The Politics of Anti-Trafficking

18 fevereiro 2021
Políticas inovadoras

Maria Peiró Mir  | Head of Policy and Partnerships, Global Partners Governance

Global Partners Governance’s (GPG) work is centred around strengthening representative politics. We collaborate with politicians, ministers and civil servants in order to support the quality of representation and enhance political will, which is essential to effect change—especially in the fight against human trafficking.

Our political access gives us the scope to make a direct contribution to the realization of human rights legislation and implementation. We have worked specifically on the SDG Target 8.7 by supporting work on policies to combat modern slavery/human trafficking, evaluating legislation through a human rights lens, as well as by supporting adaptation of international treaties and human rights commitments into domestic legislation. In this article, we will discuss our recent work in Honduras and Sudan to advance the anti-trafficking agenda using a process of post-legislative scrutiny (PLS)[1], which our work has identified as an effective tool to generate political will for implementation of anti-trafficking legislation.

Human Trafficking Legislation in Honduras

In Honduras, GPG worked on a project focused on strengthening effective implementation and congressional oversight of human trafficking legislation, the goal of which was to improve the implementation of the 2012 Law Against Human Trafficking through a process of post-legislative scrutiny in the Honduran Congress.

Honduras has long battled human trafficking within and across its borders. In the last few years, the country has become a source and a transit country for victims of sex trafficking and forced labour. Honduran women and children are exploited both within the country and in neighbouring states, particularly Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Belize and the United States. The LGTBQI community, indigenous children and those of African-descent are particularly vulnerable groups to exploitation. There has been an increase in trafficking in rural areas in recent years as gang violence spreads from urban centres. In 2012, after years of deliberation, the Honduran Congress passed the Law Against Human Trafficking. This piece of legislation was a great achievement, but implementation remained a challenge due to insufficient funds and lack of political will.

Together with the Honduran Congress, GPG worked to introduce the concept of PLS and guide an extensive inquiry process. In so doing, we worked closely with the Interinstitutional Committee against Sexual Exploitation in Children (CICESCT), an interagency commission with a mandate for monitoring the implementation of the human trafficking legislation. We dedicated a lot of time and resources to building the relationships with the Congressional Committees and CICESCT. Work with the Congress was at the heart of this project because it is Congress’s job to ensure that laws are fully implemented and properly funded by government, and that the law is achieving its intended results. In addition, post-legislative scrutiny can help capture the successes of government laws and point out where practices should be repeated and sustained. This offers parliamentarians the chance to shape and improve the quality of services to the public.

One of the ways in which PLS can be successful is when it is applied to issues that can generate bipartisan support. In the case of human trafficking, there is no overt open campaign “in support of” human trafficking. Therefore, the issue can be used as a unifying topic to hold government accountable without undermining any of the legislative and executive powers’ efforts to date, effectively generating momentum and yes, political will. The project in Honduras brought together Congress and civil society to identify challenges and devise sustainable solutions, as well as to foster a more productive working relationship. Both parties understood the relevance of the work and the need to garner support for a constructive review of the legislation.

Sudan in Transition

Though the situation in Sudan is naturally very different, we tried to reproduce the lessons learned from Honduras in the latest GPG project there. From the outset in Sudan, GPG has sought to adapt to the context and partner with relevant stakeholders on the ground. As illustrated by the best principles of “adaptive programming”, plans do often change in projects such as this, and organizations have to be able to absorb those changes, without diminishing the purpose or relevance of the project.

Sudan has undergone a revolution which deposed former president Omar al-Bashir in 2019, after more than 30 years of dictatorship. GPG has worked in the country since 2016— in a consistently challenging environment—and we felt honoured and excited to see what could become possible in the “New Sudan” led by emerging political figures from the revolutionary movement. Our current project in Sudan aims to support the country’s efforts to tackle human trafficking, particularly by collaborating with the National Committee to Counter Trafficking (NCCT) within the Ministry of Justice, and eventually, support what will become the interim Parliament, the Transitional Legislative Council (TLC).

This project has focused on the role of the NCCT, which is the highest institution in the country in charge of the response to trafficking in Sudan. Sudan is a host, transit and source country for trafficking. Data scarcity creates a big challenge to understanding the actual scale of modern slavery and human trafficking in the country, with the latest figures showing that at least 421 people were identified as victims of trafficking in 2018[2]. GPG is working closely with the NCCT to support them in their strategy, reporting, coordination and delivery of their anti-trafficking aims. The Sudanese Transitional Government is facing immense pressure to deliver a successful transition and to meet the promises made during the revolution, whilst trying to form a truly representative TLC and respond to the economic crisis and the pandemic. Alongside this, the government has been pushing to review human rights legislation as a key demand from the revolutionary period and also to bring Sudan in line with international human rights standards. This has opened a window of opportunity for the NCCT to start reviewing the 2014 Combatting Human Trafficking Act and build on this momentum.

What lies ahead?

The assumption that underpins both projects is that governments and parliaments can push legislation forward, but change will only happen if there is robust commitment behind it. Institutional change—particularly in political institutions—draws on insights and expertise from other fields such change management literature from the business world, political science or behavioural economics and happens through changing the behaviour of those within the institutions. Building relationships and buy-in and delving into the actual needs of those within the institutions is essential for any progress and impact.

In Honduras, impact came about in the form of: a successful post-legislative scrutiny  process that enhanced legislative oversight capacity in the Honduran Congress; local ownership of the progress; increased budget for CICESCT funding activities and national-level campaigns against human trafficking; and Congress discussing legal amendments from the 2012 Act to the criminal code in light of the findings of the PLS Report. It took a PLS process to realign the priorities of certain committees that were then able to allocate a budget for the 2012 Act in Combatting Trafficking and to include PLS as a regular practice within its Congress.

In Sudan, it is still early to ascertain the project’s long-term impact, but there is clear appetite and commitment from the NCCT to improve the current legislation. This is attested by their recent creation of a subcommittee dedicated solely to the review of the current 2014 Act, making it the first time the NCCT has taken such concrete steps to ensure the country has appropriate legislation in place to tackle this crime. If they go through with the legislative review, the NCCT will have to push this strategically and raise it through the ranks of the Ministry of Justice and eventually, to the TLC, to make it a political priority in Sudan and hopefully, effect change.

This article has been prepared by Maria Peiró Mir as a contribution to Delta 8.7. As provided for in the Terms and Conditions of Use of Delta 8.7, the opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of UNU or its partners.

[1]Post-Legislative Scrutiny involves Parliament, usually through its committees, scrutinizing and evaluating the effects and consequences of a law after it has been implemented. If appropriate, the Committee may make recommendations for changes to the law or to how it operates in practice.’ Once a law is enacted and implemented, its provisions bind society, unless and until it is subsequently repealed or amended. Most laws are generally brought forward by Government and are used to provide the legal framework for Government powers and policies and provide the authorization for public services. Yet it is often only after implementation that the effects and implications of a law can be assessed to determine whether it has met its policy objectives, whether it has worked well in practice or if it has unintended consequences. PLS therefore provides a way for Parliament to scrutinize the impact and effects of laws. It also enables Parliamentarians to listen to the views and experiences of those affected by the law and be responsive to their concerns’  https://www.gpgovernance.net/publication/paper-8-post-legislative-scrutiny/

[2] UNODC Global Trafficking Report 2020 https://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/tip/2021/GLOTIP_2020_CP_North_Africa_and_the_Middle_East.pdf.  Data scarcity is real and there is no real system to record and analyze the actual numbers of victims of trafficking in Sudan.

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