Archive for December, 2016

‘Migrants Mean Business’: The latest Blog

We have published the latest blog, ‘Migrants Mean Business’. It was first published in The Huffington Post and is re-published here on the occasion of the International Migrants Day.

In this piece, Magdy Martinez-Soliman, UN Assistant Secretary General, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director of Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, argues that human mobility is inevitable and unstoppable, but that, if facilitated and well-managed, it creates opportunities for everyone.

You can access the blog by visiting our forum or clicking on this link.

What do you think about the blog? And what are your thoughts on the opportunities and risks associated with migration?

We would be happy to hear from you! You can comment directly in response to our blog!…

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UN-ACT partners with Microsoft to prevent human trafficking from affecting youths

Limited opportunities for education, skill development and employment have contributed to the prevalence of cross-border human trafficking and left youths in the Greater Mekong Sub-region including Thailand vulnerable to forms of exploitation.

To address this important issue, Microsoft has initiated ‘Microsoft YouthSpark: Computer Science and ICT Education to Empower At-Risk Youths in Thailand’ in a joint effort with UN-ACT, the National Council for Child and Youth Development (NYCD), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and World Vision Foundation of Thailand.

The two-day program empowers disadvantaged youths in high-risk areas by enhancing their IT skills. Such IT skills help young people to access information, which in turn can help them to protect themselves, pursue a career path towards self-reliance or become involved with social initiatives. Participants also learn how to use technological tools to create sharable content that raises public awareness of the human trafficking problem. This helps participants to build an in-depth understanding of the issue in order to better protect themselves and their communities. Finally, the program encourages creativity, critical thinking and problem solving skills.

YouthSparks is particularly important as it innovatively uses technology classes to combat human trafficking. The sessions are effective in both informing young people about issues related to exploitation as well as developing concrete skills that will reduce the participants’ risks of falling victim to the crime in the future. This is the first time that human trafficking has been targeted in this way in the region, signaling an exciting new development in counter-human trafficking efforts.

The program also demonstrates how UN-ACT can engage with young people as well as the private sector – two of its key partners. Kaori Kawarabayashi, Regional Project Manager of UN-ACT, emphasises:

“Youths are especially vulnerable to human trafficking. UN-ACT is pleased to support the YouthSpark Project, which equips young people with essential computer skills that will enhance their professional opportunities and reduce their risk of exploitation.”

The program has yielded positive results so far. For example, one youth participant says that the sessions gave him “(…) an understanding of the human trafficking problem, which means we can protect ourselves better.” He also says that “[o]n top of the fun activities, we realized that we are actually better problem solvers than we thought we were, and this encouraged us to spread the word for others’ safety.”

Somsak Mukdavannakorn, Public Sector Director, Microsoft (Thailand) Limited, similarly explains:

“With various criminal groups operating in large networks, human trafficking is a highly alarming threat that is close at hand. (…) Our YouthSpark activities allow at-risk youths to access useful information while also putting to work their creativity, analytical thinking, and problem solving skills. Ultimately, we hope that these opportunities will allow them to discover the potential within themselves, which in turn will open up new career opportunities that enable them to contribute to society.”

After two successful sessions in February 2016, Microsoft has already run an additional 5 extended training classes in various at-risk locations across Thailand. The participants in each session have been active in developing brochures, posters, presentations, videos as well as interactive reports and stories that relate to combatting human trafficking.…

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Academic Conference with UN-ACT on Irregular Migration, Asylum and Human Trafficking

UN-ACT is partnering with the Social Science Division and the Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies at Mahidol University for an academic conference to be held in Bangkok in June 2017. The theme of the event is Irregular Migrants, Refugees or Victims of Human-Trafficking? Analysis, Advocacy and Assistance between Categorizations and (Self-)Identifications.

Migration, displacement and human trafficking have become staples of headline news. Reactions range – and sometimes change – from outrage over abuse and sympathy for individuals and groups seen as victims, to open hostility towards those perceived as alien intruders or threats to security, political, cultural and business interests.

Where international instruments of varying age and origin provide a set of at times overlapping categorizations, policy-makers and public discourse often look for clear classifications and impose mutually exclusive labels on groups and individuals, whose circumstances are complex, diverse and not always well understood. Such categorical overlaps, however, may be exploited at the expense of the individuals concerned. It is hardly surprising then that persons caught in this legal and conceptual web prove at times wary of the labels offered to or imposed upon them.

Further, aid agencies and organizations working in the areas of migration, displacement, and human trafficking cannot avoid the contest over categorizations and classifications either. Legal definitions help shape opportunities for and conditions of assistance while public perceptions associated with different terms impact on available funds. Donors of aid programs expect accountability, which requires clear classifications of those provided with assistance. But actual needs for assistance may cut across rigid differentiations between economic migrants, refugees or victims of human-trafficking.

Finally, in receiving communities these people may face hostility because they are seen as illegal migrants, economic refugees, or queue jumpers.

The response to migration, displacement, and human trafficking is thus in part contingent upon conceptual schemes and classifications and at the same time impacts upon them. It is this interdependence and the challenges resulting from it that are the focus of the workshop. We invite:

  • conceptual studies,
  • reports on empirical research,
  • and reflection papers by practitioners

in the areas of migration, displacement, human-trafficking and related forms of exploitation in the wider Southeast Asian region.

Papers may address, but are not limited to, the following questions:

  • How do individuals respond to labels such as migrant, refugee, victim of human trafficking or slave applied or available to them? What motivates these responses?
  • How and to what extent can individuals assert their own agency and express their own views of their circumstances in the face of categorizations and classifications by public discourse, state authorities, or aid agencies?
  • How are public perceptions shaped and articulated in relation to these labels?
  • How are government and non-government service providers impacted by such categories in their ability and willingness to extend services to different populations?
  • To what extent, and in what ways, are advocacy and assistance efforts shaped, enhanced or limited by categories in international and national law, or the labels – and changes therein – dominant in public discourse?
  • How do problems of, and contests over, classifications impact the compilation of data on migration, displacement, human trafficking and related forms of exploitation?
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UN-ACT-Mahidol University Research Partnership

UN-ACT is partnering with the Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies (IHRP) at Mahidol University and People Serving People Foundation (PSPF) for a research project exploring the nexus between asylum and labour exploitation.

In preparation, UN-ACT and PSPF organized a 2-day training for around 15 students from IHRP touching upon international legislation on human trafficking and asylum, its application to concrete case studies, indicators of exploitation and human trafficking in a research context, as well as ethical and security considerations for data collection in highly sensitive environments.

The training also included testing the draft research tool and practicing interviewing through role-plays.

The students are now well-equipped for the pilot stage of data collection, which is set to commence shortly. Their experiences as part of this project will be garnered and shared with peers, helping to increase awareness on human trafficking, asylum and the nexus between these among students and beyond.

The project is part of UN-ACT’s broader efforts to strengthen teaching and research on migration and exploitation at Universities across Southeast Asia. In a region that witnesses significant, and increasing, migratory patterns, it is key for societies to educate professionals and academics alike that are equipped to shape and respond to the opportunities and challenges that these create.

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