Wednesday, March 05, 2008

UN Vienna Forum Part 8: Closing Remarks

International Cooperation for an International Problem

Three days and thiry-five sessions as well as art displays, film screenings, social gatherings, and exhibitions added up to an intense international effort to reorganize the unconcentrated, but passionate fight against human trafficking. Time and again, it was mentioned by speakers and panelists that this global effort taking place in many countries around the world does not have a focal point to bring together organizations and people to share information, best practices, new developments, etc. It is hoped that this conference will mark the beginning of a renewed effort to make the response to human trafficking more organized than the crime itself.

Achievements of the Forum:

The Vienna Forum brought together around 1,500 experts, activists, intergovernmental specialists, academics, government officials, representatives of the private sector, and non-governmental workers, among others. The sessions provided insight on a wide range of topics including: the
three P's; the demand and supply chains; the role of governmental, non-governmental, private, religious, youth, and civil society actors; health isssues; vulnerability factors; and obtaining better research and statistics. The Forum put together the seemingly impossible task of covering the widest scope possible in order to involve the diversity of actors who can contribute to combating human trafficking.

This, of course, is no small task. Anyone involved in the fight against human trafficking knows that, at times, the various actors will lose common ground forfeiting communication, which in the end, only hurts the cause. Also, there are so many different kinds of organizations in diverse areas of the world, that without a global Forum like this, would probably never connect otherwise. As Antonio Maria Costa mentioned in his closing remarks:

"A less tangible, but equally important, enabling factor [suitable condition to move ahead] is partnership to strengthen our ability to work together. Therefore the importance of strengthening alliances."

As a research fellow, the most useful sessions were
Quantifying Human Trafficking (for the purposes of finding out more about the state of today's available information) and Communities in Crisis (as this is an area I wish to work more with as a career). It was absolutely established at this Forum that we need more information and better research in order to obtain a clearer understanding of the size and scope of the problem and how best to combat it.

Possibilities for Future Action:
Intergovernmental cooperation is obviously key to combating this issue as the crime often, although not always, ignores borders. One problem Ukraine is facing is the slow process of coordination between its counter-trafficking units and their counterparts in some of the highest destination countries for Ukrainian victims. Although I missed the session on the Bali Process, the Vienna Forum provided communication and practice sharing on regional processes such as this one in order to help build a more organized structure for cooperation.

New developments or realizations, and criminal organizations reacting and adapting to governmental and law enforcement responses cause us to constantly have to rethink whether our current approach is the most effective one. However, good information is the key to making sure this happens. The US, as well as other countries, make funding available for people to contribute to improving knowledge of the issue by conducting research. Some
universities and major organizations fund research projects as well.

There were concrete steps that Mr. Costa stated would lead to real results, but that, again, will require multi-level cooperation:
  • Tracking and Blocking credit card payments for internet human trafficking transactions.
  • Technology to identify, monitor and disrupt human trafficking routes.
  • Codes of conduct to curb sex tourism.
  • Help lines to report suspected child prostitution or sex slavery.
  • Social services to stop street begging by exploited children.
  • Better supply chain management and corporate self-certification to keep slave-made products off the shelves.
  • Targeting human trafficking clusters - regions where this crime is especially acute.
Oksana Horbunova of the IOM Mission to Ukraine has worked with me for the last five months providing invaluable information for my research, and she also attended the Vienna Forum. During the conference, she wrote an article that was published in the Kyiv Post talking about why the Forum was important and what developments have happened in Ukraine over the last several years. One of her quotes makes a very important observation about why the Vienna Forum marks an important point in the development of the response to human trafficking:

"I can testify to the fact that 10 years ago it was difficult to petition the public, as well as certain individuals, to resolve the problem, but today the Vienna Forum demonstrated that on a global level, virtually everyone from every walk of life is ready to put forth effort in the fight against modern slavery."

With determination and serious organization, in ten more years, we will hopefully see the same rapid development of technology, cooperation, and information like we have since Ms. Horbunova began her work in this field and fewer people will be caught up in this vicious crime.


What do you think about the current state of anti-trafficking efforts in your country and around the world?

What programs have generated tangible results?

What innovative programs are being pursued?

What areas in the anti-trafficking effort are in need of improvement?

No comments:

Post a Comment