On Friday 23rd of June 2017, two representatives from the IBVM NGO the United Nations attended an informal interactive stakeholder hearing in New York, where speakers and in-room participates engaged in a dialogue centered on the practical steps which need to be taken to combat the issue of human trafficking.
It was both a moving and informative hearing, with a wide range of voices being heard and celebrated to ensure the formulation of the Plan of Action encapsulates the vast nature of this international issue.
Trafficking of persons is a gross human rights violation and a major barrier to sustainable development. This is why the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is paramount to this discussion. Targets 5.2, 8.7 and 16.2 specifically touch on the the gender inequality and social insecurity that needs to be addressed if we are to move towards prevention.
An eye opening address from Withelma “T” Oritz Walker Pettigrew, a victim of sex-trafficking, spoke openly about the importance of having those who have endured such trauma to be a part of the system that helps other survivors into the recovery stage. Moreover, she honed in on the need for a change in focus. From now on, a SURVIVER CENTRED APPROACH is essential. Using resources to educate, empower and take legal action for victims of human trafficking is a far more-long term solution, and should be universalised to help prevent such atrocities from happening in the first place.
A key quote from the conference was from Kay Buck, Executive Director of the Coalition Against Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), where she said “this generation of survivors will be our last”. CAST advocates for ground-breaking policies and legislation that goes against the unfair misidentification of victims as criminals. CAST takes a holistic approach to support thousands of survivors, providing counselling, legal resources, housing, education, leadership training and mentorship.
It was reiterated countless times that the heinous crime of human trafficking occurs as a result of numerous social factors and pre-existing vulnerabilities that need to be addressed. These include gender inequality, lack of education and poverty.
The solution to these problems are vast and multifaceted, with the targets of the SDGs doing much to outline the practical steps that need to be taken. Other strategies touched on in the hearing include:
– A world wide curriculum in every school about the risks of the trafficking industry
– A change in legislation to a survivor centred approach- ending the penalisation of victims
– Address the demand for cheap labour and commercialised sex- the business supply chain that exists today is fuelling this demand
– Allocation of SIGNIFICANT resources, not just the minimum funding
– Multidisciplinary approach to the prosecution of traffickers and the retraining of law enforcement.
– Frame the outreach to the wider public that their donations to this cause is a “life saving mechanism”.
– Empowerment of victims through therapy and legal action
– Plan a review mechanism for the global plan, to assess progress
– Having crisis management plans in place for potential natural disasters, as these types of events are directly linked to the increase in human trafficking incidences, due to the desperation it causes. In the wake of a natural catastrophe, an overwhelm at the situation leads law enforcement and authority figures to neglect those members who are at risk of trafficking. Prioritising vulnerable people to this industry in the wake of such disasters is a major preventative measure.