On 15 December 2020, during the ICAT Principals meeting more than 20 international organisations, including the CBSS, reinforced the vital role of inter-agency partnership and cooperation to tackle trafficking in human beings and endorsed the joint Plan of Action to combat this global crime. It was agreed that one of the most effective anti-trafficking strategies is international cooperation, including among international organisations and ICAT is increasingly at the core of this cooperation. It has proved to be an effective form to foster coherence within and beyond the United Nations system.
An analytical paper issued by the ICAT provides strategic vision for future work and identifies several priority areas agencies and anti-trafficking community should focus on. As foundational pillars to improve global anti-trafficking efforts, the ICAT recommends six priority areas:
- Building the evidence base
- Addressing the core drivers
- Ensuring a rights-based approach
- Implementing existing measures and holding traffickers accountable
- Discouraging demand
- Systematising cooperation and multi-stakeholder partnerships
The Council of the Baltic Sea States joined the ICAT in April 2020 and is the newest member of this group. The Director General of the CBSS, Grzegorz Poznanski, represented the CBSS in the Principals meeting and delivered a statement highlighting the work of the CBSS in combating human trafficking and how regional activities can contribute to the global efforts to fight this crime:
“The CBSS leads activities in our region in the areas of trafficking in human beings and protection of children against various crimes and abuses of their rights. The Task Force against Trafficking in Human Beings (TF THB) and the Expert Group on Children at Risk, both administered by the CBSS Secretariat, are macro-regional networks dealing with these forms of criminality, which pose the most shameful threat to human rights. Being a regional organisation in this global network and having a political level collaboration among the Members, we are uniquely placed to provide detailed regional specificity and practical implementation of tools and guidelines developed by the ICAT.”
UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly highlighted the importance of networks like ICAT in confronting complex issues like trafficking in persons, particularly in times of crisis:
“The global COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn have left many more children, women and men at risk of being trafficked. Coordinated responses are needed to stop traffickers from exploiting the vulnerable, and ICAT supports effective action by bringing together agencies with diverse mandates and expertise and offering a platform to exchange information and develop solutions.”
Half of the detected victims of trafficking are women, and one third are children. Despite variations across geographical areas, trafficking for sexual exploitation remains the most detected form of trafficking in persons worldwide.
ICAT 2019 – 2020 co-chair, Assistant Secretary-General & Deputy Executive Director on UN Women, Åsa Regner emphasised: “Traffickers assert sexual violence over their victims as a mean of coercion and control making gender-based violence a reality regardless of the form of exploitation.” Ms Regner highlighted not only the importance of prevention of human trafficking but also of changing mindsets about how women and girls are perceived in our societies. She invited to continue emphasising the importance of building multi-stakeholder engagements to address all the complexities of human trafficking and consider how intersecting forms of discrimination impact different groups and translate policy actions into transformative actions.
Valiant Richey, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Special Representative for Combating Human Trafficking remarked: “Human trafficking is a complex issue, it intersects with the mandate of all of our agencies. It reflects systemic, economic and gender inequalities; it gravely impacts security, traumatises victims, and violates their dignity.” He informed that over the past two years, the OSCE, the UN Women joint chairmanship, and the ICAT have worked on a wide range of issues and emerging challenges, such as technology changing human trafficking at a pace that defies the state’s anti-trafficking responses. The OSCE has put spotlight on this issue, identified the nature of this challenge and ways in which technology can help practitioners to combat human trafficking by providing new investigative instruments, untapped identification opportunities and offer remote support to its victims.
“ICAT has shown it can lead on important topics. Tackling the demand that fuels trafficking, in line with the Trafficking in Persons Protocol, is the next frontier in the fight against trafficking,” V. Richey added.