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In comparison to other South Asian countries, the Maldives follows a relatively liberal labour policy and over the past 25 years migration has become a permanent feature in the Maldives labour market. Growing income inequality between countries in South Asia has added the incentive for South Asians to explore income-earning opportunities in other countries. As such, since 1990 there has been a significant expansion of the foreign migrant1 workforce in the Maldives.

This study was commissioned by the Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre (ALAC) of Transparency Maldives (TM). Established in 2012, ALAC started out as the first free legal aid centre in the Maldives and over the years the majority of the clients that seek assistance from ALAC has been migrant workers – one of the most marginalised groups in the Maldives. ALAC has assisted migrant workers in accessing justice in relation to various issues, including human rights violations, immigration and labour related issues, and injustices related to corruption.

The purpose of the study was to develop a profile of migrant workers in the Maldives, identify the key stakeholders and issues related to the migrant worker system, and recognise migrant worker trends in the Maldives. The study was undertaken through the completion of a mapping exercise and evaluation of the state mechanisms and systems which deal with migrant workers in the Maldives, in an attempt to identify systemic gaps and loopholes that are supportive of the potential for acts of corruption. The study focuses on the practices, processes and procedures that are prone to corruption in relation to the migrant worker system at the national level.

View/download the Maldives Migrant Worker System Assessment

The year 2014 started with a major advocacy success for Transparency Maldives (TM) with the passage of the landmark Access to Information Act following 5 years of campaigning by TM. After a politically turbulent year in 2013, TM looked to 2014 with more determination to address governance issues in the country and strengthen its programs and interventions, based on the lessons learnt in 2013. In addition, a change in the leadership of TM as well as the board of TM in 2014 meant that there was new opportunity for the organisation to invoke new ideas and strategies based on the foundations laid by predecessors.

As in previous years, we continued with our engagement and outreach in communities across the country, undertook research to understand corruption loopholes in various sectors, held discussions with multiple institutions and raised our voice on various platforms to advocate for the cause we believe in.

In the past year, we were also fortunate to receive exposure opportunities for our staff to share knowledge and learn from partners in the region and strengthen our collaboration and partnerships with multiple stakeholders to drive our agenda of change. Our engagements with various stakeholders from local councillors and youth actors to international partners always provide us with new insights to shape our programs.

Unlike previous years, in 2014, we travelled across the country to deliver civic education to young people as we believe the state of democracy in the Maldives requires a long term strategy of education for young people on democratic values and grassroots mobilisation to strengthen democracy in the Maldives.  As such, our ‘Democracy Talks’ in schools and ‘Civic Forums’ in various islands proved to be immensely eye opening and rewarding.

We also focused on shaping policy and transforming behaviours through a series of high level events, roundtables and lobbying on issues related to corruption, democracy, and migrant worker rights to name a few. Most notably, we drafted an Associations Act in line with international best practice and standards and held a symposium to bring stakeholders together to collectively lobby for a best practice NGO law in the Maldives.

Despite immense governance challenges for the country, and the precarious environment in which TM operates, TMs efforts to promote good governance and eliminate corruption has been possible through the tireless dedication of its staff, who continue to put in extraordinary effort, as well as our board members, who give their time and expertise to guide the work of TM.

TM is grateful for the generosity of its funders and the time given by volunteers and interns who have continued to believe in our cause.

Annual Report 2014

Criminalising the offence of illicit enrichment is a matter or urgency in the Maldives. Several studies and surveys undertaken by Transparency Maldives to assess the public perception of corruption in the Maldives indicate the prevalence of grand corruption by officials at the upper echelons of the state. The Global Corruption Barometer Survey undertaken in 2013 indicate that while 97 percent of respondents believe that corruption is a problem at the public sector, the Parliament – followed closely by political parties and the judiciary – is perceived to be the most corrupt institution in the country. This finding corroborates with the Democracy Survey conducted in 2013, which found that representative institutions such as the Parliament are where the public have the least confidence. Allegations and speculations of corruption in the public sphere is common, particularly with regards to illicit enrichment in parliamentary floor crossing and Cabinet Ministers’ sudden increase in significant wealth.
View/download the position paper ‘Criminalising illicit enrichment to curb grand corruption in English and Dhivehi.

Youth constitutes a high percentage of the population of Maldives. Recent governments have increasingly been targeting their policies and programmes on the development of young people. Youth features heavily on the present Government’s manifesto as well,with a specific chapter devoted to youth, as well as youth considerations included in chapters related to other areas. However,  as with most other facilities and services in the country, entrenched and systemic illegal and corrupt practices impede equal access to these opportunities for young people.

The objective of this assessment was to undertake a situational analysis focusing on youth as victims of corruption, and areas where young people become victims of corruption, specifically focusing on the areas, of higher education, housing, employment, health services, and leadership and civic engagement. Key policy personnel from the sectors related to the assessment and youth groups were interviewed, as well as young people from across the country.

View/download ‘Youth, opportunities and corruption in the Maldives: A situational analysis’

Transparency Maldives conducted its second Democracy Survey between May 20, and June 15, 2015. A benchmark Democracy Survey was conducted in the run up to the 2013 Presidential Elections.

As in 2013 survey, the 2015 nationwide random survey of the Maldivian public mostly used repeatedly tested questions. The results are reliable within a margin of error of ±2.95%.

Democracy surveys such as this one are widely conducted throughout the world. These surveys are grounded in the belief that successful democratisation requires a corresponding set of supporting democratic values, orientations, and attitudes.

The 2015 Democracy Survey data indicates positive developments in some general democratic values and orientations held by citizens. However, the data also indicates worrying continuities and developments in some other aspects.

Read the full report ‘A troubled future for Democracy: The results of the 2015 Maldives Democracy Survey’.

*Note that Figure 21 has been updated since the report was first published

The estimated official figure of the migrant population in Maldives, according to the latest census, is 58,683. The unofficial estimates are around 200,000 bringing the size of the migrant population in Maldives up to more than half of the country’s total population. Regardless of this figure, migrant workers have few rights and state redress mechanisms are not accessible to these workers, further victimizing those who are already being exploited in forced labor conditions. The language barrier and the lack of public interest litigators in the country further limit their access to justice.

A high number of migrant workers, especially those working as manual laborers, often sell all their assets to come to the Maldives and are reliant on their new employers for sustenance — for themselves and their families back at home. Often times, they face threats or even violence for speaking up about injustices. Their living quarters are generally provided by their employers, so if they are dismissed they also lose their shelter. The majority of cases that the Transparency Maldives’ Legal Advice Center receives from migrant workers include complaints of non-payment of wages, often for months, withholding of travel documents and identification, and inhumane living conditions.

Migrant workers live and work in unimaginable conditions, sometimes being forced to do work that is not permitted in their work permits. They are underpaid or unpaid, their passports and identification documents withheld by agents and employers, effectively crippling workers from rectifying their situation or reaching out to the justice system.

The Legal Advice Center provides free legal advice and assistance to expatriates and Maldivian citizens. Over the past three years, we have assisted over 560 migrant workers with cases of non-payment of wages, unacceptable working conditions, poor housing, withholding of their passport by employment agencies and employers, and being forced to do work that is not defined in their employment mandates.

These are not newly emerging issues and they closely reflect the findings reported in U.S Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report (2014). The report notes fraudulent recruitment, confiscation of identity and travel documents, withholding or non-payment of wages, or debt bondages as some of the forced labor situations faced by the migrant workers in Maldives.

While the necessary regulations such as Regulation on Expatriates Working in Maldives and Regulation on Bringing Expatriates to the Maldives for the purpose of Employment are in place, the issues arise from the lack of implementation, monitoring and enforcement of said regulations.

This exhibition is a platform provided by Transparency Maldives for local artists to showcase their thoughts and perceptions on the issues faced by migrant workers in the country. We hope that the exhibition will raise the public’s interest and awareness of the plight and conditions of migrant workers.

View/download the catalogue from the exhibition ‘OTHERS’.

An independent government created by the people and its governing structure is based on protecting its citizens’ freedoms and rights. Freedom of press, freedom of expression, access to education, shelter, transportation, clean environments etc. and other provisions of the second chapter of the constitution cannot be completed without the freedom of information.

Citizen participation is a fundamental aspect of a democracy. Citizens cannot participate in the governance of a democratic state without access to information. The constitution provides freedom of thought and speech, within the tenets of Islam, to its citizens. Thought and speech must be based on valid information, thus the right to access valid information is vital to uphold the constitutional right of thought and speech.

A clear majority of Maldivian citizens do not trust the government and its institutions. Similarly, a clear majority of the populace accuses these institutions and political figures of corruption. This trust can be gained through transparency and accessibility to valid information.

Read the position paper ‘Challenges to interpreting and implementing the RTI Act’.

As representatives working on behalf of their communities it is crucial to be informed of the policies being formulated in the area of climate change in the Maldives. As climate change affects vulnerable communities the most, it is important to get their voices heard at national and global policy making forums. It is important to advocate and lobby to bring about policies that would ensure communities who are facing the adverse effects of climate change are protected from its consequences. It is also important to ensure that the climate change programs being implemented in the country are the most needed in the area of climate change mitigation and adaptation. Finally, it is vital to ensure that climate funds coming into the country is governed through a transparent framework with clear lines of accountability laid out.

View/download brochure on ‘The role of civil society in influencing climate policy’ in English and Dhivehi.