On May 4, 2011, STR Responsible Sourcing held a Multi-stakeholder Roundtable in New York to discuss the implementation of The California Transparency in Supply Chains Act. As one of the presenters at this Roundtable, Simone Monasebian, Chief of the New York Office of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), gave an overview of the UNODC's activities and shared her comments on human trafficking:
As an office dealing with drugs and crime, trafficking - as an international crime - is included in the scope of the UNODC. All UN agencies address human trafficking but the UNODC is the agency that coordinates the activities and takes a broader view on this issue. With a base in Vienna, the UNODC has about 40 field offices dealing with human trafficking.
As to the origins of human trafficking legislation and its definition, Simone Monasebian noted that the first international treaty defining trafficking entered into force in 2003. Prior to this UN Convention, there were legal instruments dating back to 1919 that dealt with various forms of slavery and trafficking, but there was not one over-arching definition of trafficking.
The definition according to the UN (the Convention does not prevent member states from taking a broader view of human trafficking) contains three elements:
- Movement (recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons)
- Means (threat, force, coercion, abduction, fraud, abuse of power or vulnerability, or giving payment of benefits to the person in control of the victim)
- Purpose (exploitation including at a minimum: prostitution, forced labor, slavery or similar practices, and the removal of organs).
The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime which includes the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, has been ratified by 145 of 192 UN member states. The protocol is reviewed every two years. It is important to note that this Convention focuses on transnational crime, therefore, according to the UN definition, domestic human trafficking is not included. However, the Convention stipulates that signatories should adopt domestic legislation with a broad definition of human trafficking which would include criminalization of trafficking that occurs not only across borders but within a country.
The UNODC bases its work on Prevention, Protection and Prosecution (3 Ps). A lot of work has been done in the area of prevention through raising awareness of the crime of trafficking, but very little activity has occurred in the area of prosecution. Simone Monasebian noted that a UNODC survey conducted in 2009 found that 80% of 155 countries surveyed had zero to one convictions in the past year. It is difficult to combat human trafficking because of the clandestine nature of the activity.
The UNODC has estimated that the retail trade value of human trafficking is $32 billion a year. Although not the most profitable form of trafficking – compared to drug and arms trafficking – human trafficking is uniquely profitable because you can exploit a person for a variety of needs over the course of his or her lifetime. Most victims are women and children. According to UNICEF, 1.2 million children are estimated to be victims of human trafficking every year. The UNODC estimates that 2.5 million people are being trafficked at any one time and only one out of 100 victims is rescued. The UN puts out a report on the state of human trafficking every two years. The next publication is due in 2012.
In closing her presentation, Simone Monasebian addressed the activities the UNODC is undertaking to increase awareness of human trafficking. In 2006, End Human Trafficking Now introduced the Athens Ethical Principles for the private sector. The UNODC along with dozens of companies is a member of this campaign.
Further, the UNODC has two Goodwill Ambassadors, Mira Sorvino and Nicholas Cage, who help raise awareness and raise money for anti-human trafficking efforts. In addition, the UNODC provides technical assistance to non governmental organizations, private sector groups, police and law enforcement in the form of training and sharing best practices. The UNODC can assist companies in finding suitable partners for their cause.
Lastly, the UNODC leads multiple campaigns against human trafficking:
- Blue Heart Campaign Against Human Trafficking is an awareness raising initiative
- UN Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT) was launched in 2007 by multiple international governmental organizations to create partnerships between government, academia, business and civil society
- UN Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons was adopted by the General Assembly in 2010 to
- Include a role for the media and the private sector in the fight against human trafficking
- Increase efforts on collecting data with regards to human trafficking, and
- Establish a trust fund for victims of human trafficking.
Special thanks to Simone Monasebian from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime for participating in our roundtable. Past roundtable contributions from Kay Buck and Rachelle Jackson are also available.