The Nexus between Conflict and Human Trafficking

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    Post by: Nyasha Bunjira, intern at UN-ACT’s Regional Management Office. You can contact her at  

    The twenty-first century has witnessed high levels of violence and conflict around the world: from the September 11th terror attacks to the war in Afghanistan, Iraq and Mali, to the insurgencies in Egypt, Thailand, and Myanmar. The nature of these conflicts varies and may include political, economic, religious or ethnic dimensions, which often relate to the satisfaction of basic human needs, such as security, community recognition and distributive justice.

    Zones of conflict tend to be characterized by a lack of basic human security. People are left physically unprotected and have no legal protections or remedies because of the absence of law enforcement and the dysfunction of legal systems. Livelihoods are disrupted, poverty increases, individuals are displaced from networks of family and community, and social systems break down. Conditions of this kind increase vulnerabilities to exploitation and human trafficking, especially for marginalized groups because it aggravates conditions of existent deprivations and exclusion.

    In the Greater Mekong Sub-region, for example, thousands of people displaced due to conflict in Myanmar lack access to food, clean water, health care, education and livelihoods. Their security is threatened by ongoing fighting, including where conflict parties reportedly target civilians directly or forcibly recruit for military purposes. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), there are up to 642,600 internally displaced people (IDPs) in Myanmar that fled their homes due to armed conflict and inter-communal violence, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation and human trafficking.

    Whilst human trafficking during and after conflict is based on similar factors and conditions that characterize trafficking in persons more generally, armed conflicts cause an amplification of these factors and conditions. In Myanmar, a report by the Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand (KWAT) has stipulated how renewed armed conflict in Myanmar has increased the risk of human trafficking. Large-scale displacement, lack of refugee protection and shortages of humanitarian aid are significant push factors fuelling the trafficking in person’s problem.

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