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Solving “Rubik’s Cube” of Slavery and Human Trafficking

In the World over 45 million people are victim of human trafficking

by Madeleine Kuhns
human trafficking

The presentation at the UN of the report Fighting Human Trafficking in Conflict: 10 Ideas for Action by the UN Security Council all'ONU. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

The workshop report "Fighting Human Trafficking in Conflict: 10 Ideas for Action by the United Nations Security Council", was presented by the UK and Liechtenstein missions in partnership with Thomson Reuters, United Nations University and the Grace Farms Foundation

Ahead of the release of the Secretary-General’s report on combating human trafficking later this year, a workshop has offered a list of 10 recommendations to the Security Council in an effort to strengthen the United Nations’ response to this global problem. An estimated 45.8 million people, or 1 out of every 162 people, are currently being trafficked or enslaved around the world.

The workshop report “Fighting Human Trafficking in conflict: 10 Ideas for Action by the United Nations Security Council”, presented by the UK and Liechtenstein missions in partnership with Thomson Reuters, United Nations University and the Grace Farms Foundation, is a culmination of a two-day meeting of over 100 experts to decide what areas relating to human trafficking and conflict the Security Council could–and would be willing–to address.

The recommendations for the Council focus on four areas: adopting a framework for future action, including requesting the Secretary-General appoint a Special Representative on Trafficking in Persons in Conflict; promoting accountability, including calling upon Member States to investigate and punish these crimes; disrupting trafficking patterns through actions such as sanctions, data-sharing, due diligence and monitoring; and strengthening existing protections that will protect those vulnerable to trafficking and enslavement. A
five member panel, moderated by MSNBC and NBC journalist Richard Lui, were adamant that the Security Council was only one part of the solution.

“Is this a Council problem? Is this a General Assembly problem? Yes, it’s everybody’s problem, we have to use all the leverage we can find,” James Cockayne, Head of Office at the UN for United Nations University and one of the report’s authors said at the launch. Paraphrasing from the report, he added, “This problem is like a Rubik’s Cube, if we want to solve it we’re going to have to tackle it every way we can.”
The report recognized that while conflict zones are not the only place human trafficking occurs, it is often closely linked.

“Slavery and trafficking are not just a byproduct of conflict. In many situations it can be integral to the whole conflict cycle,” said panel member Martin Shearman, the UK ambassador on development and human rights to the UN. “Conflict creates an environment where the worst elements of human nature flourish. Perhaps the best examples of this
are in Syria and Iraq.” According to the UN, an estimated 11.4 million Syrians have been displaced, leaving them vulnerable to trafficking and slavery. In Iraq, the terrorist group ISIS has captured an estimated 3,000 Yazidi women and girls who are bought and sold among members as sex slaves.

Panel members Warrick Beaver, a managing director for Thomson Reuters, and Krishna Patel, a former assistant United States Attorney and a director at Grace Farms recognized more traditional tools such as sanctions and prosecutions, while stressing the role of technology and
data gathering. “Trafficking is something that happens in every single state in this country,” said Patel. “The same way the Internet has fueled a lot of trafficking, technology plays a very, very important role and has both a very dark side and a very bright side,” she said.
“Data is so important but has been so imprecise.” Last December, the Security Council held “Trafficking in Persons in
Situations of Conflict”, its first ever thematic debate on the topic, before adopting a Presidential Statement. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon is expected to release a report in December on human trafficking, which was requested last year by the Security Council.

Christian Wenaweser, Permanent Representative of Liechtenstein to the UN, cautioned against viewing the report a complete set of recommendations. For example, he explained, issues like the role of the International Criminal Court, supply chains and promoting consumer awareness are not included.

“The big picture is that it’s not just a Security Council issue, they cannot address everything,” Wenaweser told La Voce di New York, adding that the private sector and civil society are critical to combatting trafficking.

“The Security Council by its nature is not a body that is well
tailored for long-term approaches and solutions. It’s a body that usually does short term fixes, unfortunately, to conflicts,” said Wenaweser during the discussion, stressing the importance of a multilateral approach.

“We are not looking at something that is going to end in December,” Wenaweser said.

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