In a joint statement with other members of the Alliance against Trafficking in Persons’ Expert Co-ordination Team (AECT), we call on States to increase their support to anti-trafficking civil society organisations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read the full letter with the 7 recommendations here:
New threats in human trafficking
With the virus’ spread, the world faces an unprecedented threat to public health, but it’s not just our health that is at risk. The effects of the pandemic, and mainly the various lockdown measures across the world, have meant extraordinary challenges to communities. Many people were affected financially, and many lost the social support networks which were crucial to keeping them both physically and mentally well, but also safe.
This means increased risk of trafficking, including children, due to increased vulnerabilities, changing ways of operating by the criminals, reduced activities of law enforcement, and reduced support available by services and anti-trafficking organisations.
Trafficking organisations can’t give support where it’s needed
The work that anti-trafficking civil society organisations do have already been quite difficult before the pandemic, as they often face legal, financial and practical challenges in their daily work. This has now been magnified by the pandemic, as lockdown measures are creating additional barriers to organisations coordinating and delivering the important work they do.
But the work to prevent human trafficking and assist its victims cannot be done without these organisations.
Why Civil society organisations?
Civil society organisations often play a key role in preventing trafficking and supporting victims, from offering direct support to victims in form of assistance, services, and information to using data and stories to advocate for human rights and holding state actors accountable to stepping up. Without their efforts, and especially now with new and increased risks of trafficking, victims and potential victims would be stranded alone.
The reality though is that there is a vast funding gap, some stakeholders have been shifted to focussing on pandemic-response as a priority, and many smaller-scale organisations struggle to adapt their services to digital, online solutions as social distancing remains a reality in many countries. Meanwhile, traffickers continue to exploit this new situation.
We must ACT NOW
We believe that continuity and further strengthening of anti-trafficking efforts is a key element to protecting communities from trafficking, during and after the pandemic. In light of the strong history of civil society contributions to global anti-trafficking efforts, the AECT is convinced that national strategies and actions to combat trafficking would vastly benefit from the CSOs. Their work to prevent human trafficking and assist victims or those at risk of trafficking and severe forms of exploitation in line with human rights-based and gender-sensitive approaches is invaluable.
Therefore the AECT calls upon States to enhance their efforts in the co-operation with anti-trafficking CSOs.
About the AECT
The AECT is a broad international forum that includes international, non-governmental, and inter-governmental organizations joining forces to prevent and combat human trafficking. It helps develop effective joint strategies and provides OSCE participating States and Partners for Co-operation with innovative and co-ordinated approaches to strengthen the prevention of trafficking in human beings and the fight against it. The Team provides a unique platform for co-ordination, expert exchange and consultation among over 30 key international and regional organizations and civil society networks active in combating trafficking in human beings.