World Day against Trafficking in Persons 2021: ICAT calls for inclusion of voices and perspectives of victims and survivors in counter-trafficking interventions
On the occasion of the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, the lead United Nations mechanism coordinating anti-trafficking responses has paid tribute to the victims and survivors of human trafficking, voicing the importance of integrating their perspectives in all anti-trafficking responses.
“Victims and survivors are key actors in the fight against trafficking in persons and lead the way by sharing their experiences and knowledge about this crime and its consequences,” the 30-member Inter-Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons (ICAT) said in its joint Call to Action released as part of this year’s commemorations on 30 July 2021, held under the theme ‘Victims’ Voices Lead the Way’.
Reflecting the united voice of all ICAT members, the Call honours the resilience and courage of victims and survivors and reiterates the need for States and all relevant stakeholders to include their voices in all anti-trafficking interventions, while respecting their rights and the trauma experienced.
The Joint Call was part of a string of communication tools and activities that ICAT lined up for this year’s commemorations.
In this regard, in close cooperation with the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE-ODIHR) and Apne Aap Women Worldwide, ICAT organized an online event on “Ensuring Inclusion of Victims and Survivors' Voices in All Anti-Trafficking Efforts, including in the National Referral Mechanism”.
The event, held on 30 July and attended by over 400 participants across the world, gave five brave survivors of human trafficking and members of the International Survivors of Trafficking Advisory Council (ISTAC)—an initiative launched by the OSCE-ODIHR on 25 January this year—the platform to share their experiences and advocate for their voices to be heard to raise awareness and advise stakeholders working to counter this crime.
The five —Shandra Woworuntu, Jerome Elam, Daniela De Luca, Kendall Alaimo, and Timea Nagy—all recounted their experiences and called for anti-trafficking interventions to learn from their experiences for an effective response to the crime.
“Member States and the world must listen to survivors [and] include them from the beginning of the work until the end,” said Shandra Woworuntu, a survivor of sex trafficking who further stressed the urgency to respect human dignity and to work together to ensure the protection of victims and survivors of human trafficking. In this regard, Ms. Woworuntu emphasised that survivors have a key role to play in the development of protection measures for victims of trafficking.
Another survivor of trafficking, Jerome Elam, also called upon “governments and organisations in this world to amplify the voices of victims and survivors and create a world where every child knows the meaning of unconditional love”.
Mr. Elam drew attention to the situation of male victims of trafficking, who tend to be overlooked and suffer from serious, wide-ranging consequences, and stressed the positive impact of training and awareness raising on the experiences of male victims of trafficking.
Daniela De Luca, who was trafficked for sexual exploitation, underlined that victims are often denied their rights, preventing them from taking their lives into their own hands, and called for the empowerment of victims and survivors to regain their autonomy and reintegrate into society, through an integral system of protection and support.
A gender-sensitive approach that recognizes the vulnerabilities of women and girls is thus crucial to address this crime, Ms. De Luca said.
Kendall Alaimo, an artist who has used her experiences in exploitation to inform her anti-trafficking activism, also shared her own struggle to find her way back to autonomy. “How do we get survivors out of the canyons into freedom?” she asked referring to the void that survivors might fall into after the end of their assistance and care.
Ms. Alaimo also expressed the need to create pathways to education, careers and financial independence for survivors of trafficking. In this regard, she is fronting a project to foster academic partnerships and create a “University Alliance on Human Trafficking”, which is shipping red chairs to universities across the globe to raise awareness on the need for the academic sector to join the fight against human trafficking.
“We must educate to liberate,” Ms. Alaimo added. Her inspiring story has also been documented by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and is available online here.
Canadian activist and survivor of trafficking, Timea Nagy, presented the “Project Protect” launched in Canada in 2016 to engage private and public financial institutions in detecting, tracking and reporting suspicious financial transactions linked to human trafficking to Canada’s financial intelligence unit (FIU), the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC).
Project Protect’s work has contributed to an increase in bank reporting on suspicious transactions, and the importance of partnerships with public and private entities in the fight against human trafficking.
“After two years of training and advocacy, the number of reports on suspicious transactions […], increased from 218 to more than 4000,” Ms. Nagy said.
The event also provided an opportunity for OSCE-ODIHR to offer a preview of the upcoming updated handbook on National Referral Mechanisms (NRMs), which was developed in cooperation with its International NRM Advisory Panel of multi-agency anti-trafficking experts, including trafficking survivors.
The updated NRM Handbook, as explained by Tatiana Kotlyarenko, Adviser on Anti-Trafficking Issues at OSCE-ODIHR, will provide a guidance model integrating multi-dimensional approaches on working methods, procedures and services that are required in order to fulfil the objectives of NRMs, which States can adapt and apply within their own national systems.
Finally, the event featured the launch of the “Feminist Museum of Grassroots Action” by the Indian NGO Apne Aap Women Worldwide. The virtual museum displays, among others, the work done by civil society actors to mitigate the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the most vulnerable in our societies, including victims of trafficking.
The 2021 commemorations of the World Day against Trafficking in Persons are part of ICAT’s efforts to strengthening partnerships with victims and survivors’ networks. Further to this, ICAT will in 2022 develop joint guidance on the inclusion of victims and survivors’ perspectives in counter-trafficking responses.
The World Day against Trafficking in Persons is commemorated on 30 July every year when the international community draws attention to this crime, its many facets and the need to step up efforts to eradicate it. The day was designated by the General Assembly in December 2013 through resolution 68/192 to raise “awareness of the situation of victims of human trafficking and for the promotion and protection of their rights”.
ICAT has also contributed a joint submission towards the third appraisal of the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, calling for the active participation of victims and survivors of trafficking in all anti-trafficking interventions.
ICAT was established in 2007, pursuant to UN General Assembly resolution 61/180, as a policy forum to enhance cooperation and coordination among UN agencies and other relevant international organizations to facilitate a holistic and comprehensive approach to the scourge of trafficking in persons. Its members include 30 UN entities and other international and regional organizations.
UNODC and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are the current co-Chairs of ICAT for 2021.
UNODC also serves as the Coordination Group’s Permanent Coordinator and Secretariat.
ICAT has published extensively on trafficking in persons. Its wealth of information can be accessed on the website here.
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