July 30 is World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. One way to fight human trafficking is to strengthen international efforts.
Notably, this September, world leaders will revise the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons when they gather for the United Nations General Assembly in New York. A hearing to discuss improvements to the Plan was recently held in New York. Governments, various organizations, NGOs, victims, and others spoke up about ways to make the Plan more effective.
Noted in the hearing were trafficking statistics. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally. Profits from forced labor alone are in the range of $150 billion per year, the ILO notes. Seventy-nine per cent of all trafficking victims are women and children.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) published a 2016 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons which reflects that there exists about 500 trafficking flows. That report indicates people are trafficked for various reasons—sexual exploitation, forced labor, harvesting of their organs, pornography, sham marriages, benefit fraud, begging or stealing, and more.
The Global Plan of Action was adopted in July 2010, being first proposed by Belarus. The Plan needs modification to address challenges arising since the time of its origin. Some of the newer issues are mentioned in the UNODC report. They include an increase in the trafficking of children and men; a greater demand for organs; a rise in labor trafficking and domestic trafficking; an increase in migration (trafficking flows often follow migration routes); more on-line recruitment of children into non state armed groups; and greater human trafficking in conflict.
NGOs at the UN hearing mentioned the efforts sisters are making world-wide in the fight against human trafficking. They called for global social protection programs so that the need to purse income will not drive people into vulnerable situations. They called for greater sensitivity to victims’ needs. They pled for an end to corruption, which contributes to trafficking in persons, as well as a stop to putting children in detention.
Among the Global Plan’s provisions is a call for a voluntary trust fund to assist victims of human trafficking. During the late June hearings, speakers repeatedly asked for greater contributions by UN member states to that trust fund.
UN General Assembly President Peter Thomson, in his closing remarks, summarized other suggestions for improving the Global Plan, gleaned from the UN hearing.
“Firstly, a clarion call was heard across all the multi-stakeholder panels for pursuing a victim and survivor-centered approach to combatting trafficking,” Thomson said. “An approach that prioritizes the human rights of victims and survivors, places them at the center of efforts to shape policy and operational responses, and ensures adequate support for survivors’ long-term reintegration and recovery.”
Participants also pointed out the need for greater partnership and coordination in combatting human trafficking by addressing prevention, protection, and prosecution efforts, Thomson said. They also appealed for stronger efforts to address conflict, humanitarian crises, and natural disasters, which fuel human trafficking, and the reduction of vulnerabilities faced by migrants and refugees. They pleaded that law enforcement avoid treating victims as criminals. All want stronger efforts to address root causes of human trafficking and an increase in prosecuting perpetrators of the crime.
Further, there was a request to deepen education so that people are more aware of the risks and scale of human trafficking, Thomson said. And implementing the Sustainable Development Goals can eliminate the inequalities which make some persons vulnerable to human trafficking.
“Above all,” said Thompson, “they (hearing participants) affirmed the criticality of political will to pursue multifaceted approaches to ending the crime of trafficking in persons.”
The original Global Plan of Action can be read by clicking here.