posted on Mon 20 Nov 2017 5:33 PM
Open Debate and Resolution on Human Trafficking

Tomorrow (21 November), the Security Council will hold an open debate on trafficking in persons in conflict situations, organised by Italy. Secretary-General António Guterres, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime Yuri Fedotov, and Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro will brief. The first-ever resolution on human trafficking, adopted unanimously on 20 December 2016, called on the Secretary-General to follow up, within twelve months, on strengthening UN coordination to prevent and counter trafficking in persons in armed conflict in all its forms (S/RES/2331). The Council will consider the Secretary-General’s first annual report on this issue (S/2017/939). Council members are expected to adopt a resolution during the debate.

A concept note circulated by Italy in preparation for the open debate describes how the dual nature of human trafficking as both a cause and consequence of conflict and instability has been widely recognised, including its increasingly worrisome link with terrorist groups’ activities and transnational organised crime. Trafficking in persons can be used for the purpose of various forms of exploitation, including sexual exploitation, forced labor, removal of organs, slavery, and similar practices. Trafficking is also used as a tactic of terror by certain terrorist groups, such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, and the Lord’s Resistance Army. Besides representing a serious violation of human rights, human trafficking has also become a critical source of financing for terrorist groups and transnational crime networks.

Italy would like the debate to address several questions, including how to better match the capacity to trace human trafficking networks and related financial flows with planning and implementation of countering strategies; and how to ensure coherence and consistency throughout the “peace continuum” in conflicts, humanitarian crises and post-conflict situations. Another issue that may be addressed is how to ensure enhanced and effective humanitarian, legal and financial aid to victims of trafficking by involving civil society, NGOs and the private sector—including in the countries of destination of victims of trafficking.

The draft resolution was put in blue this morning following four meetings to negotiate the draft text. Italy from the start made it clear that it wanted the focus of the draft resolution to be on the implementation of resolution 2231, which had provided a solid legal basis for the consideration of this issue. During the negotiations, some members, such as China and Russia—which have long-standing positions on the need to respect state sovereignty—had concerns, including in relation to the role of peacekeeping and political missions and defining trafficking in the context of conflict, but it seems that it was not difficult to find acceptable language.

The draft resolution incorporates a number of recommendations from the Secretary-General’s 2017 report on trafficking in persons in armed conflict, which highlighted the linkages between human trafficking and the financing of terrorist groups, as well as the lack of data collection and analysis necessary to disrupt financial and organised criminal networks. The Secretary-General stressed the importance of equipping peacekeeping missions with the skills to address situations of human trafficking in conflict and post-conflict zones, including through pre-deployment training materials and by integrating trafficking in persons into conflict prevention strategies, conflict analysis, integrated missions’ assessment and planning, peacebuilding support and humanitarian response. The draft resolution requests the Secretary-General, in consultation with member states, and where appropriate, to ensure that training of relevant personnel of political and peacekeeping missions include, “special information enabling them within their mandate, to identify, confirm, respond and report on situations of trafficking in persons”. The language on this was one of the more difficult areas to negotiate as there were differences over what sort of role peacekeeping and political missions should play regarding trafficking in persons.

The report also calls on member states to ratify or accede to the Trafficking in Persons Protocol and the Organized Crime Convention; to increase efforts to collect, analyse and share financial data; and to enhance their capacity to conduct proactive financial investigations and identify potential linkages with terrorism financing. While the draft resolution does not specifically mention the Convention, it does focus on the need for better collection of data, and encourages members to “collect, analyse and share data” on financial flows associated with human trafficking and how terrorism activities are being financed through human trafficking activities. It asks members to provide relevant information of these linkages to the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) and the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team.

Another area that the Secretary-General’s report focuses on is how children are the most vulnerable to becoming victims of trafficking in conflict situations. He highlighted that the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict has addressed the risk of trafficking of children in her most recent report to the Human Rights Council, and noted that the Secretary-General’s recent reports on children and armed conflict in Nigeria, the Philippines, Somalia and Sudan all addressed acts linked to human trafficking such as abductions. He suggested that the gravity of human trafficking in conflict situations affecting children warrants more attention to be paid to it. The draft resolution incorporates his suggestion that the Council consider requesting UNODC and the Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict to explore further how trafficking of children in conflict situations is linked to grave violations affecting them, with a view to addressing all violations and abuses faced by children.

The Secretary-General noted that over the last year the Council added specific references to trafficking in persons to two sanctions regimes: the 1267/1989/2253 Sanctions Committee concerning ISIL, Al Qaida and associated groups, and the 2374 Sanctions Committee on Mali. The Secretary-General called on the Council to include human trafficking criteria when adopting or renewing sanctions regimes in situations of armed conflict, and to ensure that monitoring groups, teams and panels of experts supporting the work of relevant sanctions committees work closely with anti-trafficking experts. Some members may echo the Secretary-General’s call in tomorrow’s debate.

The Secretary-General further acknowledged the risk that the supply and procurement chains of UN agencies may contribute to trafficking in armed conflict, calling upon all agencies in the UN system to strengthen their due diligence review and to report any suppliers engaged in human trafficking to the Global Marketplace to prevent them from being used by other organisations within the UN system. Some members may ask the Secretary-General to pay further attention to this issue in his next report.