22 February 2019

Geneva International Center for Justice (GICJ) participated at today’s CEDAW discussion on trafficking of women and girls in the context of global migration by delivering an oral statement and submitting a joint report with Advocating Opportunities.

Joint Report

The joint report focused on the following three aspects of trafficking using the cases of three countries, which offer insights that are broadly applicable and could help other states in satisfying the obligation to suppress all forms of trafficking of women and girls:

•    Prevention through education and coordination
•    Legal processes and status of victims
•    Armed conflict and U.N Missions

The joint report concluded with these recommendations:

•    Trafficking prevention must begin with proper research into the local conditions.
•    Prevention should include education and an appropriate message for both the potential victims, families and communities.
•    States must establish sharing mechanisms and cooperation protocols that are grounded in international humanitarian law.
•    States must have clear procedures for migrants seeking international protection.
•    The U.N. should ensure that its ongoing missions provide meaningful assistance to the host states to prevent human trafficking.
•    States having a substantial U.N. presence should proactively make use of U.N. resources to help satisfy their international obligations.

Oral Statement

Ms. Giorgia Airoldi, Human Rights Researcher at GICJ, delivered an oral statement during the meeting stressing that human trafficking is one of the main and most insidious forms of contemporary slavery. She briefly presented the main points in the report, pointing out that trafficking prevention must begin with proper research into the local conditions and requires integrated strategies and include information collection and sharing mechanisms.


Key Words: Human Rights, Human Trafficking, Iraq, CEDAW

Country / Region: Nepal, Tunisia, Iraq

GICJ Contributes to International Discussion on Human Trafficking

What is CEDAW?

CEDAW is a committee formed by the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women that meets three times each year to review regular reports submitted by States Parties to the Convention. The State Party reports present actions the State has taken to implement its obligations under the Convention and describes any obstacles it has faced. CEDAW also develops General Recommendations, which are interpretations of the Convention to help States Parties better understand and satisfy their obligations. CEDAW's process provides an opportunity for civil society to submit information about State Party reports and proposed General Recommendations through formal written submissions, oral statements, and informal meetings with CEDAW members.

Today (22nd February 2019), the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (Committee or CEDAW) conducted a general discussion on trafficking of women and girls in the context of global migration. CEDAW is currently in the middle of its 72nd session, which runs from 18 February to 8 March 2019. Geneva International Center for Justice (GICJ) engaged with the Committee during the general discussion by submitting a report in which GICJ, jointly with Advocating Opportunities, briefly presented examples in three countries focused on the issues of prevention, legal status of victims, and states facing or recovering from armed conflict. The main points and examples from the report are summarized below, along with the recommendations made to the Committee.

Summary of Joint Report

The world is experiencing massive global migration and a major problem of human trafficking. Based on historical data, human trafficking has disproportionately impacted women and girls. Women and girls in some contexts are in especially vulnerable positions due to several factors. GICJ believes that a gender-based approach to human trafficking should be specially considered when looking for actions to implement in order to combat the issue.

Human trafficking is one of the main and most insidious forms of contemporary slavery. Unfortunately, it is extremely challenging to address because it usually results from a complex interaction of different factors. Therefore, states must develop integrated and multidisciplinary approaches to address the problem using many different tools, including cooperation between the government and civil society organizations as well as intergovernmental cooperation.

Although our report focuses on the examples of specific states, we offer insights that are broadly applicable and could help other states in satisfying the obligation to suppress all forms of trafficking of women and girls.

•    Prevention through education and coordination

We believe that global action against the crime of human trafficking must begin with prevention. Prevention attacks the crime at its roots and requires studying the wide range of factors that are at the origin of human trafficking, for example, the conditions leading to migration that gives rise to human trafficking.

However, any prevention strategies must include the following to be effective: research and study of the local conditions, information collection and sharing mechanisms to better understand the phenomenon (for example, a centralized database), and cooperation protocols between entities. Without these, there will not be proper understanding of the problem within the local context or an ability to coordinate prevention efforts among the various authorities and civil society organizations involved.

Studies of the local conditions usually reveal that human trafficking deals with different factors. Often, these studies reveal that economic factors are one of most determinant ones, but there are others, such as the social context, that require a deep reflection on communities’ beliefs and traditions. Moreover, in the process of becoming a victim of human trafficking, different factors, including families could be involved.

If we look at one of the common cases of human trafficking in Nepal, we see that false expectations and beliefs about the outside world, which are exacerbated by isolation of some communities in remote areas, are sometimes determinant in creating proper conditions for human traffickers. For instance, in 2018 human traffickers have increasingly enticed young Nepalese women into going to Lebanon by playing on their desire to emigrate to the United States, Traffickers tell the women it will be easier to reach the U.S. from Lebanon, but once the women reach Lebanon the traffickers introduce them into the local sex industry.

Moreover, GICJ believes that it is important to establish information about the conditions of the victims of human traffickers, as these conditions can increase the risk of being subjected to this type of crime. Education focused on potential victims must address all age categories and include elements such as human rights education, skill development, and techniques to reduce isolation of families in remote communities. Education must also include appropriate training for educators and other school personnel. Finally, raising awareness through community-based projects is critical to ensure the general population, especially parents, understand the local nature of human trafficking and are able to recognize and respond to instances of trafficking.  

However, an education strategy must be supported by information sharing and cooperation protocols to be effective. Although trafficking is a dynamic phenomenon, it is essential to create flexible prevention mechanisms that can adapt to different situations. Each country has its own needs and context, but we believe that what was mentioned above should be the minimum prevention efforts of every country.

•    Legal processes and status of the victims

Tunisia is an example of how the existence of legal processes, or lack thereof, as well as the status of the victims can have a big impact on their risk of being trafficked.

Tunisia has become a country with big flows of migrants coming from Libya and Syria after the outbreak of conflict in those countries. As a result, Tunisia not only faces trafficking of its own citizens but also large flows of foreigners being trafficked through the country.

The main forms of human trafficking that affect women in Tunisia are domestic servitude and sexual exploitation. Some migrants are already victims of trafficking when they enter the country, some become victims of trafficking networks when they are already established in the country’s territory. Among them, several may qualify as refugees. Therefore, it is particularly important to develop a solid legal framework to regulate migration and process claims for asylum in order to guarantee the access to fundamental rights and fundamental living conditions for migrants. Without this, along with institutions providing support to refugees, these migrants become more vulnerable to human trafficking practices. Unfortunately, although Tunisia’s constitution recognizes the right of people to seek asylum, and the country is a party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, there is no law or administrative procedure to apply for asylum, which makes it very difficult for migrants to seek international protection.

Therefore, it is extremely important that migration policies and national immigration law, including concrete procedures and material conditions of hosting migrants, should be prioritized when it comes to fight human trafficking. In addition, governments should carefully identify at-risk groups among migrants and avoid placing them in “legal limbo” where they are easy prey for traffickers.

•    Armed conflict and U.N Missions

The risk of trafficking due to migration is exacerbated in societies experiencing armed conflict. On this point, we believe that the example of Iraq is informative of how states can better benefit from a UN presence to suppress trafficking of women and girls.

Armed conflict creates a broad context of violence and instability that drives people to migrate in large numbers, including both international and internal migration. In addition, even those not directly affected by violence are often impacted by a collapse in the economic and social structures, resulting in economic migration as well. Where political upheaval has accompanied the conflict, rule of law may be difficult to re-establish.

This is the situation facing Iraq ever since the 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation. The military authorities dismantled Iraqi institutions leaving a power vacuum that was filled by many competing political and military factions. Almost immediately, incidents of violence against women, including trafficking, skyrocketed. Since the conflict with ISIS, the number of internally displaced persons has also grown to staggering levels putting hundreds of thousands more women at higher risk of becoming victims of trafficking.

One might expect the presence of a dedicated UN office to have a stabilizing influence. Unfortunately, this has not been the case in Iraq with the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), a problem that appears to result from the behavior or limitations of both parties. When it comes to human trafficking, UNAMI has repeatedly identified it as an issue in its human rights reports since 2006. But apart from pointing out the situation, UNAMI did not report the extent, characteristics, or severity of the human trafficking problem. In addition, due to a lack of clear political will, the Iraqi government has failed to fully utilize the opportunity presented by the UN presence.

Based on Iraq’s situation, we therefore suggest that states having a substantial UN presence should proactively make use of UN resources to help satisfy their international obligations, while the UN should ensure that its assistance is flexible and substantive enough to be useful to its host country.

GICJ Observations and recommendations

The situations in the countries mentioned above offer insight on addressing different aspects of the problem of human trafficking: prevention, legal status, and post-conflict societies. Our observations and suggestions based on these examples are summarized below. As previously mentioned, trafficking is a multi-faceted issue resulting from the interaction of many factors. Based on a state’s obligations under the Convention to “take all appropriate measures” to suppress trafficking, our suggestions would inform only one subset of a state’s complete strategy to combat human trafficking.

We recommend the following:

•    Trafficking prevention strategies must begin with proper research into the local conditions.

•    Prevention strategies must include education and messaging appropriate for both the potential victims and their families and communities.

•    States must establish information collection and sharing mechanisms and cooperation protocols among government entities and with civil society organizations, that are grounded in international human rights and humanitarian law.

•    States must have clear procedures for migrants seeking international protection, followed by resources to support them during the application process.

•    States should review laws and administrative practices to eliminate discriminatory bias that adds barriers for trafficking victims who are women or racial minorities.

•    The U.N. should ensure that its ongoing missions provide meaningful assistance to the host states to prevent human trafficking.

•    States having a substantial U.N. presence should proactively make use of U.N. resources to help satisfy their international obligations, especially if resources can be used to address root concerns such as economic assistance and local security issues.

Read online or download the full report.

Justice, Human rights, Geneva, geneva4justice, GICJ, Geneva International Centre For Justice

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