Anti-human trafficking 2016 notes: recalling key events, reports, and initiatives that prompt reflection

The issue of human trafficking has been firmly under the international spotlight over 2016. Emphasis on trans-regional cooperation within the developing international policy architecture warrants, more than ever, careful mapping of cross jurisdictional responses. Optimizing the potential for coordination efficiencies, data sharing and collaboration, and appropriately networked action should enhance implementation results as international policy makers, activists, law enforcement officials, researchers, and civil society, get to grips with newly developed instruments and frameworks.

In the United States, January 5th 2016 marked the date of the 2015-2016 Annual Meeting of the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (PITF); the third to be chaired by Secretary Kerry, and the sixth under the Obama Administration. The meeting gave voice to speakers from across the Federal Government, contributions that this post will attempt to re-cap (before reviewing subsequent US and international initiatives, and then work coming out of the EU, Australia, and ASEAN). At the aforementioned meeting, Valerie Jarrett introduced the first-ever United States Advisory Council on Human Trafficking—which provides trafficking survivors a formal voice in federal anti-trafficking policy. Secretary Kerry emphasized the whole of government nature of the US approach, renewing resolve to incorporate the issue into every bilateral round of negotiations. Ambassador Susan Coppedge followed on from Kerry by attesting to the role of the five Senior Policy Operating Group Committees in driving key initiatives over the 2015-2016 reporting period, citing:

Ima Matul Maisaroh, a former victim and coordinator at the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, and speaker activist, shared a leadership vision and values commitment on behalf of the United States Advisory Council on Human Trafficking upon which she sits. Her address was followed up by law enforcement briefings from the Department of Justice, the FBI, ODNI, and USUN. US Attorney General Lynch, representing the Department of Justice, emphasized the victim-centred approach as hallmarking law enforcement strategy, along with nationally and internationally networked response partnerships. Domestically, the record under the Enhanced Collaborative Model (ECM) was appealed to in order to illustrate that direction—responses under the model reportedly lead to 1,000 trafficking investigations resulting in over 250 arrests and the identification of 425 victims, all under a $23 million budget over the 2015 Fiscal Year.

U.S. Attorney General Lynch further praised achievements under the Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team or ACTeam Initiative along with results under the U.S.-Mexico Human Trafficking Bilateral Enforcement Initiative. In the first instance, in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor, a 119 percent increase in cases filed accompanied a 114 percent increase in defendants charged within assigned districts—those figures confirming for Lynch the high impact effectiveness of a multi-agency strategy. In the second case, results from bi-lateral cooperation with Mexico since 2009 recorded over 170 U.S. federal prosecutions, 40 Mexican prosecutions, eight Mexico to U.S extraditions, and the rescue of over 200 victims along with the recovery of twenty children of victims from trafficking network control. Dismantling of the Rendon-Reyes trafficking organization was also cited. James Comey of the FBI’s Child Exploitation Task Force added to the figures by recounting the work of the 71 child exploitation task forces his team run around the US in collaboration with 400 different agency partners. He highlighted the success of the ninth (annual) Operation Cross Country in rescuing children who are victimized through commercial sexual exploitation. The operation ran in 135 cities and rescued about 150 children. 

Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson also reported to the meeting, documenting a 400 percent increase over the last five years in the number of Homeland Security Investigation criminal arrests with links to human trafficking. The Department’s victim assistance program, he recounted, provided support to 384 victims of human trafficking over the 2015 Fiscal Year. Its Blue Campaign aired the public service announcement, “Out of the Shadows,” more than 60,000 times. Bringing a community relations spotlight to the US domestic issue, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell  flagged exploitation that has been occurring on Native American reserves in the Dakotas, following the Oil and Gas boom there. She cited Federal Law Enforcement Training Center training partnerships with the Bureau of Indian Education law enforcement officers and federal land management law enforcement officers as further initiatives combating the trafficking problem.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper introduced international dimensions of U.S. engagement in the national security context—accounting for the links between trafficking  and international instability driven by terrorism, corruption, and crime. Director Clapper noted a tenfold increase in the intelligence community’s reporting on trafficking since the issue became a national intelligence collection priority in 2012. He further emphasized increasing collaboration between the intelligence community and law enforcement, citing two pilot projects in particular. In the first instance, work with overseas embassies being initiated to train personnel on trafficking recruitment methods and the identification of potential human trafficking victims, and in the second case tapping law enforcement databases—coordinating with associated entities to fill knowledge of law enforcement channels in order to aid information gathering and network disruption. He also cited the Intelligence Community – State Department cosponsored symposium that drew on external expertise to address the global operational challenges posed by human trafficking networks. A key theme was understanding the nature of trafficking networks and key drivers shaping their business environment. The symposium informed intelligence community perspective on the disruption of networks and has prompted the National Intelligence Council commitment to release the first ever national intelligence estimate on trafficking in persons.

U.S. ambassador to the UN, Maher Bitar, recounted further achievements in US-international anti-trafficking cooperation. Flagging Samantha Power’s leadership in convening the unprecedented December 16 Security Council debate on trafficking in persons in conflict (UNODC is expecting to publish a report to follow on from the security council meeting this fall), the Ambassador noted the role of Nadia Murad Basee Taha (a 21-year-old woman of the Yezidi faith who survived trafficking by Daesh) in pressing the UN to do more. Strengthening of procurement practices and providing support to trafficking victims were heralded as key achievements along with U.S. leadership in driving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals to incorporate immediate and effective measures to “eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking, and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labor including the recruitment of child soldiers.” Gayle Smith of USAID added a call for innovative concepts and ideas on how to aggregate, mine, and generate data that can be used for systems fixes. She cited the GoodWeave International  program in India, and collaboration with the Issara Institute in Thailand as exemplifying successful US-International projects: in the first instance, the work enabled transformation of monitoring and certification methodology so that it can be used to map, analyze, and provide real-time insight into unregulated supply chains—drawing further cooperation from the Target Corporation and Skoll Foundation; in the second instance, the work has not only facilitated identification of at risk individuals, but also built social media platforms to enable information sharing and enhance rights awareness. USAID C-TIP initiatives have integrated into broader development programs running multiple projects and developing key resources in the field over recent years.

Adding to the mix, Ambassador Froman highlighted anti-trafficking ramifications of TPP, citing Malaysia as a case in point. The TPP agreement will mandate binding and enforceable obligations to grant workers basic ILO rights, such as the right to be free from forced labor; it also requires countries to take action against trade in forced labor products from TPP and non-TPP jurisdictions alike—on pain of dispute settlement proceedings or trade sanctions. TPP’s inclusion of enforceable country-specific consistency plans will translate into a requirement for Malaysia, as a case in point, to: implement its new anti-trafficking law; allow victims of forced labour under protection orders to travel, work, and live outside government facilities; enforce laws criminalizing employer passport retention; limit recruitment agency fees; retract foreign worker quotas from large-scale and repeat offenders; allow foreign workers to hold union office; and provide victim assistance and NGO access to the afflicted. Labor-related trafficking issues more broadly were addressed by Deputy Secretary Lu of the US Department of Labor, who reported to the meeting that the June 2015 US donation of $12m to the International Labor Organization has helped drive implementation of a new protocol and supporting recommendation for ILO Convention 29, dealing with forced labor.

The initiative, known as the Bridge Project drives implementation of the protocol by raising awareness globally about forced labor, investing in data collection, strengthening supply chain monitoring, and implementing measures to protect victims and provide them with access to remediation. Three priority countries, Mauritania, Nepal, and Peru are being targeted over the initial stage. Deputy National Security Advisor Avril Haines reported key achievements on the procurement channel front  in terms of the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council rule requirement for compliance plans, as well as dialogues with the private sector and NGOs and other stakeholders driving best practices. Also noted was last year’s Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons  being awarded to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, which pioneered a worker-based social responsibility model called the Fair Food Program. It involves workers in addressing exploitation and abuse to eradicate modern slavery in Florida’s tomato fields—leveraging the market power of major corporate buyers, strong consumer awareness, worker training, and robust enforcement to increase wages, end labor trafficking, and promote the rights of workers.

Senior Counselor Andrea Palm moved the recap to consideration of victim services under the Health and Human Services portfolio noting the following key achievements:

  • June 2015 establishment of the Office on Trafficking in Persons within the Administration for Children and Families—coordinating anti-trafficking victim assistance and awareness efforts across refugee resettlement, child welfare, runaway and homeless youth, and domestic violence programs.
  • January 2016 establishment of the HHS-wide task force to prevent and end human trafficking, which aims to institutionalize cross departmental capacity and leverage, bringing together diverse programs under at least 10 divisions across HHS to calibrate working practices and data collection to inform policy making.
  • Further building public-private partnerships, with links to philanthropy and academia, that increase anti-trafficking innovation (e.g.  second challenge competition under the Partnership for Freedom to address trafficking in supply chains).
  • Continuing implementation of the five-year Federal strategic plan: providing >$17m in support of community-based programs over Fiscal Year 2015; piloting and evaluating a targeted human trafficking training program for health care providers— training 180 providers in six cities across five states; planning the on-line launch of human trafficking training for health care providers to enhance victim connection with critical community services; testing and evaluating a new trafficking screening tool for use in child welfare and runaway and homeless youth programs—with release of results due over 2016; performing, through grantees, more than 40 trainings and 100 consultations, that reached over 9,000 service providers and advocates during 2015; commencement of a series of regional forums in Miami to inform development of an HHS public awareness campaign on human trafficking, launching early 2017; the HHS Idea Lab, which funds internal innovative projects (2015 saw funding of a project to identify innovations in data collection in human trafficking).

With the architecture of the PITF’s work charted , the recap will now consider subsequent initiatives in the U.S. and associated international collaborations that followed—before proceeding to review European, Australian and ASEAN projects.

January 19th saw the hosting of a U.S. Department of Justice Office of Victims and Crime day-long forum with human trafficking survivors. It allowed for continuing collaboration with survivors and survivor advocacy groups to inform federal anti-trafficking practice. On February 9th, The Special High Level Event: Eradicating Modern-Day Slavery Through Sustainable Development attracted comment from Ambassador Sarah Mendelson who saw the event as an opportunity to move beyond the three Ps paradigm approach (prevention, protection, and prosecution) by adding a fourth P – partnership. She cited Hillary Clinton’s role in pushing for the SDGs to address the trafficking issue through greater partnership and collaboration, highlighting a need to drive partnerships among member states at the UN in New York and recognizing the role of key UN agencies—in particular UNODC but also UNICEF, the ILO, and newer partners such as UN University and the UN Global Compact. The event very much prepared for “Responding to Victims and the Vulnerable: Addressing Human Trafficking in Humanitarian Situations”, the side event that ran along side the World Humanitarian Summit last week (co-organized by the United States Mission to the United Nations, in partnership with the the UN Office of Drugs and Crime—UNODC ). That event was moderated by U.S Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights and Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, Dr Sarah Sewall.

By way of introductory remarks there, Stefanie Amadeo noted that the issue of human trafficking appears in three of the five core responsibility areas detailed in Ban Ki Moon’s report to the Summit— One Humanity: Shared Responsibility. The core areas being: Core Responsibility One, “political leadership to prevent and end conflicts”; Core Responsibility Two, “uphold the norms that safeguard humanity”; Core Responsibility Three “leave no one behind”. The report is broadly seen as delineating two paths for engagement of the issue. On the one hand tackling insufficient baseline data in order to develop evidence based practice and coordinated responses is cited as an area where progress has been frustrating; on the other hand a more optimistic outlook is pegged to the agenda that has made engagement at the World Humanitarian Summit possible—with its focus on addressing mounting challenges, finding the next steps forward, and strengthening prevention and victim support mechanisms. Noting the complex challenge human trafficking presents for stable societies, Amadeo highlighted aggravating broader risk areas intersecting with the problem: armed conflict; the protection and empowerment of women and girls; migration with dignity; violation of human rights and humanitarian law; the collapse of state institutions; natural disasters. Such catalysts of the trafficking problem weaken safety net protections and options for recourse, she noted.

Those themes were picked up on by the event’s panellists—DrRita Rhayem of Caritas Lebanon, Ms Neelam Sharma of Free the Slaves Nepal, and Miss Nadia Murad Basee Taha the Da’esh trafficking victim who briefed the security council during the US Presidency in December 2015 at its first ever session on human trafficking in situations of conflict. On the legislative front, The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Council published its final rule on Combating Trafficking in Persons—under the FAR Combatting Trafficking in Persons regulations on Jan. 28 2016; the latest regulatory action occurred on May 11th when the FAR Council proposed a conclusive definition of “recruitment fees”— proscribed under the regulatory regime which aims to eradicate any risk of association with human trafficking from within federal contractor supply chains. Also notable was the referring to Committee on April 20th of the Visa Transparency Anti-Trafficking Act of 2016. In response to the developing regulatory environment the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons has developed the Responsible Sourcing Tool in partnership with Verité, Made in a Free World and the Aspen Institute. The aim is to provide a resource for companies to rid their supply chains of human trafficking.

The tool comes on the back of heightened media attention to the role of technology in combating trafficking—tracking Obama era initiatives. The release this May of the comprehensive scholarly report Shedding Light on Sex Trafficking, Research Data and Technologies with the Greatest Impact explores the nuances of human trafficking in both the global and U.S. national contexts. It analyses the role of technology in  facilitating and fighting human trafficking and makes technology-based recommendations to enhance the anti-human trafficking movement. Exploring through the report the limitations of existing knowledge as well as recommendations for further resources and research will inform a forthcoming post. This recap will turn to consideration of collaboration between UN anti-trafficking programming and the arts. May 3rd launched the UNODC backed, Artists UNited against human trafficking: voices of victims of human trafficking: readings from river of flesh and other stories. Moderated by Simone Monasebian, Director of UNODC New York, the event hosted readings and interactive discussion with award-winning actress/director Rosanna Arquette; Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director, UNWomen; Ambassador Laura E. Flores, PR of Panama; Ambassador Katalin Bogyay, PR of Hungary; Actress Reshma Shetty; and of course Ruchira Gupta, author of Rivers of Flesh. The event gave voice to trafficking survivor T Ortiz Walker Pettigrew, and opened with remarks by eminent feminist, activist and author Gloria Steinem.

Calling for a circle of knowledge to value the contribution of all participants equally and for an abandonment of notions of hierarchy linked to patriarchy, Steinem called for trafficking to be understood as a world issue. She cited scholarship from the 2012 work Sex and World Peace to link the trafficking problem to patriarchal structures that have sought to control reproduction through social and domestic violence. Such structures, traced through some 5% of human history, are understood as drivers of modern intra and inter state conflict by way of a violent instinct to control procreation. For Steinem, foreign policy must strategically integrate research findings that correlate gender equality and women’s well being with conflict prevention and stability. She understands patriarchal structures of dominance that seek to control reproduction, not only in terms of fuelling gender violence, but also in terms of being intimately connected to racial and caste violence. She sees the segregation of women within patriarchal systems, either for reproductive or sexuality functions, as lying at the root cause of exploitative crime such as trafficking. The Nordic Solution is referred to as a middle way to navigate between criminalization versus legalization polemics surrounding policy approaches to the sex trade.

Ruchira Gupta’s introduction of the book Rivers of Flesh put its range of Indian authors empathizing with trafficking victims and sex workers firmly into context—critically squaring up to pro-legalization international approaches to the sex industry. Gupta described her journey from making the documentary selling the innocents to founding apneaap—through which she has helped more than 20000 women and girls exit sex-trafficking. Apneaap means self-empowerment in Hindi, and Gupta links the concept to two Ghandian principles: ahimsa (non-violence) and antodea (requiring all action to first and foremost contemplate benefiting the weakest and most marginalized we know to regain control of their destinies). She expresses the overwhelming nature of the problem in India where poverty, amongst other factors, drives the exploitation of an estimated 3,000,000 women and girls. Taking strength from Gloria Steinem’s belief in the power of each individual’s spheres of influence, when truly embraced in the cause of positive social change, Ruchira’s record attests to the power of perseverance in the face of what can seem like even the most overwhelming cause for pessimism. As a  long time partner of artists united against human trafficking, Gupta has contributed to UNODC technical assistance handbooks, testified to the U.S. Senate for the passing of the first US Trafficking Victim Protection Act, advocated for the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, won an Emmy Award , won the Clinton Global Citizen Award , the UN NGO CSW Women of distinction award, and edited As If Women Matter: The Essentail Gloria Steinem reader.

Elsewhere, US Cinema enthusiasts will of course not have missed UN coordinated publicity surrounding the April 2016 US release of the movie ‘Sold’. Starring Gillian Anderson and David Arquette alongside an acclaimed Nepali and Indian cast (Niyar Saikia as Lakshmi, Sushmita Mukerjee as Mumtaz, Tillotama Shome as Auntie Bimla, and Parambrata Chatterjee as Vikram) the Jeff Brown directed and Emma Thompson produced movie is an adaptation of Patricia McCormick’s novel of the same name. The film’s European premiere was at the 2014 London Indian Film Festival; it tells the story of Lakshmi a young Nepali girl sold into sexual servitude in India. After fronting Children International’s “Taught, Not Trafficked campaign” through a BBC Radio 4 Appeal from 31st January to 6th February 2016, Gillian Anderson’s film can change the world activism has sustained momentum in association with April’s US release.  March saw the NGO CSW Forum Consultation Day bring together international leaders for gender equality, including UN Women, the Woman of Distinction Awardee, and other international leaders for gender equality and women’s empowerment. The purpose of NGO CSW Forum Consultation Day was to set the stage for the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) meetings (14-24 March 2016) and facilitate interactions between participants.

In May the D.C. based NGO Polaris released Sex Trafficking and LGBTQ Youth , a new resource to address domestic vulnerability to trafficking amongst LGBTQ young people. Another key NGO initiative came by way of the earlier Conference, “Ending Human Trafficking by 2030: The Role of Global Partnerships in Eradicating Modern Slavery,” held April 7 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The Pope addressed the event himself in a letter dated March 30 2016, in which he called for a strengthening of the bonds of cooperation and communication in tackling slavery and the commodification of human lives. He called for solutions and preventative measures that do not loose focus on the right to dignity of the poorest and most marginalized. The conference was a joint initiative of The Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations and the Santa Marta Group—an alliance of international police chiefs and bishops from around the world working together with civil society in a process endorsed by Pope Francis to eradicate human trafficking and modern day slavery.

Moving to Europe, brief mention of some key reporting initiatives should prove instructive. January 21st saw the launch of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and European Union joint initiative—Global Action to Prevent and Address Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants (2015-2019)—which is being implemented in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The project is expected to be delivered in up to 15 strategically selected countries across four continents: Brazil and Columbia in Latin America; Belarus and the Ukraine in (Eastern) Europe; Nepal, Lao PDR, Kyrgyzstan, and Pakistan in Asia; and Egypt, Morocco, Mali, Niger and South Africa in Africa. It is targeted at designing and implementing comprehensive domestic counter-trafficking and counter-smuggling responses in the selected countries and is orientated around six key prevention and protection objectives: strategy and policy development; legislative assistance; capacity building; regional and trans-regional cooperation; protection and assistance to victims of trafficking and smuggled migrants; and assistance and support to children among victims of trafficking and smuggled migrants. UNODC has portfolioed the first four objectives, IOM the fifth, and IOM and UNICEF in partnership, the sixth. The leadership and co-ordination team for the inter-agency project  includes Ms. Margaret Akullo at UNODC (GLO.ACT Coordinator), Mr. Mathieu Luciano at IOM, and Mr. Kerry Neal at UNICEF. A follow up introductory event for the initiative was held on Wednesday May 25th. Moderated by H.E. Ambassador Jaime Alberto Cabal Sanclemente, Permanent Representative of Colombia to the United Nations in Vienna, the introducing GLO.ACT May special event added further high ranking voices to the campaign—speakers included: Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of UNODC; H.E. Ambassador Didier Lenoir, Head of the EU Delegation; Ms. Myria Vassiliadou, EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator; Ms. Margaret Akullo, GLO.ACT Coordinator.

The European Commission has also actively engaged the trafficking issue over 2016. In March it released: Study on the gender dimension of trafficking in human beings—final report. The document comprehensively examines gendered perspectives on human trafficking, charting an approach to strengthening prevention and victim protection  as per the requirements of Article 1 of EU Directive 2011/36/EU on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Human Beings and Protecting its Victims. The study specifically evaluates the gender dimensions of trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation, reviewing statistical data evidence from: Eurostat; The European Police Office (Europol); and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The report observes a 96 % women and girls victim gender percentage—underpinning its focus on gender-trafficking intersectionality, and direction for responding in terms that build on the 26 February 2014 Resolution of the European Parliament on sexual exploitation and prostitution and its impact on gender equality (2013/2103(INI)). The report urges the European Commission to evaluate the European legal framework designed to eliminate trafficking for sexual exploitation and calls for further research. It places patterns of prostitution, human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation, and growth in EU sex tourism (emphasizing the impact on minors) at the heart of the trafficking research agenda. The initiative follows on from the December EU Commission publication of: Strategic Engagement of Gender Equality 2016-2019.

Similarly significant was the May 19 European Commission publication of its first report under the 2011 EU Anti-Trafficking Directive on progress made in the fight against trafficking in human beings. It is entitled: Report on the progress made in the fight against trafficking in human beings (2016) as required under Article 20 of Directive 2011/36/EU on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims and was heralded as a step forward in implementation strategy and policy framework development (by EU Anti-trafficking coordinator Myria Vassiliadou, and EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs, and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos  respectively). The report identifies 15,846 women, men, girls and boys as EU registered victims of trafficking over 2013-2014—67% being trafficked for sexual exploitation, and 21% for labour exploitation. Female victims constituted 76% of the figure, and children 15%. A sharp increase in the number of child victims, disabled victims, and victims of Roma ethnic background was highlighted along with links to other forms of crime, the migration crisis, exploitation of the vulnerable, and the use of technology to recruit victims. A call for increased compliance and a greater number of investigations and prosecutions was accompanied by direction to establish early identification and victim protection mechanisms. Two forthcoming reports on compliance and criminalization, as well as delineation of the Commission’s post-2016 strategy, are due for publication  by the end of year. Key priorities will be child protection along migration routes, and ensuring adequate provisions are made within reform of the common European asylum system to protect unaccompanied minors—so very vulnerable to traffickers.

Recent key EU linked events such as The Special High-Level Event: “Providing Effective Assistance to Victims of Trafficking in Persons” held at UNODC headquarters Vienna on May 26th, and the June 2nd Intervention by Ambassador Bogyay on Women, Peace and Security: Responding to human trafficking in situations of conflict-related sexual violence  as well as the United Kingdom’s Child Victims of Human Trafficking (Central Government Responsibility) Bill 2015-16 are issues that will be picked up by subsequent posts as this recap will now turn to consider Australian developments.

The strategic framework for Australia’s whole-of-community response to slavery and human trafficking falls under the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking and Slavery 2015-19 (National Action Plan)—devised under the portfolios of Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs The Hon. Julie Bishop, Minister for Justice The Hon. Michael Keenan MP, Minister for Social Services The Hon. Kevin Andrews MP, and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women, Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Senator The Hon Michaelia Cash.  The Australian Government’s self-evaluation mechanisms include the reporting functions of the Interdepartmental Committee on Human Trafficking and Slavery (IDC), and the audit management reports of the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) on the Government’s Action Plan to Eradicate Trafficking in Persons. All the reports under both mechanisms are published through the Australian Government Attorney General’s website. The last IDC report published on that page covers the period between July 1 2014 and June 30 2015; the last ANAO report published there covers the period from January 1 to June 30 2015. Following Australian criminalization of forced marriage in March 2013, The National Action Plan has specifically aimed at  better prevention and tackling of that issue —targeting improved education and resilience and awareness among the general community, particularly amongst the vulnerable. The Australian Government launched various awareness-raising materials over 2014-15 to assist agencies, community organisations, service providers, and vulnerable groups. A series of workshops were hosted in each capital city. Specialist working groups established under the National Roundtable on Human Trafficking and Slavery have also driven policy initiatives under the Australian Government’s response—developing strategies to address exploitative practices in supply chains, and producing awareness-raising materials on all forms of labour exploitation. For example the Working Group on Protections for Private Domestic Workers Working for Diplomats or Consular Officials introduced a range of education and awareness-raising initiatives alongside implementing policy and operational measures to decrease Australian private domestic worker vulnerability. The Supply Chains Working Group also commenced the first phase of its work program, ‘understanding the problem’ during the same reporting period. In consultation with the National Roundtable, the Government  also issued for July 1 2015, the third edition of the Guidelines for NGOs: Working with trafficked people updating this key best practice resource.

The Australian Government further awarded almost $500000 to three NGOs (Anti-Slavery Australia, the Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans, and the Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights) to progress outreach, education and awareness-raising initiatives. The Government also supports World Vision’s Ending Trafficking in Persons (ETIP) program, in Mae Sot, Thailand. On 27 May 2015, regulatory reforms to the Human Trafficking Visa Framework were announced amidst concern that visa names under the previous system could have contributed to the stigmatization of trafficked persons. The Witness Protection (Trafficking) (Permanent) visa has been renamed the Referred Stay (Permanent) visa, and Bridging Visa F has been re-designed as an alternative to the Criminal Justice Stay Visa for trafficking victims. The government has also waived the 104 week Newly Arrived Resident’s Waiting Period for income support payments (other than Special Benefit) for Referred Stay (Permanent) visa holders—enabling trafficking victims to enrol in on-going study (exceeding 12 months) whilst receiving income support. Subsidised or supported vocational education places for trafficked people as well as access for BVF holders to the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) were also set for commencement over 2015-16. As far as law enforcement statistics are concerned, the most recent publication of figures (for the 2014-2015 reporting period) attest to The Australian Federal Police receiving 119 new human trafficking and slavery related referrals during the period (a total of 588 since 2004)— 93 lead to further investigations. The break down of that referral figure, in terms of types of trafficking being reported, was as follows: 29% sexual exploitation; 28% other forms of labour exploitation, 28 % forced marriage. During the same period the Support for Trafficked People Program (Support Program), assisted 88 clients. Of their 38 new clients, thirty were female and eight were male—10 (26 per cent) were sexually exploited and the remaining 28 (74 per cent) endured non-sexual forms of exploitation. A total of five children were referred. The program is administered by the Department of Social Services in partnership with the Australian Red Cross.

Australia’s fight against human trafficking actively engages other countries in our region and beyond. Having ratified the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and its supplementary Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Australia  participates in key international forums surrounding the issue: the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice; the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review process; the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women; and the UNTOC Conference of Parties to better address and prevent trafficking. Australia and Indonesia co-chair the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime. As per a previous post, the issue of forced migration and transnational crime came under the spotlight at the April 22 28th ASEAN-Australia Forum—the second since the creation of the ASEAN-Australia Strategic Partnership. In the aftermath of ASEAN’s Convention Against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Australia’s Ambassador for People Smuggling and Human Trafficking Mr Andrew Goledzinowski AM launched the country’s new International Strategy to combat Human Trafficking and Slavery (The International Strategy) in March 2016 at the sixth Bali Process Ministerial Conference on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and related Transnational Crime. The Bali Declaration, also there adopted, was highlighted as calling for enhanced member cooperation, coordination, and integration with regional and global initiatives. Australia had previously contributed to two Bali Process policy guides on identifying and protecting trafficked people, complimenting broader finalization of regional policy guides on criminalising human trafficking and people smuggling, in August 2014.

The International Strategy earmarks South East Asia’s ASEAN region as the principal focus of Australia’s engagement—amidst broader prioritization of the Indo-Pacific. The regional approach is underpinned by commitment to the values of human rights, freedom, democracy and the total eradication of slavery and human trafficking—posturing that resonates with Australia’s 2018-2020 candidacy for the UN Human Rights Council and global anti-trafficking commitments. The document cites a number of recent Australian initiatives in the region:

  • Signing of the Manilla Declaration to Enhance International Cooperation in Combating Human Trafficking  on June 3 2015, during the First International Dialogue on Human Trafficking in the Philippines;
  • 2015 hosting by the Attorney–General’s Department of ten Sri Lankan officials for a Study Forum on Witness and Victim Protection—assisting Sri Lanka in strengthening its laws and capacity to combat human trafficking
  • Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) collaboration with South East Asian counterparts to enhance capacity for managing regular and irregular migration flows including: border management system assistance; technical training; and funding to improve irregular migrant livelihoods.
  • DIBP funding of the International Organization for Migration to provide training and coordinated support to relevant agencies in the Indonesian Government—equipping them with the skills to respond effectively to irregular migration.
  • Australia’s co-chairing of the Bali Process  and associated development of regional policy guides providing practical policy making guidance for criminalizing people smuggling and human trafficking, and identifying and protecting victims (ensuring strong and effective regional criminal law frameworks that plug domestic legislative loop holes).
  •  Joint Period of Action events held by the Bali Process Working Group on Disruption of Criminal Networks by which multiple authorities (including Australia and INTERPOL) have conducted activities to combat people smuggling and trafficking networks in the region.
  • The AAPTIP Program, instrumental in shaping: the recently-signed ASEAN Convention Against Trafficking In Persons (the landmark binding agreement among the ten member states of ASEAN); the foundational ASEAN Practitioner Guidelines; the AAPTIP-ILO workshop on labour trafficking (which brought together labour officials and law enforcement actors from across ASEAN for one of the first times to collaborate on labour trafficking); development with Australian technical assistance and support of region-wide training on transnational investigative cooperation and financial investigations; assisting prosecutors to undertake international legal cooperation for the exchange of evidence in trafficking trials. AAPTIP is also developing guidelines with ASEAN to improve support for trafficking victims acting as witnesses in criminal trials.
  • In October-November 2015, Australia was active in negotiating, and ultimately co-sponsored, the most recent UN General Assembly Third Committee resolution on improving the coordination of efforts against trafficking in persons. The resolution highlights the need to promote and fully implement the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons

In terms of Australia’s cooperation with intersecting international commitments, the following mechanisms are also of note: United Nations Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review; Third Committee of the General Assembly; Commission on the Status of Women; Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice; Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice; Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime Working Group on Trafficking in Persons; Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery; and International Labour Conference.

Developments within ASEAN itself are incisively keeping abreast of and partnering international regional initiatives—whilst a forthcoming post will explore Secretariat backed initiatives in more detail, what follows flags in brief some of the progress central to reflections on the above. Of course it is imperative to note that 2016 coincides with the coming into effect of a range of ASEAN strategic partnership action plans to tackle global challenges. One example is this year’s Plan of Action to Implement the ASEAN-U.S. Strategic Partnership (2016-2020) —under which both sides have pledged to work further towards supporting the ASEAN Community building and integration process — as per the the key policy document ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together. Simmilarly, the ASEAN Republic of Korea Plan of Action to Implement the Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity (2016-2020) and the Plan of Action to Implement the Joint Declaration on ASEAN-China Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity (2016-2020) take effect this year. In late May, the Sochi ASEAN-Russia Summit generated the Comprehensive Plan of Action to Promote Cooperation between the Association of South East Asian Nations and the Russian Federation (2016-2020). Also this year, the 23rd Meeting of the ASEAN-EU Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) was held on 4 February 2016 in Jakarta, in accordance with the Bandar Seri Begawan Plan of Action to Strengthen the ASEAN-EU Partnership (2013-2017). ASEAN’s paralell commitment to partnership with Australia — maintaining the ASEAN-Australia Dialogue Relations towards a  mutually beneficial strategic partnership based on broad equality in collaborating to address global challenges — falls under the Plan of Action to Implement the ASEAN-Australia Strategic Partnership (2015-2019). Implementation of all these ASEAN POAs coincides with the Bali Declaration on ASEAN Community in a Global Community of Nations (Bali Concord III) Plan of Action (2013-2017) and the Hanoi Plan of Action to Implement the ARF Vision Statement 2020.

The POA to implement the ASEAN-Australia Strategic Partnership provides for human rights information sharing and consultation between the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) and the Australian Human Rights Commission. In association with the 20th AICHR Meeting, the institution conducted a Workshop on Transition (“the Workshop”) that allowed for a handover from the AICHR Representatives 2013 – 2015 to the AICHR Representatives 2016 – 2018. It aimed to facilitate smooth transition and ensure good continuity vis-a-vis AICHR’s institutional arrangements.  The Workshop hosted discussion of key  AICHR documents and projects, including the Annual Consultation on Human Rights-based Approach in the Implementation of ACTIP and APA. Reporting on trafficking in the ASEAN region falls under Mandate 4.12 of AICHR’s Five Year Work Plan of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (2016-2020)—”to prepare studies on thematic issues of human rights in ASEAN”.

ASEAN specific anti-trafficking commitments include ongoing support for the implementation of: the ASEAN Convention Against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children;the ASEAN Plan of Action Against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children; the ASEAN Declaration Against Trafficking in Persons, Particularly Women and Children; and the ASEAN Leaders’ Joint Statement in Enhancing Cooperation Against Trafficking in Persons in Southeast Asia.  More broadly, the ASEAN Declaration on Strengthening Social Protection and the ASEAN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Elimination of Violence Against Children are instructive.

Central to the ideology of ASEAN are its five priority areas of cooperation, namely economic integration, maritime cooperation, transnational challenges including climate change, emerging leaders, and women’s opportunities. Focus on science and technology, as well as rule of law and good governance, aims to ensure cooperation in these priority areas that deepen ASEAN centrality, integration and unity — broadening shared prosperity, for the sake of securing dignity and human rights for the people of ASEAN. Enhancing law enforcement, prosecuting traffickers, protecting victims, and preventing trafficking through public awareness campaigns will be key challenges this year — the inaugural year of both ACTIP and its associated implementation POA.

Most recently a key event was convened on 1-2 June in Muntinlupa City, Philippines — the ASEAN Workshop on Improving Border Controls and Strengthening the Capacity of Law Enforcement Authorities to Address Irregular Migration and Trafficking in Persons . The workshop was attended by representatives of the ASEAN Committee on the Implementation of the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers (ACMW), the Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crimes, the Director Generals of Immigration and Consular Relations Meeting, the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children, the ASEAN Inter-Governmental Commission on Human Rights, and Senior Officials on Social Welfare and Development. It was an ACMW initiative hosted by the Philippine Inter-Agency Council against Trafficking in Persons. Delegates adopted recommendations calling for immediate ratification of the ASEAN Convention against Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children (ACTIP) by all ASEAN Member States, and pushed forward finalisation of the ASEAN instrument on the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers. Delegates also called on ASEAN inter-governmental and sectoral bodies under ACTIP to meet regularly in order to help comprehensively integrate responses to trafficking in persons.