Guest article by Paulina Bolton, advisor on prostitution and human trafficking at the Swedish Gender Equality Agency (Jämställdhetsmyndigheten).
The work against trafficking in human beings can be challenging for many reasons. The phenomenon is nothing short of complex as it encompasses several different forms of exploitation, most of them hidden from plain view – and yet happening before our eyes.
Prevention of trafficking in human beings in a sustainable way, protection of victims and prosecutions of the perpetrators, require coordination, cooperation and competence from the stakeholders. What is also needed are partners – cooperation that exceeds the ordinary exchange of information to produce a deeper understanding of the phenomenon. Partners who are accountable, that have great competence and, most important of all, deliver.
Since its foundation in 2018, the Swedish Gender Equality Agency has regularly cooperated with the TF-THB, initiating two joint projects: Competence building, Assistance provision and Prosecution of labour exploitation cases in the Baltic Sea Region (CAPE) and Strengthening competence, assistance and prosecution of Forced Labour in Sweden II (CAPE II). Under the lead of the TF-THB secretariat, these ongoing projects have already been delivered.
Within the framework of CAPE, Swedish stakeholders have been able to engage in interesting and well-organised study trips to Germany and Finland to learn from their efforts to tackle labour exploitation.
The reports and webinar produced during the project, in particular the overview report on Human Trafficking and Exploitation in the Swedish Labour Market, have increased the awareness of Swedish stakeholders on labour exploitation.
The CBSS and its TF-THB have also shown their ability to deliver – and very remarkably at that – with one of the concrete outputs of CAPE II, namely the “Before You Go” awareness-raising campaign on labour exploitation aimed at displaced people from Ukraine, Bulgaria, Poland and Romania.
But the TF-THB is much more than a project partner. It is an institution. The ability of the TF-THB to work on a practical level and uphold the TF-THB expert group for the states in the Baltic Sea Region to exchange information, experiences and best practices on the prevention of trafficking in human beings has been highly valuable for us and to the entire region.
The competence of the TF-THB comes from its dual role: being able to see the big picture in the region while, at the same time, being rooted in the everyday practices of the stakeholders in the CBSS member states, and beyond. It is a competence that would be hard to replace, as the TF-THB has shown many times that it has both the vision and flexibility to carry out the tasks and responses needed for tackling human trafficking.
Some say that good friends are hard to find. Luckily for the Swedish Gender Equality Agency, with the CBSS and the TF-THB, we have found a friend worth keeping, and we are looking forward to maintaining this partnership for a long time to come.