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preventing human trafficking

The UN NGO Committee on the Status of Women, New York. held an event in December 2017 on Preventing Human Trafficking. ICJW was represented by Madeleine Brecher.

The speakers were:
Ms. Yu Ping Chan, Special Policy Advisor, UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), NY. 
Yu Ping works on issues related to UNODC’s mandate which includes human trafficking.
and Lima James, Education and Development Manager, LifeWay Network. 
Lima works to increase community awareness on human trafficking as an essential first step to confronting this crime.
The Moderator was Rosalee Keech, NGO CSW/NY Communications Secretary

Ms. Chan:
The global trafficking network accounts for $150 billion in profits annually which is why prevention represents a huge challenge. Ms. Chan discussed what the UN is doing and how
NGOs can help.

• There is renewed energy at the UN on this issue with the Global Plan of Action to
Combat Trafficking. UNODC helps member states reinforce their political
commitments and legal obligations to prevent and combat trafficking in persons.

• A high level plenary of the General Assembly was held in September 2017 to assess
achievements, gaps and challenges of the Global Plan of Action.

• Sexual exploitation is the highest form of violence against women.

• There is a direct connection between sexual exploitation, trafficking and conflict

• Civil society has been instrumental in highlighting these connections to the Security
Council and the General Assembly.

While we are quite familiar with the U.S. annual report on Trafficking in Persons
(TIP), I was not aware of this excellent report.

• This Global Report provides a detailed picture of the global situation by region through solid analysis and research. Sadly the number of convictions remains low. UNODC findings show the close correlation between the length of time a country’s trafficking law has been on the statute books and the conviction rate. It takes time, resources and expertise to chase down criminals. 

The 2016 report shows that “inroads have been made but we must continue to generate much needed cooperation and collaboration at the international level, and the necessary law enforcement skills at the national and regional levels to detect, investigate and successfully prosecute case of trafficking in persons.” 

• The massive migratory movements of refugees and migrants leave children, women
and men vulnerable to exploitation by smugglers and traffickers.

• (Privately, I asked Ms. Chan what the difference is between the United States TIP report and that produced by UNODC. She said that often countries do not trust the U.S. figures and feel far more confident with the methodology and research findings in the UN report)

• The UNODC report is available from the UNODC office.

Ms. James:

The LifeWay Network’s mission is to combat human trafficking by providing safe housing for women who have been trafficked, and to offer education about trafficking to the general public. They seek to provide a loving and supportive environment where survivors are able to gain self-respect to move forward positively in life. Ms. James discussed the education component of the LifeWay Network where she educates teachers, students, religious groups, holds community dialogues, and meets with local law enforcement precincts on awareness and prevention of sex and labor trafficking.

She speaks about the power of the consumer to make a difference by looking for the
FAIR TRADE label on packages before purchasing products. This is a concrete action step
that can be taken by all consumers to support businesses that engage in ethical practices to produce their products.

The moderator asked how the UN can prevent human trafficking. 
There is a corruption link to the issue so the UN must encourage member states to monitor the smuggling of migrants and encourage them to strengthen their judiciary. The Secretary-General must make known his commitment to the issue and the UN must monitor its own supply chain. There are certainly successful best practices but poor nations do NOT always have the resources to provide these concrete changes.

Of course, survivor services to victims are critical but again, are costly. Trafficker conviction rates are only at 5 to 10% which spells IMPUNITY for most offenders. It’s hard to prove trafficking; it’s much easier to convict on corruption charges. As was previously mentioned, the global profits from engaging in trafficking are staggering. New York City has very successful anti-trafficking practices that other states have followed, i.e. laws protecting kids and survivors, survivor initiatives. The Nordic Model has been widely acknowledged as successful for combating sexual exploitation. It recognizes prostitution as a form of violence, makes the purchase of sex acts illegal, regards prostituted persons as victims rather than criminals, and provides victims with help to get out of the business.

Clearly, member states must have the political will to combat trafficking and civil society actors can…MUST…. act as supporters by encouraging policyholders to address
this scourge.