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Human Trafficking at the Human Rights Council; what’s missing from the conversation?

May 31, 2013

At this 23rd Human Rights Council Session, along with violence against women, Syria and extrajudicial killings, Human Trafficking has also been a recurring theme.

The discussions surrounding this phenomenon are centred around the report of the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, which was brought to the Council’s attention this Tuesday.

This year’s report focuses on the role of demand in fostering exploitation and trafficking in persons. In highlighting this demand, the Special Rapporteur chose to explore the position of private companies and their corporate responsibilities in supply chains. In this way, she made clear human trafficking is not just a sexual violence issue, but also includes issues like forced labour and organ removal.

To support the work of the Special Rapporteur, Germany and the Philippines have taken the lead on introducing a resolution which will be tabled and voted upon at the end of this Session. The Resolution includes calls to strengthen labour laws and developing programmes and initiatives that motivate businesses to proactively contribute to prevent and combat human trafficking.

The view this report and resolution brings to the discussions on Human Trafficking is important and often overlooked. The role private businesses can play in combating Human Trafficking is crucial, which is why the work of NGO’s like End Human Trafficking Now, which tries to facilitate businesses in analysing their supply chain in the context of exploitation and Human Trafficking, is excellent and greatly needed.

However, we feel part of the conversation has been missing.

While the discussions did focus on commercial sectors that are vulnerable to exploitation and Human Trafficking, such as agriculture, construction and the sex industry, the security sector was left out of the conversation. As the past has taught us, private military and security companies have and still can play a major role in creating demand for such practices, and must therefore also be addressed. In fact, we feel exploitation and Human Trafficking must be discussed in the much broader context of conflict, post-conflict and peacekeeping economies, in which structural problems of accountabilities, militarisation and masculinities are also addressed as important but missing parts of the current picture.

Peacekeeping PicThe reason why we would like to hear about this issue in this particular forum, the Human Rights Council, is that the Council is an intergovernmental body, meaning the role of States in protecting Human Rights is central to its process. As such, we would like to use the Human Rights Council and the UN system to highlight the role States can and must play in combating exploitation and human trafficking, which is especially significant in the conflict, post conflict and peacekeeping context.

Therefore, WILPF is proud to introduce its newest project to you, ‘Paths to Justice, Peacekeeping Accountabilities’.

Paths to Justice is a project aimed at utilising and strengthening the accountability mechanisms in place for victims of peacekeeping abuses, such as sexual violence, exploitation and human trafficking. Through advocacy and working closely with our NGO partners on the ground, this project hopes to contribute to simplifying the often arduous and complex paths to justice for victims of these abuses and put an end to the impunity these perpetrators often enjoy.

We are starting work on this project in the coming weeks, so keep an eye out for it on our website, or sign up here to stay updated on all our projects, news and alerts.

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