Monday, March 03, 2008

UN Vienna Forum Part 6: Quantifying Human Trafficking

As anybody who is active in the field of counter-trafficking knows, reliable statistical data on human trafficking represents one of the biggest challenges to building an effective response to the problem. The last session that I attended at the Vienna Forum directly dealt with this issue. It consisted of seven panelists in two intervals. The first three panelists spoke about their experiences gathering data that is a bit more accessible, for example, the number of people who have been prosecuted for trafficking or victims that have already received assistance. The second three panelists dealt more with obtaining the numbers for victims that have not been found or have come forward.

Lima, Peru


The first speaker was
Andrea Querol of CHS Alternativo in Peru. Ms. Querol spoke about the creation and implementation of a system for Registration and Statistics of trafficking in persons and related crimes (RETA) that links NGOs, international organizations, law enforcement, and government ministries and collects all of the available statistics as well as register new cases for the police to follow up on.

The RETA Process includes:
This hotline allows for the various actors taking part in the system to open new claims for investigation. Once the data is entered as a claim, an alert goes out on the new case, and the information on the original claim is locked in and cannot be changed. This is to prevent any sort of corruption from interfering with the case. The claims process is the first process of the RETA system, which is then followed by the investigation process.

Tirane Square, Albania

South Eastern Europe

The second speaker was Enrico Ragaglia of
ICMPD, who presented on Data Collection and Information Management under the Programme for the Enhancement of Anti-trafficking Responses in South Eastern Europe, which runs from September 2006 to October 2008. It builds off of other projects as Romania and Albania already have databases. The final purpose was to make sure all governments have the necessary tools to understand the scope of problem.

The objectives were to strengthen the capacities of South Eastern European countries to systematically collect and manage data, out of which developed 2 distinct databases: victim-centered and perpetrator-centered. The expected results were a regional criteria for collection; two nationally owned databases which requires active participation on the part of the government; a manual on database usage; trainings on database usage; and, lastly, technical and maintenance support.

The participating countries include Albania, BiH, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, and Kosovo.

For the victim-centered database, the government actors mostly come from specialized ministry departments. For the perpetrator centered database, on the other hand, it is mostly the office of the prosecutor, as well as law enforcement and Ministry of Interior offices that are involved.

The information and advantages of the program are meant to work for government institutions, data contributors, policy makers, researchers. After looking at the advantages and disadvantages of collecting aggregate versus disaggregate data with the system, they decided to go with disaggregate data. The data entry, however, requires the written consent of victims. Data of the traffickers goes all the way from investigation to post-trial.


Of course, they have faced some challenges in the implementation of this project, including a lack of cooperation and info sharing within the governments (among ministries), the impact of corruption, and working within the different legal frameworks arising from different interpretations or adoptions of the Palermo Protocol, which effects the set of indicators depending on legal definitions. The project has also been affected by political issues and commitment, as well as clashes between the figures from the governments (making the numbers too low) and NGOs (making the numbers too high). Some other issues include avoiding the duplication of cases, handling the sensitivity of the data, and the fact that further training is needed.

Omdurman, Sudan


Lastly, for the morning session was Babacar Ndiaye, UNODC West Africa who spoke about the ECOWAS Plan of Action and the attempt to set up an efficient data collection system at the national, subregional, and international levels.

Based on existing data on investigated cases, this is the number of people trafficked in West Africa over the last four years:

2003- 2900 ppl

2004- 2900 ppl

2005- 4800 ppl

2006- 4900 ppl


Children- 85% female, 15% male

Adults- 99% women

Someone later questioned why the numbers were so highly skewed towards women when there were many cases of, for example, child soldiers, which mostly affects boys. The answer that Mr. Babacar gave was that the discrimination in gender statistics doesn't come from the statistics themselves, but from legal definition of a victim of trafficking, which in some countries does not include male victims.

The legal framework in which the countries operate in include the ratification and implementation of the following documents:

• ECOWAS Convention A/P1/7/92 and A/P1/8/94

• Palermo

• The adoption of national laws (11 out of 16 countries have passed laws)

From this framework, task forces were established in 2007 and annual reports are now being turned in. The first comprehensive report will come this year.

Some more figures:

Arrests by citizenship (In order from most arrests to least):

1. Benin (the reason for this could be the active police force and prosecution in-country)

2. Chad

3. Sudan

4. Togo

5. Nigeria

6. Burkina Faso

7. Niger

8. Mali

9. Cameroon

10. Liberia

11. Ghana

12. Senegal

Total number of arrests:

2005- 540 arrests

2006- 810 arrests

The challenges faced in this project include a lack of political will, lack of ownership, poor coordination, donor driven priorities, poor public administration services, and, especially, a lack of culture of info sharing so that governments and government agencies do not coordinate enough. There will be a second post to cover the rest of the material from the other four participants in this panel discussion.

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