Cape Verde


Global Campaign for Ratification of the Convention on Rights of Migrants is launched by a coalition of NGOs, human rights organizations, the UN Secretariat, the ILO and other agencies.

Source: Graziano Battistella. (2009). Migration and human rights: the uneasy but essential relationship. In: Ryszard Cholewinski et al. (eds.) Migration and Human Rights. pp. 47-69. [Online]. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Available from: Cambridge Books Online 


Ratified by Azerbaijan, Mexico and Senegal

United Nations Commissions on Human Rights establishes the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants and names Costa Rican Gabriela Rodríguez Pizarro to the position (CHR Resolution 1999/44 of 27 April 1999)

Source: CHR Resolution 1999/44

Number of foreign laborers in GCC state surpasses the 7 million mark.

Source: Migration and the Gulf


Ratified by Bolivia, Ghana and Guinea

UN designates December 18th as International Migrants Day (UN General Assembly Resolution 55/95 of 4 December 2000.)

Source: UN Resolution 55/94

Total migrant population: 175 million international migrants – 2.8% of the global population


Ratified by Belize and Uruguay

Swiss government launches the Berne Initiative to facilitate cooperation on questions of migration management between states, NGOs, international organizations and other important stakeholders.

Source: IOM Berne II Summary


Ratified by Ecuador and Tajikistan

The Hague Process on Refugees and Migration (THP) drafts the Declaration of the Hague on the Future of Refugee and Migration based on the input of over 500 migration experts and endorsed by UN Secretary-General Mr. Kofi Annan.

Source: The Hague Process


1 July – The ICRMW enters into force after Guatemala becomes the 20th state to ratify the Convention

Source: The Committee on Migrant Workers

The first Committee on Migrant Workers comprised of 10 members is elected at the States parties in New York

Source: Committee on Migrant Workers – Membership

Ratified by Burkina Faso, El Salvador, Guatemala, Kyrgyzstan and Mali

Global Commission on International Migration – first-ever panel global panel on international migration – created by the UN Secretariat

Source: Global Commission on International Migration


First session of the Committee on Migrant Workers (CMW) in charge of monitoring the implementation of the Convention by State parties is held in Geneva

Resolution concerning a fair deal for migrant workers in a global economy is adopted bt the ILO at its 92nd Session in Geneva. The resolution includes a plan of action based on a rights-based approach to migrant workers and introduces international guidelines on best practices for managing migration on the national level in accordance with ILO labor conventions and UN Convention on Migrant Workers.

Source: Labour migration


Ratified by Algeria, Chile, Honduras, Lesotho, Nicaragua, Peru, Syria

The ILO adopts The Multilateral Framework on Labour Migration setting out a set of non-binding principles and guidelines for migrant worker rights taking into account the ICRMW.

Source: ILO Multilateral Framework on Labour Migration


UN General Assembly holds the first High Level Dialogue on Migration and Development to address ways of exploring the benefits of migration for development

Source:  High Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan establishes the inter-agency Global Migration Group, bringing together the IOM, the ILO and World Bank with over 15 UN agencies to promote the application of key international documents, including the ICRMW across the global and develop better approaches to international migration.

Source: What is the GMG?

Mali submits the first state party report documenting the country’s implementation of the Convention to the Committee on Migrant Workers at its 4th session

Source: CMW Treaty Database


Ratified by Albania, Argentina, Mauritania,

Asian Migrant Domestic Workers Alliance created at the 1st Asian Domestic Workers Assembly in Manila in order to advocate for the recognition of domestic work as work and the extension of protections guaranteed by previous ILO and UN conventions to domestic workers.

Source: 2011 Asia Regional Conference: Advocacy towards the ratification and implementation of ILO Convention 189 on Domestic Work

As a result of the first High-Level Dialogue in 2007, UN member states launch the Global Forum on Migration and Development as an initiative to promote dialogue and cooperation on issues of migration and development.

Source: The Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD)


Number of foreign laborers in GCC states reaches 10.6 million, accounting for more than 65% of the total population of the GCC.

Source: Migration and the Gulf

Highest ever GDP growth rate of 28.9% recorded for the GCC economy

Source: GCC Economic Overview

Ratified by Jamaica, Paraguay, Rwanda,


Ratified by Niger and Nigeria


World Population Prospects Report showed a rapidly ageing world population with a old-age dependency ration of 0.12 globally, 0.11 in China and 0.24 in Europe.

Source: World Population Prospects – The 2010 Revision

Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and Philippines identified as countries with highest levels of net emigration between 2000 and 2010

Source: World Population Prospects – The 2010 Revision

Average growth rate of total GDP in the GCC between 1991 and 2010 at 5.7%

Source: Gulf Cooperation Council Countries (GCC): Enhancing Economic Outcomes in an Uncertain Global Economy

Ratified by Guyana and St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Total migrant population: 221 million international migrants – 3.2% of the global population


Committee on Migrant Workers adopts General Comment No. 1 extending Convention protections to domestic migrant workers during its 13th session

Source: Committee on Migrant Workers – General Comments

ILO adopts Domestic Worker Convention 189 and issues Recommendation 201 calling for legal and social protections for domestic workers with a particular emphasis on upholding gender equality among this increasingly vulnerable population.

Source:  Convention 189 & Recommendation 201

Labor migrants in GCC states sent back $61 billion in remittances

Source: Interactive: Powering the Gulf

Number of female migrants with tertiary education increased globally by 78% since 2001

Source: A New Profile of Migrants in the Aftermath of the Recent Economic Crisis

Ratified by Bangladesh


Ratified by Indonesia

Total number of remittances sent by migrants to developing countries increased to $401 billion representing an increase of over 300% since 2000.

Source: Migration and the United Nations – Post-2015 Development Agenda


Committee on Migrant Workers adopts General Comment No. 2 on irregular migrants and their family members its 18th session


$70 billion worth of construction projects completed in GCC countries. The GCC construction industry is valued at  $1.3 trillion.

Source: Deloitte GCC Powers of Construction 2014

UN General Assembly convenes the High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development in New York resulting in the adoption of declaration, which recognizes the significance of the Convention on Migrant Workers in creating an international framework for protecting migrant rights

Ratified by Mozambique

ILO releases report on trafficking of adult workers in the Gulf states

Source: Tricked and Trapped — Human Trafficking in The Middle East


ILO adopts the Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labor Convention, 1930, expanding the provision in the original treaty to explicitly extend protections from abuses to migrants

Source: Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930


Timeline compiled by