How International Organizations Combat Human Trafficking

After drugs and arms trafficking, the trafficking of human beings is the third most profitable enterprise for transnational organized criminal groups. It is a $32 billion industry–and like drugs and arms smuggling, combating the trafficking of human beings is something that no country can do on its own. International cooperation is critical.

Fortunately there are exists a number of international organizations that provide the platform for which countries can work together to take on this global scourge. At yesterday’s General Assembly meeting on the issue, United States Ambassador for Human Trafficking Mark Lagon spelled out how international institutions like the International Labor Organization (ILO), the International Organization on Migration (IOM), and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) can harness their particular expertise to fight human trafficking.

Multilateral organizations are integral to assisting committed governments and civil society actors seeking to meet international standards for combating human trafficking. These organizations have a bird’s eye view of global anti-trafficking efforts and can identify promising practices that can be replicated and customized. I encourage entities such as UNODC , UNICEF, the ILO and IOM, for example, to focus on their core competencies while ensuring that their respective efforts on the ground are not at cross purposes with each other or with local efforts.

UNODC in its supporting role of the UN Trafficking in Persons Protocol, is uniquely positioned to help requesting governments craft strong anti-trafficking laws and, equally important, to implement those laws. UNICEF is best suited to work with governments and civil society to assist and protect child victims.

ILO’s expertise, as focal point for various international conventions on forced labor, lies in their ability to assist governments and businesses to address supply chain management.

IOM’s expertise is centered on migration. In addition to working with governments and civil society to provide safe and voluntary repatriation and reintegration of trafficked victims, IOM has a tremendous role to play in promoting orderly and humane migration, and facilitating dialogue between the “sender” and “recipient” countries to help prevent migrant laborers from becoming trafficked victims.

I would add Interpol to the list of international organizations that we should do more to support in their effort to fight human trafficking. The industry, after all is a run by transnational organized criminal groups. The best way to fight and arrest those criminals is through support local police work–which is precisely what Interpol was created to do.

There are also a number of excellent advocacy organizations around that help citizens around the world fight human trafficking and modern day slavery. The portal is a great way to learn how to get involved. Finally, the just-released 2008 State Department Trafficking in Persons Report (pdf) is the most reliable keeper of statistics on human trafficking, and global efforts (and global shortcomings) to fight this problem.