Writes Althea and Demeter, LUDCI.eu Editorial team
More than 1.2 million children are trafficked each year and turned into sex slaves or forced into hazardous labor, sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, begging, criminal activities – including petty crime – and other exploitative situations labour. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), girls as young as 13 years are trafficked as ‘mail-order brides’ and about one million are exploited every year in the multibillion-dollar sex industry.
In 1948, the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which articulates fundamental rights and freedom for all, including children.
In Articles 1, 4, and 5, it states:
- All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
- No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
- No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
It is against this background that we will present several organisations, that work tirelessly to rescue trafficked children. They are also changing policy and public perception to end modern-day slavery and give children a second chance to realise their full potential as human beings.
This article presents and highlights the efforts of some of the intergovernmental organisations making huge strides in promoting awareness of human trafficking, particularly the exploitation of the world’s children. This list is not exhaustive. Additional efforts will be presented as we move along.
The European Union (EU)
EU countries reported 15, 846 victims of human trafficking between 2013 and 2014, 76 percent of which were women and girls; 67 percent were trafficked for sexual exploitation, 21 percent for other types of forced labour and 12 percent for other reasons like begging, organs removal or domestic servitude. Most identified victims were from EU countries.
“There are more people displaced today than at any time since the Second World War. Millions more are caught up in conflict, unable to flee. These human beings are exposed to a wide range of human rights violations, not least trafficking. They are sold, they are trafficked for sexual enslavement, for prostitution, for illegal adoption, for slave labour, for criminality or recruitment as child soldiers” (UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohamed in Briefing to Security Council).
The Deputy Secretary-General has called on all EU members to take action and “to become a party to international treaties against trafficking in persons, smuggling of migrants, corruption and slavery — as well as treaties that protect human rights, especially the rights of women and children”.
One such treaty is the United Nations Protocol on Trafficking in Persons. It entered into force in 2003 and is the first globally binding instrument with an agreed definition of trafficking in persons. An objective of the Protocol is to protect and assist the victims of trafficking in persons with full respect for their human rights.
In September 2017, the European Union and the United Nations launched the Spotlight Initiative, a multi-year partnership to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls (VAWG).
The programme aims to eliminate violence against women and girls across the globe. It is the world’s largest targeted effort to end all forms of violence, especially against women and girls by 2030 by partnering with governments, civil society, organisations, and the media. It particularly focuses on domestic and family violence, sexual and gender-based harmful practices, trafficking in human beings, and sexual and economic exploitation.
In 2019, Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed announced additions of new country programmes for Afghanistan, Belize, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Kyrgyzstan, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste and Vanuatu in 2020.
“With our expanded global footprint, we can scale-up our collective efforts on violence prevention, protection, and the provision of high-quality services, alongside broader efforts to ensure women’s economic empowerment and participation in all aspects of society” (Deputy General Secretary).
Intervention focuses on law and policies, strengthening the national government and regional institutions, prevention, services, data, and women’s movements.
In Asia, the Spotlight Initiative is focussing on ending female trafficking and labour exploitation. The “Safe and Fair” programme, worth €25 million and implemented through the International Labour Organisation and UN Women, aims at ensuring that labour migration is safe and fair for all women in the ASEAN region. It focusses on countries of origin – Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Philippines, Vietnam – and countries of destination – Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand.
In Latin America, the €50 million initiative focuses on ending femicide, with targeted programmes in Argentina, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico, and on empowering regional networks.
In the Caribbean, the €50 million initiative focuses on tackling family violence. The countries selected are Haiti, Jamaica, Grenada, Belize, Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago.
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC)
This United Nations office was established in 1997 by combining the United Nations International Drug Control Program and the Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Division in the UN Office at Vienna. The agency is headquartered in Vienna, Austria with 21 field offices and two liaison offices in Brussels and New York City.
UNDOC’s mission is ensuring that States have the knowledge, skills, and commitment to effectively prevent and address trafficking in persons, while protecting victims’ rights. It promotes the development of comprehensive legal frameworks and the collection of reliable data that inform policies as well as technical assistance.
UNDOC also encourages cooperation and the exchange of good practices to establish stronger criminal justice systems in which victims are heard, cases investigated and perpetrators brought to justice.
According to the UNDOC Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, women, and girls comprise the largest share of detected trafficking victims worldwide. While most are trafficked for sexual exploitation, 30 percent are trafficked for forced labour, in the context of armed conflict, for example, forced marriages.
To create awareness of Child Trafficking, UNDOC has established several campaigns that force the public and stakeholders to take notice of the plight of victims. One such is the Blue Heart Campaign launched in March 2009 by the Executive Director of the UNODC, Antonio Maria Costa, during his address to the World’s Women’s Conference meeting in Vienna.
The Blue Heart Campaign is increasingly recognised as the international symbol against human trafficking, representing the sadness of those who are trafficked while reminding us of the cold-heartedness of those who buy and sell fellow human beings.
The campaign calls for governments, civil society, and the corporate sector to show solidarity with the victims of human trafficking and increasing their visibility by wearing a blue heart.
Donations to the Blue Heart Campaign go to the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons, which was established in 2010. The fund supports on-the-ground humanitarian, legal, and financial aid to victims of trafficking through a range of avenues. It also helps Governments, as well as intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations, to protect and support victims of human trafficking, so they can recover from their physical and psychological injuries. To ensure efficient, transparent, and accountable Fund administration and to support uniform and consolidated reporting, the UNODC is designated as a fund manager.
International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL)
The International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL) is an inter-governmental organisation that facilitates worldwide police cooperation and crime control.
Headquartered in Lyon, France, INTERPOL is run by the Secretary-General and staffed by police and civilians. INTERPOL has 194 member countries which each has an INTERPOL National Central Bureau (NCB) that provides the central point of contact for the General Secretariat and other NCBs. All member countries are connected via a communications system known as I-24/7. Through this system, they have access to the organisation’s database with extensive information on crimes and criminals in real-time.
Member countries are offered investigative support such as forensics, analysis, and assistance in locating fugitives around the world. This support bolsters national efforts in combating crimes across three pressing global areas for the organisation: terrorism, cybercrime, and organized crime.
INTERPOL recognises human trafficking as a multi-billion-dollar form of international organised crime, constituting modern-day slavery.
INTERPOL has linked human trafficking to several crimes, including illicit money flows, the use of fraudulent travel documents, and cybercrime. Whilst there are many forms of trafficking, one consistent aspect is the abuse of the inherent vulnerability of the victims.
Victims are trafficked for:
- Forced labour and can be found engaged in agricultural, zeromining, fisheries or construction work, as well as domestic servitude.
- Involvement in a range of illegal activities to generate an income. These include theft, drug cultivation, selling counterfeit goods or begging.
- Sexual exploitation held in inhumane conditions and in constant fear.
- Organ removal to satisfy long waiting lists for transplants in many countries.
INTERPOL’s role in stemming human trafficking is ensuring that police are trained and equipped to identify and investigate cases of trafficking in all its forms.
Recognising that some victims, like children, may not accept that they are victims of a crime, the organisation partners with child protection units, social services, and NGOs in member countries to ensure children are given the proper attention and care throughout investigations and operations.
- 2018: INTERPOL operations rescued 600 victims of human trafficking, including approximately 100 children. In Sudan, 94 victims, 85 of which were minors were rescued from child labour and exploitation and forced begging. Approximately 350 potential victims of sexual exploitation and forced labour were rescued in 13 countries in the Caribbean, Central, and South America.
- 2017: Nearly 500 victims of human trafficking, including 236 minors were rescued in Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Senegal.
- 2016: A border operation across West Africa resulted in the arrest of human traffickers and migrant smugglers across 14 countries.
- 2015: More than 48 children were rescued, and 22 people arrested in Côte d’Ivoire.
- 2014: 76 children believed to have been trafficked across West Africa for the purposes of illegal child labour were rescued in Côte d’Ivoire.
North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)
Founded in 1949, the North Atlantic Organisation (NATO) is a group of 30 countries from Europe and North America that exists to protect the people and territory of its members. NATO is headquartered in Brussels, Belgium.
On March 4, 2004, the American and Norwegian ambassadors to NATO hosted the organisation’s first conference to address the issue of trafficking and its effects on NATO’s operations.
Arising from that concern was the Policy on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings. His document calls human trafficking a crime meriting universal condemnation and describes it as a modern-day slave trade that fuels corruption and organised crime, bringing with it the potential to destabilise fragile governments.
The Policy, therefore, outlines a zero-tolerance regarding human trafficking by NATO forces and staff and mandates educational and training programs to make them aware of trafficking and how this modern-day slave trade impacts on human rights, stability, and security. The Policy was adopted by all heads of state and governments and applies to all nations contributing troops to NATO operations.
NATO and the NATO School Oberammergau (NSO) in partnership with the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) conduct education and training in support of current and developing NATO operation, strategy, policy, doctrine and procedures. The NSO provides a course on European Security Cooperation twice per year. Since 2004, UNODC staff provide training on trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants and their impact on security in the framework of NATO operations. The most recent training was in 2011.
Child trafficking is the monster under the bed that keeps the world’s most vulnerable children awake at night.
After drugs and arms trafficking, human trafficking is the third most profitable enterprise for transnational organised criminal groups. No country can combat this multi-million dollar industry on its own. For sure, turning a blind eye won’t help solving it. Media stories should focus a substantial portion of their segments to make the issue known and support the work of international organisations, working hand in hand to fight this global plague.
The first step is to start working together in a common direction, with concerted efforts. Second step involves an understanding that all happens and for a common cause, winning the war against child-trafficking, one rescued child at a time. For sure, fragmented approaches serving one organisation or the next is not what will create a global effect. As of 10 years ago, a global child trafficking Framework should have been set-up, with a basis on early warning and proactive mechanisms, rather than reactive and delayed responses, which is still the norm.
Indeed, “Multilateral organisations are integral to assisting committed governments and civil society actors seeking to meet international standards for combating human trafficking. These organisations have a bird’s eye view of global anti-trafficking efforts and can identify promising practices that can be replicated and customised.” (United States Ambassador for Human Trafficking, Mark Lagon).
Still, actions speak louder than words and words can no longer say anything to a 3-year old cornered to a dirty dungeon, away from his mother’s arms and pushed daily to accept the horrifying reality that will become his life till about after his teenage years, which is the exact timing that this child will wait till the international community decides to act!