Thoughts by H.E. Dr. Ion Jinga, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations – New York, published in Huffington Post on 22.12.2016
On 20 December 2016, the Spanish Presidency of the Security Council has organized a ministerial level open debate on “Maintenance of International Peace and Security. Trafficking in Persons in Conflict Situations”. The debate, chaired by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, took place only a few days before Spain will end a remarkable accomplished two-year term as a non-permanent member of the Security Council.
Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing crimes and the world’s second largest criminal enterprise, after drug trafficking. But unlike drugs, here the commodity of crime is human beings who are sold and bought without any consideration for human dignity. Today, there are more human slaves in the world than ever before in history: an estimated 27 million adults and 13 million children.
Trafficking in persons is a topic that, unfortunately, has become a cruel reality for many people because of their simple presence in a conflict area.
During the open debate, I was deeply moved by the testimony of Nadia Murad Basee Taha, a survivor of Daesh human trafficking, who on 16 September 2016 was appointed the UN Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking. It is the first time a survivor of human trafficking has been appointed Goodwill Ambassador.
Worldwide conflicts are becoming more connected to terrorist activities, while human trafficking plays a growing role in the operation of terrorist organizations, generating revenue and being an instrument for vanquishing those who oppose them.
Linkages between conflict and trafficking in persons, particularly of women and children, have been identified by the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council, and the case of horrendous crimes perpetrated by Daesh against Yazidi women and girls gained the deep sympathy of the entire world.
Both in conflict and non-conflict situations, prevention is key even though we might not be able to make use of the same instruments. An enhanced role may be played by the peacekeeping personnel deployed in UN operations. Pre-deployment training of the blue helmets on the specificity of trafficking in persons will contribute to increasing their knowledge about the phenomenon, in order to identify and fight against it. In fact, all persons having access to conflict areas, including representatives of civil society organizations or humanitarian actors, should be trained in this regard. For instance, prior to deployment in UN peacekeeping operations, the Romanian personnel receives a special training on how to identify and protect victims of human trafficking.
Assistance to victims requires addressing their needs on a case by case model. An interdisciplinary approach is necessary to ensure that they have access to medical, psycho-social assistance and legal aid, for a successful rehabilitation and social reintegration.
Evidence proves the existence of a complex nexus between trafficking in persons, organized crime, corruption, armed conflict and terrorism. This requires a further mapping effort. Joining forces becomes increasingly important, because combating successfully the scourge of trafficking in persons cannot be achieved only at national level, especially in cases of conflict situation. Cooperation at regional and international levels to complement national efforts is therefore needed, as well as the exchange of information among relevant authorities from states that are a source, transit or destination for victims of trafficking. This cooperation is also essential in identifying those responsible for the trafficking, with a view to hold the perpetrators accountable. Alongside the UN, the INTERPOL and the International Organization for Migration, civil society, private sector and media have to be major partners.
Combating trafficking in human beings is an ongoing battle, and the focus must be on protecting the victims. Necessary legislative and other measures to prevent, investigate, punish and provide reparation for acts relating to human trafficking need to continue to be enforced. The UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its additional Protocol, as well as the Palermo Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, are part of this legal backbone.
But in our efforts we should also use the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (target 8.7), which provides a clear mandate to take immediate and effective measures to eradicate modern slavery and human trafficking.
Exchanging best practices may equally be part of the solution. In Romania, we have the Anti-trafficking National Agency with the main role to coordinate, evaluate and monitor the activities of authorities dealing with human trafficking, as well as the protection and assistance of victims. Partnerships with civil society are important too, because preventing and tackling this scourge require a multidisciplinary approach. The Agency currently cooperates with more than 60 partners.
Within the Romanian National Police there is a dedicated Unit for fighting against trafficking in persons, with 15 regional teams comprising specialized officers available at county level and totaling around 250 operational staff. The Police Border Department has 400 police officers detached to the EU Agency FRONTEX, who work in European Border and Coast Guard Teams to fight trafficking in persons and drug trafficking. Currently, 22 Romanian debriefing experts contribute to identify victims of trafficking among the immigrants.
The key words are Prevention, Protection (of victims), Prosecutions (of criminals) and Partnerships. The fight against trafficking in human beings must be part of our collective sense of humanity.