Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Need for a Monitoring Mechanism for the UN Human Trafficking Protocol

The Need for a Monitoring Mechanism for the UN Human Trafficking Protocol

By Nelia Sancho, Buhay Foundation for Women and the Girl Child-Philippines

For the Side Event at the 4th Review Session of the UNTOC Conference of States Parties, October 13-15, 2008, Vienna, Austria

Organized by the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW), Anti-Slavery International and La Strada International.

This presentation is to respond to some discussion in the plenary of the 4th Session of the Conference of States Parties to the UNCTOC on the need for a structured and comprehensive review of the implementation of the convention and its two protocols on migrant smuggling and trafficking in persons. Some of the aims given for this review include assessment of the trends in the fight against organized crime over a longer period of time, comprehensively assess progress and gaps in the capacity of States, as well as provide information in order to take informed decisions on the provision of technical assistance.

The framework of my presentation is based on the need/rationale for the mechanism from the perspective of national NGOs, who are working on anti-trafficking and lobbying for compliance – why would a monitoring mechanism help NGOs? Why especially for this convention is it important?

The Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW), which is a network spanning five continents of more than 90 organizations committed to ending trafficking and to the protection of human rights of trafficked persons and women migrant workers, and its member organizations - like my own NGO, the Buhay Foundation for Women and the Girl Child- would support the setting up by the Conference of States Parties of an effective monitoring mechanism to assess the implementation of the Convention and specifically, its two protocols. From the point of view of the various sectors affected by anti-trafficking measures, such as trafficked persons, migrant workers and sex workers, it is important that an evaluation be conducted not only of the Protocol’s implementation but also of the way or methodology that States parties implement measures for the prevention and prosecution of trafficking.

Since 2003 when the UNCTOC and its Protocols went into force, it was observed by the NGO anti-trafficking community that hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent in anti-trafficking efforts by governments and international bodies. However, GAATW, in its 8-country research report entitled “Collateral Damage” published in September 2007, has found that most counter-trafficking efforts did not really address the need for human rights protection of the trafficked persons and migrants. Instead, actions of most States Parties have mainly taken the law enforcement and border protection approach as their way to address trafficking. Measures that were implemented such as raids and rescues of women working in establishments deemed as “fronts” for prostitution became “standard” anti-trafficking responses in some countries of South East Asia and South Asia. In a country in South East Asia, young travelers, both below 15 and above 15 years old, who were profiled as “potentially trafficked” by both the government and non-government agencies in the name of anti-trafficking campaigns were held in halfway shelters near seaports, holding them for some 3 days or more, and virtually converting the shelters as temporary detention centers. Article 2 of the Protocol obligates States Parties to implement the Protocol with full respect for the human rights of trafficked persons and migrants who are considered as potentially trafficked.

Many NGOs particularly from the so called source or sending countries have expressed serious concerns on how one country has used its annual TIP report and tier-ranking of countries anti-trafficking performance has pressured many countries to institute measures and policies, some of which have been documented as affecting negatively the human rights of migrant workers and others sectors.

It is in this context that a discussion by the Conference plenary on the urgent need for evaluation and the appropriate mechanisms for monitoring of the implementation of the Convention and its two protocols will be significant and relevant given what is happening in many countries. Indeed, there is a strong recommendation from many NGOs to strengthen a human rights framework in the evaluation of the implementation of the Protocols and the Convention and to consider the negative impact on human rights of the affected sectors in the way that certain anti-trafficking measures have been framed and implemented.

In sum, from the perspective of anti-trafficking NGOs concerned with a human rights approach, we recommend the following elements to any review process and the mechanism to be set up by the Conference of States Parties (CoSP):

  1. That any review process should be independent, engaging the States Parties multilaterally, as well as open to engagement with civil society as an essential element to realizing outcomes for the review;
  2. It was observed that national legislations of some States parties that have come up after the trafficking protocol came into force contain concepts of trafficking that are characterized by a conflation of trafficking with prostitution, or have focused their anti-trafficking legislation for the sole purpose of sexual exploitation. In this regard, technical assistance to be provided to States parties as an outcome of a review mechanism should look at achieving clarity of the definition of trafficking and broadening the scope of the purposes and forms of human trafficking resulting in the proper identification and protection of all those who are trafficked;
  3. That the review process could act as a means of promoting overall consistent implementation of UNCTOC’s trafficking protocol provisions, and
  4. Finally, to look at the actions of States parties to address the root causes that create the conditions for vulnerabilities of people, especially women, to be exploited; and to explore the links between migration, trafficking, labour exploitation and human rights that are important in the prevention of trafficking. For example, we see the links of the exploitation of certain sectors of migrants as factors that make them vulnerable to trafficking, thus, the need to address human rights violations in labour migration.

It is our hope that any review mechanism of the Trafficking Protocol could affirm the responsibility of the States both in the source and destination countries towards the promotion of human rights and human security of the international migrants especially undocumented migrants and the victims of organized crime thru trafficking in persons and the smuggling of migrants. Migrants must indeed be able to exercise their fundamental human rights and benefit from minimum labor standards, and a minimum of socio-economic security in the countries of destination.

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