UNODC is cosponsor of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS - UNAIDS
Speech by Mr. Gary Lewis, Representative, UNODC South Asia on "Issues of Trafficking in the Garment Supply Chain" - New Delhi, India on 15th March 2008
Vikash, age 15, left his home in the village. He headed for work in the big metro city. His spirits were filled with hope. He had been promised a good salary and free housing from a company that supplies laborers for hospitals. When he got there, what seemed like a dream opportunity turned into a nightmare. Vikash - together with other children his age - was forced to work 12-hour shifts, six-days-a-week. He was never received even one paisa. There are many more stories - untold stories - of children like Vikash.
Mr. Gary Lewis, Representative, UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Regional Office for South Asia
Shri Anil Kumar, Secretary MWCD, Friends from the corporate sector, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to be present here today among socially responsible corporates, people who believe that it is your business to ensure that you play a proactive role in combating this sort of crime.
And I applaud GAP Inc for their initiative to raise awareness on "Issues of Trafficking in the Garment Supply Chain".
I would like to begin with a brief overview about UNODC, the organization for which my colleagues present here today - and I - work.
Overview of UNODC
UNODC seeks to achieve security and justice for all by helping member states in their struggle against crime, drugs and terrorism in all its manifestations. Our HQ is in Vienna and we work across the globe through our network of 22 field offices.
Our office in South Asia - based here in Delhi - has been working with the governments and people of South Asia since 1987. From this base, we work in all the countries of South Asia. Most of our work focuses on human trafficking and the problems associated with drug trafficking and abuse.
Overview of human trafficking
Friends, I believe that human trafficking is one of the most appalling forms of human rights violation on the planet. In fact, I can imagine few crimes more terrible than the sale of women and children for sexual exploitation and forced labour. It's strange: humanity marked its first formal attempts to rid itself of the slave trade just over 200 years ago and yet - today - we have this modern-day evil sitting with us - alive among us - in almost every country in the world. We need to call human trafficking what it is. It is slavery. This should fill us with shame and with rage.
Definition: the UN Convention on Transnational Organized Crime defines human trafficking as "…the recruitment, transfer, harbouring or receiving of persons by threat or use of force, fraud or deception…for the purpose of exploitation."
There are many ways in which a person can be coerced into undertaking work against their will. Those most commonly associated with human trafficking include:
The confiscation of personal identity documents,
Threats to life
Deception about the type of work involved
Threats of - or actual - physical or sexual violence against the victim
Threats to family members
And so on
Human trafficking is in large part about the exploitation of vulnerable women, children and men. It touches upon people's economic and social rights. It is also a problem of criminal justice. And regardless of whether the trafficking is for sexual exploitation or for other forms of economic exploitation (like forced labour or domestic servitude), the industrial and corporate actors must act. They must come together with other civil society partners as a part of the fast-developing global efforts to prevent and combat it.
Every day, in South Asia, children like Vikash and young women are lured or taken from their homes, with promises of a good job, a good marriage, or stardom in the entertainment industry. However, once captive, they are forced into sex work and exploitative labor where they suffer unspeakable indignities and hardship. Many are forced to sell their bodies for the profit of those who control them.
Trafficking of human beings is today a booming illegal international trade. According to UN estimates, approximately 150,000 people are trafficked within South Asia annually making the region second only to South East Asia in terms of the extent of the problem.
Most of this trafficking occurs within India but also involves people - primarily women - being trafficking into this country from Nepal and Bangladesh. Women and children (especially girl children) are the most vulnerable to this crime due to the feminization of poverty, the portrayal of women as commodities and their marginal status in the society.
What shocks me is that so many people remain unaware of all this. And I wonder: if we aren't seeing it, is this because we aren't looking for it?
Difference between forced labour and trafficking:
There is a difference between forced labour and trafficked labour. While forced labour is closely linked to human trafficking, the two are not identical. While most victims of trafficking end up in forced labour, not all victims of forced labour are in their situation as a result of trafficking. For example, people who are coerced to work in their place of origin have not been considered in the ILO's own estimates of forced labour as trafficked victims.
A distinction must also be made between those people who are under some form of economic compulsion to accept sub-standard working conditions because they simply have no alternative exploitation - and those and those against whom actual coercion is exercised by a third party to force them to undertake a job against their will. Which is forced labour.
UNODC's work on human trafficking
Our focus here today is on human trafficking. UNODC's anti human trafficking initiatives focus on the three aspects of prevention, prosecution and protection. We prevent. We protect. And we prosecute.
Prevention: Part of our job is to raise awareness. This is particularly true of high risk areas and districts where parents often have to make the "horrible arithmetical choice" between whether to sell their daughter (or son) to make ends meet. For always there are predators that lurk - feeding off the vulnerabilities of families. Families who have lost their breadwinner. Families whose crop has failed. Families who are known to have too many daughters. Families deep in debt.
Besides raising awareness, we also urge governments to do what they can to improve local economic circumstances to prevent the so-called "push" factors - the unemployment and grinding poverty - which cause risky migration in the first place.
Protection: Regarding what we call "protection", our initiatives work to improve the capacities of NGO-run homes for victims. I am pleased that the distinguished Secretary of MWCD is present and with us today to lend his support for we have been working closely with many Government-run homes. Our projects involve working with care givers in order to improve their attitudes towards the victims and to build better rehabilitative packages for them.
Prosecution: As regards "prosecution", in South Asia, I find that in most cases there is already a strong legal basis to take effective action against traffickers. What is really required is that we empower the existing system. And this is what we are doing. Through our Law Enforcement project involving training of police officers and prosecutors in the five Indian states of Bihar, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Goa and Maharashtra we are reaching out to those areas considered to be the main source and destination areas.
Brief on UN.GIFT
UNODC, as an organization, has launched a worldwide multi-year initiative called the
UN Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT). It's aim is simple. It is to mark a turning point in the fight against trafficking in persons. In South Asia we have seized the opportunity provided by this huge global initiative and have been running pretty fast with a number of spin-off activities. Our main focus in South Asia has been to build partnerships with the entertainment industry and with the private sector. Specifically, our objectives are to:
coalition of private sector partners for facilitating rehabilitation of survivors and creating livelihood opportunities for at risk populations.
guidelines for responsible business practices in collaboration with corporate partners and other UN agencies to prevent trafficking into forced labour, and
national prevention campaign by involving artists, film makers, and other celebrities and build it into a fundraiser for AHT work on prevention and rehabilitation.
This workshop - today - falls under one of these initiatives.
Global process fueling trafficking for forced labour: Challenges and Risks
I would now like to focus on how globalization must force us all to join hands to fight human trafficking in the business supply chain.
Globalization has been characterized by an increase in global economic integration and growing links across countries and firms through international trade. Barriers to trade and investment are falling. Transport is becoming cheaper. Technology is changing. All of this makes it increasingly possible to break down the production process into distinct stages and locate it in different countries.
Economic activity is now not only global in scope, but global in organization. The production of many goods and services are integrated into global production systems for supply to global markets. All of this you know.
You also will know that this trend towards integrated global supply chains goes hand in hand with ever more complex labour recruitment systems
that often make it difficult to identify the actual employer.
So, while recruitment for employment abroad - and even within country - is a legitimate and much-needed business, in the worst case scenario, where monitoring is weak and business standards are lax, unscrupulous recruitment agencies can provide a cover for trafficking activities.
And as we have seen recently in various countries, including here in India, this presents a tremendous risk to global business and no bona fide company can afford the negative implication of being associated with such practices either in its own business operations or across its supply chain. A company facing allegations of profiting from trafficked labour exploitation will not only find its reputation severely tarnished but often - and in highly public circumstances - will also face legal action.
It is in this context, that there is an increasing need for companies to look beyond traditional methods of supply chain management and auditing. Business need to work through their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes to put in place systems and processes that addresses this risk from both and economic and a social angle. One example would be to develop
codes of conduct for a clean production process and related implementation systems such as
These measures address the risks posed to brand image by poor and abusive working conditions in supply chains.
What can corporate entities do to combat trafficking for forced labour
I would like to end by making a few suggestions for this workshop to consider.
First, I believe that it is necessary that all business must address trafficking for forced labour issues in their bi-partite and tri-partite negotiations and agreements down the supply chain.
Second, I believe that businesses should monitor their employment agencies as well as companies in their supply chains in order to detect and combat trafficking for forced labour.
Third, businesses should promote corporate social responsibility and institute codes of conduct. Such codes must be specific, strictly implemented and monitored, and combined with alternative arrangements for under-age child workers, where rehabilitation support through education, technical skills up-grading etc is addressed through CSR.
Fourth, I believe that for addressing the issue of trafficked forced labour in the production line, a balanced and well-thought-out approach is required. For the strict approach, which is to say firing child workers or terminating relationships with suppliers that employ them, does not change underlying causes.
Fifth, steps to prevent and eradicate trafficking for forced labour through CSR programmes can be an important component. There are many viable social and economic actions that can be undertaken to address the root cause of this problem through multi-stakeholder initiatives across different economic sectors.
Sixth, business houses can support need-specific training and skills-development programs to target populations in economically less developed areas so as to create a skilled and exploitation free work force for the industry.
Friends, I have shared a few thoughts with you on this inaugural occasion of what I eagerly wish to see become a new partnership. I thank you all again for coming and wish the workshop every success.