UNODC is cosponsor of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS - UNAIDS
Involving the Corporate Sector in Combating Human Trafficking, Colombo, Sri Lanka on 26th March 2008
Contributed by Nandita Baruah, GIFT Coordinator
James. R. Moore, Deputy Chief of Mission, US Embassy, Caitlin Wiesen-Antin, Programme Coordinator Asia & Pacific- Regional HIV/AIDS Practice Team, UNDP, Ms. Sriyani Tidball, CEO, CCS and Gary Lewis Representative UNODC , at the Corporate partners meeting
An interactive round table discussion was held with representatives from the garment manufacturing and tourism industry and a few other private sector groups, from Sri Lanka. The objective of the meeting was to discus strategies for collectively working with the corporate sector to address issues of human trafficking, in relation to trafficked labour in the garment sector and sexual exploitation of women and children in the tourism sector. The meeting had representative from the MAS Sri Lanka, Trans Asia Colombo, Grant McCann, Sri Lanka Tourism Board and Microsoft to name a few.
The meeting was addressed by James. R. Moore, Deputy Chief of Mission, US Embassy, Caitlin Wiesen-Antin Leader & Programme Coordinator Asia & Pacific- Regional HIV/AIDS Practice Team, UNDP, Ms. Sriyani Tidball, CEO, Community Concern Society (CCS) and Mr. Gary Lewis Representative, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Regional Office for South Asia (ROSA)
James. R. Moore, Deputy Chief of Mission, US Embassy
James. R. Moore, Deputy Chief of Mission, US Embassy, in his opening remarks stated that he was very pleased to see that there is an opportunity to partner with the private sector. He acknowledged the work of UNODC on anti human trafficking. He reaffirmed that human trafficking takes place across the globe including in the USA, and said that each year 800.000 people are trafficked globally as per the US Attorney's report. Mr. Moore said that the US government is very involved in addressing this problem. He pointed out that in Sri Lanka; migration of women to Middle East countries makes them largely vulnerable to trafficking. And in this context, it is important to ensure that they are not abused or exploited. He applauded the apparel sector for being vigilant on the issue.
Caitlin Wiesen, Programme Leader/Coordinator Asia & Pacific- Regional HIV/AIDS Team
Caitlin Wiesen, Programme Leader/Coordinator Asia & Pacific- Regional HIV/AIDS Team, said that though Sri Lanka is a low prevalence country for HIV, but one can not be complacent, as both HIV and Trafficking share the same vulnerability factors and life risk situations. She pointed out that the consequences of the survivors in both cases are the same i.e. stigma, non-acceptance, rejection by family. Women and children trafficked into sex exploitation are at the bottom of the heap with 'little or no' negotiating power. She shared the positive experience the UNDP Regional HIV/AIDS programme has had in working with the private sector to provide alternative livelihood to trafficked survivors
Gary Lewis, Representative UNODC ROSA
Gary Lewis, Representative UNODC ROSA, in his address to the participants said that there are very few things that are more injurious to the human soul than human trafficking. He said 'We need to eradicate this as a civilized society'. Mr. Lewis pointed out that in many places human trafficking is cloaked under the guise of migration. Therefore, it is important to look at addressing the issues of vulnerability as way of preventing the problem. While the legal provisions to combat human trafficking in the region are robust but the implementation falls short due to limited understanding of the issue. He acknowledged the support of all different stakeholders for supporting the vision of UNODC, "we are extremely encouraged by the support that the
GIFT initiative has got from different partners from around the region." He added that private sector can support public education initiatives, by setting a high standard against trafficking in the industry by ensuring workers right, and exploitation free production chain, they too can play an active role in this fight against an organized crime. He said that the apparel and tourism industry is well positioned to contribute towards finding solutions
Representative from the corporate sector at the round table discussion
During the open discussion the representative from Microsoft talked about their intervention of trying to make migration safe, by training migrant workers on IT skills to send mail and communicate with the family. The representative from MAS Sri Lanka said that there is a need to raise awareness amongst the female garment workers working in the Free Trade Zones (FTZ), as many of them get duped, into situation of unsafe migration and may also get trafficked out of the country, in the hope of better jobs. The representative of the Sri Lankan Tourism Board felt that there is a need to identify the extent of the problem. There was not much data on the issue of trafficking for sexual exploitation in Sri Lanka.
The group however agreed that there is a need to ensure safe mobility right from the beginning and access to justice if migration goes wrong.
Most participants felt that there is an urgent need to identify the actual extent of the program. A research on the extent and nature of human trafficking in relation to sexual exploitation, domestic servitude and forced labor is needed. It was also felt that the issue of in-migration of those who are coming into the country also needs to be assessed from the perspective of human trafficking.
The Sri Lanka Tourism Board representative pointed out that they are working on a program for "Responsible Tourism Partnership" where the tourism Industry is working with beach kids, to make them guides and stop them from being touts. She highlighted that there was the problem of male child prostitution/ paedophilia. Such program can be extended with the support of other corporates.
It was unanimously agreed that the government needs to show more initiative. It was suggested that the Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau needs to be actively engaged with in this regard.
It was felt that social security measures for migrant women need to be put in place by the State. It suggested that the States should have bilateral agreement between receiving and sending countries with greater support from the receiving countries for women migrants especially those who find themselves in trouble.
MAS Sri Lanka agreed to take up the initiative of spearheading an awareness program on human trafficking with the female garment workers in the FTZ's.
Community Concern Society would look at developing an awareness campaign in collaboration with groups like Grant McCann Erickson, by using the mass media.