Governments, Stakeholders Advise Leveraging SDGs to Combat Human Trafficking
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Multi-stakeholder participants gathered for a one-day informal interactive hearing convened by the UNGA President in preparation for a High-Level Meeting on the Appraisal of 2010’s UN Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons.

Many participants noted that three of the SDGs (5.2, 8.7 and 16.2) address human trafficking, and outlined the need to consider this issue in a multidisciplinary and comprehensive way.

23 June 2017: In order to prevent and end trafficking in persons, the 2030 Agenda must be implemented, said representatives of governments, civil society, UN agencies and academia, who also stressed the need to leverage global efforts to take advantage of the SDGs. Multi-stakeholder participants gathered for a one-day informal interactive hearing convened by the President of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in preparation for a High-Level Meeting (HLM) on the Appraisal of 2010’s UN Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons.

The multi-stakeholder hearing took place on 23 June 2017, in New York, US. The HLM is scheduled to take place on 27-28 September 2017, and is expected to adopt a political declaration, per UNGA resolution 71/287 on the modalities, format and organization of the HLM. The co-facilitators for intergovernmental negotiations to produce the political declaration are Alya Ahmed Saif Al-Thani, Permanent Representative of Qatar, and Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve, Permanent Representative of Belgium. A zero draft of the political declaration was circulated on 23 June 2017, and the next informals are scheduled for 29 June and 6 July 2017.

Opening the hearing, UNGA President Peter Thomson noted that more than 500 trafficking flows are currently in operation, and 79% of trafficking victims are women and children, with sexual exploitation and forced labor as major drivers. He called for looking at key cross-cutting issues to trafficking, including gender equality, the human rights of survivors and the protection of children. He invited participants to examine how the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, among other international instruments, can be used to support work at the global level, and he asked all States to contribute to the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons, and in particular the Women and Children Trust Fund created by the Global Plan of Action.

Al-Thani reported that Qatar has established a national committee to combat human trafficking tasked with creating a national plan to counter human trafficking and preparing annual reports on Qatar’s efforts. De Buytswerve said Belgium has established the Belgian Federal Migration Centre (Myria) – an independent public body that analyzes migration, defends the rights of foreigners, combats human smuggling and trafficking, and promotes public policies based on evidence and human rights.

Many participants noted that three of the SDGs (5.2, 8.7 and 16.2) address human trafficking, and outlined the need to consider this issue in a multidisciplinary and comprehensive way, emphasizing that civil society is at the front line of human trafficking. Several delegates remarked that the UN Global Plan of Action is a vital tool to promote cooperation and coordination to strengthen prevention and protection efforts, while calling on all countries to fully commit to its implementation and to set a robust review mechanism for implementation. Participants also stressed the importance of: global and multi-stakeholder partnerships and enhancing coordination among stakeholders; developing multilateral solutions; and better sharing of data and evidence to effectively combat and prevent human trafficking.

Withelma “T” Ortiz Walker Pettigrew, Trafficking Survivor, said she was subject of human trafficking in the US from 10 to 17 year old, and outlined the need for: governments to put the Global Plan of Action at the top of their priorities and to provide comprehensive “exit strategies;” including the expertise of victims, such as children and women, in action plans and other decision-making processes; and properly compensating the victims that share their stories and advocate against trafficking.

Officials highlighted the Inter-Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons (ICAT), with ICAT Coordinator Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) stressing the importance of access to justice to successfully address human trafficking, and ICAT Chair Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, calling for ICAT toolkits to be broadly employed to build evidence.

Puma Sen, UN Women, reported that women represent 96% of the most frequent form of trafficking and sexual exploitation, and called for policy coherence among immigration and labor market regulations. Kay Buck, CEO Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), cautioned that trafficking victims are sometimes wrongly arrested as criminal, with 40% of survivors arrested nine times or more.

Beatriz Mahillo, Spain’s Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality, addressed the trafficking in persons for organ removal and transplantation. He called for: ensuring transparency of practices by ensuring quality and security of transplants through registries; sanctioning and prosecuting illicit extraction of organs; and developing education materials and campaigns from vulnerable groups. Mira Sorvino, UNODC Goodwill Ambassador for the Global Fight against Human Trafficking, outlined the work of Agape International Missions (AIM), which includes several programs in Cambodia that affect over 10,000 people every year by preventing trafficking and rescuing, restoring and reintegrating survivors. Ameena Saeed Hasan, former member of the Iraqi Council of Representatives, said current conflicts in the Middle East fuel human trafficking.

Marc Van den Reeck, The Smile of the Child, called for increasing children’s knowledge on instruments at their disposal to prevent kidnapping, disappearance and trafficking. Ashraf El Nour, International Organization for Migration (IOM), discussed trafficking following conflicts and natural disasters. He added that IOM produced a study, titled ‘Addressing Human Trafficking and Exploitation in Times of Crisis,’ that provides evidence and recommendations on protecting vulnerable and mobile populations.

Nancy Rivard, President and Founder of Airline Ambassadors International, called for pressuring the private sector to commit to the SDGs and help with funding of programs that tackle human trafficking, such as trainings for airline personnel to recognize victims and alert authorities. Ruchira Gupta, Founder and President, Apne Aap Women Worldwide, underscored the need to identify “what the last girl needs” at the bottom of the economic pyramid, in the most vulnerable groups, and in minorities and marginalized communities, as they are the most common victims of human trafficking. She added that public servants and services are usually designed to serve the “man buyer.”

Mohamed Mattar, Qatar University – College of Law, called for: creating incentives for victims of trafficking to come forward and work with law enforcement; prosecuting the customers; prosecuting officials for corruption; and extending the sentences for human trafficking. He said States should compensate victims and then recuperate the costs from convicts’ assets.

Agatha Schmaedick Tan, Coalition of Immokalee Workers, noted the need for competent interpretation and translation for victims at all stages of the process. She said victims need support to stabilize their lives in order to participate in investigations, through: immigration relief; work authorization; and psychological assistance.

Kerry Neal, UNICEF, noted the gap between the number of victims and the number of prosecutions. He said judiciaries must be equipped to pursue investigations and protect the rights and needs of children, as the process itself can be very traumatic, and he noted the need protect children from re-victimization after investigations. Irina Alkhova, Chair of the Board of Gender Perspectives, said victims should have access to protection and assistance even if they do not have legal status in the respective countries.

During the interactive discussions, Spain announced that it will present a draft resolution on trafficking for the purpose of organ extraction at the UNGA. Australia called for identifying the factors that increase vulnerability to trafficking. Austria said it has established a Task Force on Combating Human Trafficking, which is in charge of elaborating National Action Plans on Combating Human Trafficking and monitoring their implementation. The UK called for the political declaration to address trafficking with a view of all three pillars of the UN’s work, and Liechtenstein said it should emphasize cooperation across UN pillars, departments, agencies, industries, and stakeholders.

Costa Rica highlighted that progress on other SDGs and targets, such as those on poverty or violence against women, will have an essential role in tackling human trafficking. Philippines stressed the need to address the link between the internet and human trafficking, in the political declaration. The US said the declaration should contain language on strengthening the participation of UN agencies in ICAT.

Members of civil society addressed: the negative impact of criminalizing demand, which can increase violence toward victims and worsen their work conditions; the need to protect the victims of disasters, as predators target disaster areas and refugees camps; funding CSOs that work on human trafficking; and creating income-generation schemes for refugees to ensure that they do not fall victims. [UNGA President’s Statement] [Programme] [Concept Note] [UNGA President’s Letter on Multistakeholder Hearing] [Zero draft of Political Declaration] [Co-Facilitators’ Letter on 16 June Informal Meeting with UN Member States] [Co-Facilitators’ Letter on Schedule for Informal Consultations on Political Declaration] [IISD Sources]

Co-authored by Nathalie Risse, Ph.D. Thematic Expert for 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (Canada)


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