Post by: Phil Matsheza, Practice Leader ‘Democratic Governance’, UNDP Asia-Pacific Regional Centre & UNDP Manager for UN-ACT
I recently had the opportunity to join UN-ACT’s Cambodia Office for one of its activities in Siem Reap. They were co-hosting a training for frontline personnel from various organizations who are likely to come in contact with trafficked persons, sometimes unknowingly so.
I learned that the counter trafficking community in Cambodia uses several different forms and guidelines, developed by many different organizations, to help identify trafficked persons; and that, once someone is identified, a lack of knowledge about other organizations and their available services prevents the person from being referred to the best possible support to recover from their terrible experiences.
The training was about familiarizing participants with the draft versions of new, standardized forms and guidelines for the identification and referral of trafficked persons, to be piloted before their finalization and introduction.
I was given the opportunity to address the group, highlighted the importance of their work and encouraged them to strengthen their cooperation with each other. No single organization can adequately respond to even a single trafficking case alone, as the assistance needs of those affected are so individualized that multiple stakeholders with their special expertise need to be drawn upon.
In fact, the importance of cooperation forms the very basis of UN-ACT, which the Project’s name quite apparently emphasizes: United Nations Action for Cooperation against Trafficking in Persons.
After my meeting with the training participants, I was excited to be taken to a number of institutions providing direct support to trafficked persons. This is clearly a very challenging work, but so fundamentally important as well. I was interested to hear about the increasing numbers of trafficking cases for labour exploitation that they are confronted with, and that the legal and policy frameworks but also the available support services are slow to adjust to this development.
Then I had the opportunity to directly engage with people who experienced trafficking themselves. And I was deeply touched by their stories of severe exploitation, but even more impressed with their courage and commitment to fight for a brighter future.
It showed me yet again that it is fundamentally important for people to be given opportunities, both educational and professional, and for their rights to be upheld. On this foundation, trafficked persons, with their dreams and resolution, have the power to ensure a prosperous future for themselves and their families.