A Final Statement is made at the end of a successful, regional conference.
We, the participants of the conference on “Civil Society and Government Collaboration to Combat Trafficking in Persons in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS)” gathered in Bangkok, Thailand from May 22-24, 2006, reaffirmed the critical importance of systematic collaboration between NGOs, civil society, and Governments in developing and implementing successful anti-trafficking strategies and programs. This collaboration must cover all aspects of anti-trafficking response – covering prosecution, protection, and prevention of human trafficking.
Specifically, the conference:
Recognizes that civil society encompasses NGOs and many other actors;
Recognizes the critical importance of a comprehensive approach to combat human trafficking, focusing on protection, prevention and prosecution, and importantly complemented by coordination of both policies and programs;
Takes note of the commitments for close collaboration between Governments and NGOs made by the GMS Governments through the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative against Trafficking (COMMIT) process, such as the provision in the COMMIT Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which explicitly acknowledges “the important role played by victim support agencies in the areas of prevention, protection, rescue, repatriation, recovery and reintegration, as well as in supporting a strengthened criminal justice response;”
Takes note of the important efforts by the Governments to conclude and implement a broad range of bilateral MOUs to increase and formalize cooperation between States in their efforts against human trafficking;
Recognizes that transnational crime plays an important role in human trafficking, and that the frameworks of the UN Transnational Organized Crime Convention, and UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children provide for the involvement of NGOs and civil society in determination and implementation of policies;
Notes that the COMMIT MOU calls for, among other things, for Governments to “accede…at the earliest possible time” to the UN Transnational Organized Crime Convention, and UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children;
Urges that Governments give special consideration to actively include civil society and NGOs in the implementation of the UN Transnational Organized Crime Convention, and UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, and that NGOs play a critical monitoring role regarding implementation of these commitments;
Recognizing the relevant UN conventions and international legal instruments related to human trafficking which also provide for the involvement of NGOs in implementation and monitoring processes;
Recalls that under the COMMIT, the Governments reaffirmed the importance of the UN Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Human Trafficking, which recommend extensive participation of civil society and NGOs in determining and implementing policies and programs to combat human trafficking;
Acknowledges the key roles that NGOs and civil society organizations are already playing in all aspects of work to eradicate human trafficking in the GMS, and commend the cases of close cooperation between Governments and NGOs which are taking place;
In light of the above-mentioned findings, the participants of the conference make the following recommendations, which recognize the critical importance of continuous and intensive collaboration between NGOs and other representative organizations of civil society and Governments. These recommendations shall be communicated to the Governments of the Greater Mekong Sub-region, NGO networks engaged in anti-trafficking working in the sub-region, international NGOs, UN agencies, other inter-governmental organizations, and bilateral and multilateral donor organizations:
(1) Governments and NGOs should more systematically partner with each other in order to ensure that civil society is actively involved in all aspects of the determination and implementation of anti-trafficking policies, including national action plans, regulations, and laws. As part of this partnership, the volume and quality of information shared between the Government agencies, ranging from central to grass-roots/local levels, international organizations and NGOs should increase.
(2) Governments and NGOs recognize that consistent, high-quality data collection, mapping of gap areas, and quality research are the essential basis for effective policies and responsive programs. Donors, international organizations, research organizations, governments, and NGOs should undertake and support on-going research activities – both quantitative and qualitative.
(3) Both the Governments and NGOs should broaden their anti-trafficking partnership to include other civil society organizations, such as those from organized labor, faith-based organizations, migrant communities, and the international and national business community. Work on anti-trafficking initiatives with these new allies should occur in a systematic manner to bring forward new knowledge and resources from these partners, and seek support from them for policies and programs to combat human trafficking.
(4) Governments and NGOs recognize that significant gaps in anti-trafficking response still exist in the sub-region, both in terms of geographical coverage and sectors of anti-human trafficking response. It is recommended that these gaps be systematically addressed by joint initiatives of Government and NGOs.
(5) Information on the positive role of NGOs in cooperating with Governments on anti-trafficking efforts, and the need to have NGOs involved in order to ensure comprehensive anti-trafficking response, should be reflected in all training curriculums at all levels.
(6) Both bilateral and multilateral donor agencies should take decisions on funding of technical assistance and capacity building with particular attention to the need to further strengthen government and civil society cooperation, and to do so in a more coordinated manner.
(7) Greater donor coordination, including prioritizing both at the national and regional levels, would enhance and facilitate the process of preventing and combating human trafficking.
(8) Government and NGOs recognize the importance of monitoring anti-trafficking projects to ensure accountability, and continuously evaluating impact of those activities, but also recognize that donor agencies should provide longer term commitments to anti-trafficking work being done. Possible approaches could include the development of innovative monitoring modalities, such as regional peer review mechanisms, between and among Governments, NGOs, civil society, international NGOs, and inter-governmental organizations with an emphasis on long-term commitment, and should stress the positive role that NGOs can play in monitoring process and progress.
(9) Governments and NGOs recommend that the success of criminal justice actions against human trafficking offenders should be measured according to both the quality of investigations and prosecutions and their quantity.
(10) Donors should encourage and support public-private partnerships as a new approach to generate new ideas and additional resources for anti-human trafficking work.
(11) Civil society organizations, including NGOs, and law enforcement authorities should exchange experience and information, as appropriate, build deeper mutual understanding, and reach shared objectives to prosecute traffickers and support the recovery of victims of trafficking; and bilateral and multilateral donors should support such opportunities.
(12) Stronger cross-border collaboration in all aspects of anti-trafficking response, and technical, financial and personnel support for those initiatives, should be built among governments and NGOs.
(13) Where cross-border collaboration and coordination does occur, it is critical that this be broadened to embrace the concept of multi-disciplinary teams that include NGOs, and encourage governments to initiate pilot projects in identified trafficking hot spots on borders.
(14) Governments and civil society actors should consider to either extend existing cross-border mechanisms, or to create similar mechanisms, to address human trafficking.
(15) Regional agreements on procedures for cooperation in human trafficking should be developed, taking into account agreements already available at the bilateral level.
(16) Governments and NGOs understand the urgent need to deepen anti-trafficking response, and ensure that policies and implementation reach to the provincial and local level.
(17) Governments and NGOs should collaborate to build capacity of concerned governments officials and NGO staff working to provide protection and recovery services to victims, and improve the standards of the shelters and the services they provide.
(18) Workshops should be convened to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the different stakeholders in anti-trafficking actions. Possible results could include the establishment of a multi-disciplinary operations team at the national level to oversee actions on cases of trafficked persons. This team can direct the process of assistance and protection to the victim, and the victim’s participation in the criminal justice investigation and prosecution process. As part of this process, the roles and scope of NGOs could be more clearly defined, which would in turn help facilitate their operations, and monitoring and evaluation systems be established.
(19) Governments and NGOs in places of migrant’s origin, transit and destination should promote safe migration as a strategy to reduce vulnerability to human trafficking.
The participants will seek opportunities to incorporate these recommendations into the anti-human trafficking work that they do upon return to their home countries. Finally, the participants wish to thank the organizers and co-sponsors who made this conference possible, specifically the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security of the Royal Thai Government, the Vital Voices Global Partnership, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the United States Agency for International Development, the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons in the United States Department of State, and the Embassy of the United States in Bangkok, Thailand. The participants believe that the results of this conference directly reflect the leadership and commitment of themselves, as well as these organizations, in addressing the global phenomenon of human trafficking.
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