UN-ACT Webinar on the Complexities of Mixed Migration in Counter-Trafficking

UN-ACT recently delivered a webinar on ‘Irregular Migrants, Refugees or Victims of Human Trafficking? The Complexities of Mixed Migration in Counter-Trafficking’ on Freedom Collaborative (FC).

The full webinar including the slides used are now available on the FC website and can be accessed here: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/record…/1323030627957045515.

If you are interested in the topics discussed, look out for the UN-ACT-Mahidol University conference on these issuex in June 2017 and consider submitting your papers! See more here: https://sites.google.com/a/mahidol.edu/trafficking-seminar/.

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New in ‘Tools & Guidelines’: COMMIT Indicators of Human Trafficking & Guidelines on Victim Identification and Referral Mechanisms

Two new publications of the COMMIT Process are now available for download.

The ‘Common Indicators of Trafficking and Associated Forms of Exploitation‘ are designed to support the initial screening of possible cases of human trafficking, which more robust victim identification procedures then build upon. The results of such initial screenings will depend on a number of the indicators being apparent, and also their severity in a possible given case.

The indicators were developed jointly by the ASEAN and COMMIT Member States, with support from ILO, IOM, AAPTIP and UN-ACT, and adopted by COMMIT at its Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) in 2016.

At the same SOM, COMMIT Member States also adopted the ‘Common Guidelines on Victim Identification and Referral Mechanisms‘. Developed at the sub-regional level by government and non-government stakeholders, these guidelines provide direction for policy and programming in COMMIT countries, and draw upon the Process’ experiences as well as international agreements and good practices.

The two documents are complementary in nature, and will be operationalised and localised in 2017, with support from UN-ACT and partners.

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UN-ACT Quarter 4 2016 Newsletter

Click on UN-ACT Quarter 4 2016 Newsletter for all the latest information on human trafficking in the Greater Mekong Sub-region. For an email-based version of the newsletter that is easier to manage and comes with an improved layout, please subscribe to our mailing list at the bottom of the website.…

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‘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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COMMIT SOM 11 in Vientiane, Lao PDR Concluded

The latest Regional COMMIT Task Force (TF) and Senior Officials Meeting (SOM 11) took place in Vientiane, Lao PDR on 23 and 24 November 2016.

The meeting brought together the leadership of the national TFs from each of the 6 COMMIT members (Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam), UN-ACT as the COMMIT Secretariat, other UN agencies and international organizations such as ASEAN, the diplomatic community and donor agencies including Norway and Sweden as UN-ACT’s key contributors, civil society stakeholders and the COMMIT Youth Forum as well as private sector actors.

On the agenda were COMMIT sustainability and capacity development; victim identification and referral mechanisms; engagement with youth, civil society, ASEAN and the private sector; monitoring and reporting progress of SPAIV implementation; and 2017 work planning.

Key outcomes included the adoption of the common ASEAN-COMMIT indicators of human trafficking and related forms of exploitation as well as the COMMIT Guidelines on Victim Identification and Referral Mechanisms. Both are designed to help significantly improve victim identification in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) and ensure that those identified receive adequate support services. The next step will be to localize and operationalize the indicators and guidelines in national contexts.

In another major decision, the COMMIT governments unanimously agreed to make strengthening labour migration systems in the GMS a priority for interventions in 2017, thereby recognizing the fundamental connectedness between human trafficking and labour migration, especially in Southeast Asia.

The government delegates also decided to introduce an annually rotating COMMIT Chair, to be performed by the country hosting the SOM and working alongside UN-ACT to represent COMMIT externally whilst giving guidance and direction internally. This will help strengthen governmental ownership over COMMIT in the interest of the Process’ long-term sustainability.

With the end of 2016 approaching, those involved in the COMMIT Process will now proceed with work planning for 2017, based on the decision points reached at the Vientiane meeting. UN-ACT is looking forward to supporting the Process in implementing the various important agreements reached.

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Regional Network Meeting

Non-governmental, United Nations and academic stakeholders from across Southeast and East Asia came together for an action-packed day focused around counter-trafficking in Bangkok on 30 September.

The program kicked off with a half-day workshop on applying a Communication for Development (C4D) approach to human trafficking prevention interventions, facilitated by our partners from IOM X.

In the afternoon, IOM X and UN-ACT co-chaired the quarterly Regional Network Meeting, this time with a thematic focus on ‘Shifting attitudes as part of a comprehensive behaviour change approach to counter-trafficking’. The panel discussion saw initial presentations from the ILO, Love Frankie and Rapid Asia, and highlighted the importance of time, inclusivity and a culturally adopted approach in bringing about changes to behaviour.

A session on programming updates allowed partners to present to each other their last quarter of implementation as well as plans going forward, with a particular focus on identifying synergies and opportunities for collaborations between those present.

Finally, discussions on ‘latest trends and developments in human trafficking’ raised advocacy efforts, or the lack thereof, for the ratification of the ASEAN Convention Against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children as well as support for the preparations towards implementation. The group also discussed the nexus between sex work and human trafficking, with a special focus on the notion of ‘consent’ and the complexities around that.

The day ended at the launch of the latest issue of the After Trafficking Review on ‘Trafficking Representations’ at the FCCT in Bangkok. The GAATW-supported publication scrutinizes the often simplistic solutions to a complex phenomenon, as presented by the media, policymakers and humanitarian debates, without challenging the structural and causal factors of inequality underpinning human trafficking.

Around 40 participants from a variety of different organizations attended the Regional Network Meeting – some from Cambodia, Myanmar, Hong Kong, or even the United States – suggesting a growing interest in the forum that seeks to ensure a more coordinated and collaborative response to human trafficking across the region.

If you are working on human trafficking-related issues from a regional perspective in Southeast/East Asia and you would like to attend the Regional Network Meeting, don’t hesitate to drop us a note at unact@undp.org.

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COMMIT Workshop on Victim Identification and Referral Mechanisms

Governmental and non-governmental stakeholders from all 6 COMMIT member states, i.e. Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam, have come together in Bangkok, Thailand for a 2-day workshop titled COMMIT Victim Identification and Referral Mechanisms: Developing Common Guidelines on 25 and 26 October.

The accurate and timely identification of victims of trafficking and the provision of needed support services are vital to counter-trafficking efforts. The COMMIT Governments have identified this as a key issue, and improving victim identification and protection services through referral mechanisms as a key objective to their multilateral and bilateral collaboration.

These frameworks have impacts across counter-trafficking efforts including: the ability of victims to be recognized and provided with effective support; the interest of victims in being formally identified; the possibility for law enforcement to gain evidence against traffickers; the ability to gather data on vulnerabilities to trafficking in persons; and to accurately understand the prevalence and forms of trafficking in persons.

Under the COMMIT Sub-regional Plan of Action IV (SPA IV: 2015-18), the Governments have agreed to the following outcomes and outputs in the area of victim protection:

Outcome 4.1: Victims of Trafficking are Identified

  • Output 4.1.1: Standardised regional identification procedures, based on commonly agreed indicators of potential trafficking cases, agreed, implemented and reviewed

Outcome 4.2: Victims of trafficking in persons receive appropriate protection and rights-based assistance

  • Output 4.2.1 : National referral mechanisms to support victims of trafficking operationalized
  • Output 4.2.2: Victims of Trafficking receive protection and assistance both in country of destination and in their country of origin

At the regional COMMIT Taskforce meeting in February 2016, the 6 Governments agreed that victim identification frameworks and referral mechanisms were a priority for the COMMIT Process.

This follows the agreement of joint victim identification indicators at an ASEAN-COMMIT workshop in Malaysia in December 2015, the first formal initiative between ASEAN and COMMIT. The victim identification indicators are the first step in helping first responders to trafficking in persons identify more possible victims of trafficking who may then be referred to the relevant authority for initial assistance and ultimately formal identification purposes.

As a result of these developments, the Lao Government has proposed that the COMMIT Senior Officials Meeting 11 (SOM11) to be hosted in Lao PDR on 24 November 2016 focus on victim identification and referral mechanisms. Preparation for this will draw together the COMMIT governments’ experiences and commitments on this issue, and engage in consultations to develop agreed guidelines for COMMIT countries.

Recognising that policy developments and guidelines require commitment to implement, it is also intended that implementation indicators are developed to review progress against the objectives set.

The goal of the 2-day workshop is hence to develop such common COMMIT guidelines and indicators on victim identification and referral mechanisms for implementation under the COMMIT SPAIV, to be endorsed by the SOM11 in Lao PDR in November 2016.

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