Strengthening of the legal and law enforcement institutions to prevent and combat human trafficking (LAO/R76)
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Human trafficking is a crime against humanity and undermines the development of Lao PDR and its people. The particular geographical position of the country coupled with its socio-economic status and limited law enforcement capacity, render the country and particularly migrants vulnerable to human trafficking.
Lao PDR shares a border of a total of 5,083 km with Thailand, Myanmar, China, Vietnam and Cambodia. The country has a population of 5.6 million inhabitants with 45% under 15 years and 55% younger than 19 years of age. Despite being situated in a fast-developing region with a rapidly growing economy, the country still has relatively low economic indicators. Approximately 60,000 young people try to enter the labour force each year, but employment opportunities are limited. In the absence of viable opportunities at home, increasing modernisation and exposure through media encourage young people to pursue a more materialistic lifestyle amongst other factors. Thus, many opt to migrate for shorter or longer periods of whom many cross over into Thailand without any documents. IOM estimates that there are two million irregular migrant workers from Myanmar, Cambodia and Lao PDR in Thailand. The number of people trafficked annually from and within this region is estimated between 200,000 and 450,000.
There are different human trafficking typologies with different causes and vulnerabilities involved. Lao PDR is largely considered a source country, but trafficking into and through the country also exists. Thailand is the main destination, but victims are also trafficked to countries such as China, Malaysia, Taiwan and Japan. Human trafficking is not only a cross-border activity, but also occurs within Lao PDR particularly for sexual exploitation and forced labour. A comprehensive research study by the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare and UNICEF found that the overwhelming majority of trafficking victims (60%) are girls between 12-18 years of age. The same report stated that: "Approximately 35% of the total number of victims trafficked to Thailand were sold for purposes of sexual exploitation. Other main groupings were 32% for household servants, 17% for factory work, 12% for agricultural labour, and 4% for work on fishing boats." Most victims come from rural areas, but most often not from remote areas or from situations of severe poverty. In terms of the ethnic composition of the trafficked victims, a disproportionate number are from ethnic minority backgrounds.
R76 project overview and objective
The R76 Project was launched in October 2006. It aims at strengthening the capacity of the criminal justice institutions, including the judiciary, and the government law enforcement bodies to prevent and combat human trafficking and related forms of organised crime in Lao PDR. The project assesses the need to implement the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, particularly Women and Children (TIPP), the mandatory requirements of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (TOC).
The Project's main objective is to implement the TIPP and the TOC and thus enhance the criminal justice mechanisms and law enforcement against trafficking in human beings. This takes place through proposed amendments to the criminal law provisions, training for criminal justice practitioners and law enforcement in order to strengthen the country's capacity to investigate, prosecute, convict traffickers and protect victims.
Achievements and results: awareness-raising and capacity-building
With regard to awareness-raising and capacity-building, the following project activities should be highlighted:
- Two major conferences at national level for a cross-cutting audience
- 'Strengthening of the Legal and Law Enforcement Institutions to Prevent and Combat Human Trafficking' (11 - 15 December, 2006, Vientiane)
The conference gathered prosecutors, judges, civil servants, senior government officials, judiciary and concerned law enforcement from the central and provincial levels. In total, 150 participants attended the conference. The Vice Ministers of the Ministry of Justice and of the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare attended the conference and reiterated the commitment of Lao PDR towards meeting its legal duty. A number of UN agencies, such as ILO, UNIAP, UNICEF and UNODC addressed human trafficking issues through related presentations. Further presentations were given by AFESIP, ARTIP, the Vientiane Youth Centre and representatives from the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare and from various provinces.
- 'Shadow Markets, Crime and Its Risks to Development' (18 - 21 November, 2008, Vientiane)
The conference was attended by approximately 280 Lao national law enforcement and criminal justice officials representing the 17 provinces of Lao PDR, as well as government ministers and high level international, regional and national experts. It was organised in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and aimed at generating an understanding of the importance of a holistic approach to address different forms of transnational crimes. A presentation was delivered on the topic of human trafficking from a global, regional and national perspective by a representative from the Anti-Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Unit at UNODC headquarters in Vienna. There were many other presentations that were on issues associated with human trafficking including smuggling of migrants, money laundering, corruption, organised crime and the necessity of providing victim-witness assistance within the criminal justice system for those who are victims of serious crime. The R76 Project contributed funds and resources to organise this conference.
- Senior Officials Meeting (4 - 5 December, 2008, Thailand)
The meeting was organised by the Ministry of Justice and UNODC and it was held with a view to ensure that the key institutions and stakeholders at the highest level are fully aware of the cross-cutting nature of human trafficking and the need for a comprehensive and joint response. The meeting was attended by senior officials from the Prime Minister's Office, the Ministries of Justice, Public Security, Foreign Affairs and Labour and Social Welfare, Supreme Court, Office of the Supreme Public Prosecutor, Central Bank of Lao PDR, State Inspection Authority, Vientiane Provincial Court, Lao Women's Union, Faculty of Law and Political Science and the Lao Bar Association. Presentations were made on the TOC and accompanying Protocols; Lao legislation on human trafficking; identifying victims of trafficking, protection and supporting trafficked victims within the criminal justice process, and; international cooperation to prevent and combat human trafficking. Discussions on strengthening the law on human trafficking in Lao were stimulated and case studies were very well-received by the group. Recommendations relating to strengthening the law and preventing human trafficking in Lao were developed at the conclusion of the workshop.
- Capacity-building of legal and law enforcement officials
-Establishment of the Core Training Group (CTG)
A key component of the R76 Project has been the establishment of a Core Training Group (CTG) comprising 25 officials from the legal and law enforcement institutions. The CTG members come from the national criminal justice and law enforcement agencies including: the People's Supreme Court, the Prosecutor's Office, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Lao Bar Association, as well as the Faculty of Law and Political Science.
The CTG trainers have participated in an extensive training programme that have covered: the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (TOC) and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, particularly Women and Children (TIPP); investigating and prosecuting cases of human trafficking; victim identification; special measures for children, protecting and supporting victims of human trafficking; international cooperation and other topics. This training programme ran between 2007 and 2008. Through two week-long Training of Trainers workshops in early 2009 the CTG trainers improved their lesson plan development skills and practical teaching methodologies. Two additional Lesson Plan Development Workshops were later arranged to further build the teaching capacity of the current 11 CTG trainers.
-Awareness-raising and capacity-building workshops at provincial level
To date, the CTG has carried out five workshops at provincial level in Champasack, Vientiane Province, Xieng Khouang, Houaphan and Bokeo. These workshops have brought together approximately 30 participants in each location and have covered the following topics:
o Lao Laws on Human Trafficking;
o The TOC and TIPP;
o The Importance of Victim Identification and Victim Assistance in Combating Human
o Special Measures for Child Victims of Human Trafficking;
o International Cooperation;
o Issues Relating to Human Trafficking - Money Laundering, Corruption, Legal Persons.
Using a participatory approach, group work and Q&A are actively used to engage the participants to stimulate reflection and participation. The active participation, questions raised and positive feedback indicate that there is a need for further and more in-depth training.
- Development of training materials on human trafficking for the Lao legal sector
The R76 Project has drawn upon and utilised the global training manual and modules to develop and tailor the training curricula for capacity-building workshop of the Core Training Group. This curriculum has covered a wide range of topics (see above). In addition, a 'Trainers' Reference Guide on Human Trafficking for the Legal Sector in Lao PDR' is currently being developed and finalised. It has mainly been developed with the trainers of the R76 Core Training Group (CTG) in mind. The CTG participants are representatives from the various bodies that make up the Lao criminal justice system, as well as key ministries and the National University of Lao PDR. The Group represents an important pool of technical expertise and capacity at national level. The Reference Guide will help to further strengthen their work and that of others in the counter-human trafficking sector in the country.
The contents of the Reference Guide derive mainly from the teaching topics of the workshop series that the CTG members attended throughout 2007 and 2008. It is not meant to be a comprehensive one covering all issues relating to human trafficking but rather to be one that covers issues that will be taught by trainers at provincial and district level trainings. Particular emphasis has been placed on topics taught at the core pilot workshops by the CTG at provincial level earlier this year. Thus, a selection has been made on the topics that go into the Reference Guide and the CTG trainers themselves have been consulted regularly in the drafting process. In addition, the UNODC 'Toolkit to Combat Human Trafficking' and materials from ECPAT (End Child Prostitution and Trafficking) International have proved very useful for the development of this Reference Guide. For issues not covered by this Guide, such as immigration status of victims and their return and reintegration, readers are referred to the UNODC 'Toolkit to Combat Human Trafficking'.
- Translation and dissemination of the Transnational Organised Crime Convention (TOC) and the Trafficking in Persons Protocol (TIPP)
The TOC and the TIPP have been translated into Lao and it has been distributed at various workshops at central and provincial levels, particularly as part of the awareness-raising and capacity-building workshops of legal and law enforcement officials.
- Government participation in international conferences and events
- 'Conference of Parties to the Convention on Transnational Organised Crime' 9 - 18 October, 2006. Vienna)
Lao PDR was represented at the conference by a high-level delegate from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Lao PDR underlined the importance of the TOC and its underlying protocols and stressed the need to enhance understanding of these legal instruments among party states. Moreover Lao PDR requested technical assistance to enable the implementation of the TOC and its protocols in Lao PDR.
- 'Regional Judicial Symposium' (26 - 30 April, 2007, Singapore)
The symposium provided a thorough and systematic review of the reform measures that have been implemented and highlighting different approaches that have been adopted, including developments in and challenges to judicial processes and management. The issue of case management was deemed of particular importance to Lao PDR. The R76 Project assisted the Vice-Minister of the Ministry of Justice to participate at the symposium.
- 'UN.GIFT - A Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking' (2 - 4 October, 2007, Bangkok)
The workshop focused particularly on the investigation, prosecution and adjudication of trafficking cases within the framework of international standards and emerging good practices. The invited countries included all member countries of ASEAN plus Australia, China, Mongolia, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Japan, Republic of Korea, Tonga and Vanuatu. Workshop participants comprised criminal justice officials and experts with current or future responsibilities in relation to trafficking in persons cases. The UNODC R76 Project supported one civil servant from the Ministry of Justice, a member of the R76 Core Training Group, to attend the workshop. In addition four Lao government officials and one delegate from the UNODC Lao Country Office attended the event.
- 'COMMIT Inter-Ministerial Meeting and Senior Officials Meeting' (5 - 12 December, 2007, Beijing)
During this meeting the senior officials from the six member countries of the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative Against Trafficking (COMMIT) adopted the second Sub-regional Plan of Action (SPA II). The six countries: Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam signed a Joint Declaration reaffirming their pledge to work together to fight human trafficking in the region. The R76 Project supported two Lao government officials to attend these meetings.
- 'UN.GIFT - A Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking' (13 - 15 February, 2008, Vienna)
The first-ever global forum to fight human trafficking took place in Vienna from 13 - 14 February 2008. It brought together 1,200 experts, legislators, law enforcement teams, business leaders, NGO representatives and trafficking victims from 116 countries. It was held with the view to provide a platform for a new campaign of coordinated action to tackle the crime. The project supported one official from the Lao Deputy General Prosecutor of the Lao Office to attend the forum.
- Awareness-raising and capacity-building of students
- Community Legal Education Programme (June - December 2008)
The R76 Project has provided substantial support to the Community Legal Education (CLE) programme at the Faculty of Law and Political Science, National University of Laos (NUOL). CLE is a method through which law students make use of the theoretical skills they learn at university such as through visiting different community settings to teach about law. Students prepare their teaching in advance and engage the communities on issues that are of interest to them, i.e. land law, family law, criminal law etc. and how they can access legal services. At the same time students learn about the concerns of the communities and how the laws affect them in practical life. Thus, the concept is beneficial for both parties as it helps to bridge the gap between theory and reality. In 2008 the R76 Project supported the following activities to raise awareness on human trafficking and build capacity on the CLE concept:
o CLE workshops in Luang Prabang and Savannaketh with the aim of developing CLE programs at the Law School Faculties in both provinces. In addition, outreach activities were conducted at village level;
o Regional legal education workshop in Chiang Mai, which was attended by 10 students from the Faculty of Law and Political Science (NUOL);
o Training of Trainers of students in Chiang Mai focusing on Community Legal Education;
o Attendance to the 5th Worldwide Conference of the Global Alliance for Justice Education in the Philippines;
o Production of didactic materials.
This collaboration and support is in the process of being extended during the months of November and December this year particularly in the area of building up the capacity on CLE in the other law schools and universities in the country focusing particularly on human trafficking issues.
- Awareness-raising on human trafficking to the general public
The project has also produced a wide range of materials that have been distributed in various ways. This includes: posters, leaflets, video clips, t-shirts, banners, brochures etc. These materials have been given out to workshop participants, distributed by partner agencies, such as the Lao Bar Association, at bus stations, to tuk-tuk drivers etc.
Achievements and results: cooperation and partnerships
In the area of cooperation and partnerships, the following key outputs and contributions should be highlighted:
- Support to national and regional efforts to prevent and combat human trafficking
- Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative Against Trafficking (COMMIT) process
COMMIT represents a Government-led process incorporating the six countries in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam) in a formal alliance to combat human trafficking. The COMMIT process was initiated to create a sustained and effective system of cross-border cooperation and collaboration to combat human trafficking.The R76 Project has directly supported Lao PDR and the COMMIT process in the following way. First of all, the implementation of the project activities has contributed in these key areas of work:
o Training and Capacity Building;
o Legal Frameworks, Law Enforcement, and Justice;
o Victim Identification, Protection, Recovery and Reintegration;
o Preventive Measures.
The project has also provided technical assistance and cooperated with the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (UNIAP), the COMMIT Secretariat, and other key stakeholders involved.
- The development of the Lao National Plan of Action on Human Trafficking (NPA)
During 2007 UNODC provided government participants with key information on general legal aspects, as well as the TOC and TIPP. A special emphasis was made to the importance of the TOC and the TIPP underlining the mandatory requirements of these international instruments at the two consultative workshops held by UNIAP. UNODC also provided input at the Monitoring & Evaluation Workshop on the NPA, which was held on 19 - 20 June 2007, but only had an observer status at the National Consultation Workshop that took place on 24 - 25 May 2007.
- International cooperation
The two conferences held in Vientiane have both highlighted the importance of international cooperation in the fight against human trafficking and transnational organised crime. The project has also supported the participation of selected government staff at key events at regional and international levels to the same end.
- Information-sharing and cooperation
- Working Group on Human Trafficking
The R76 Project participates and provides updates and input at the quarterly Working Group on Human Trafficking organised by UNIAP bringing together all key stakeholders working on human trafficking issues in the country.
- Cooperation and joint activities
The R76 Project strives to liaise and work closely with all key stakeholders in the planning and implementation of its project activities. In the implementation of the awareness-raising and capacity-building workshops, meetings and events, the project has enjoyed good collaboration and technical support from a wide range of stakeholders such as: UNICEF, IOM, ILO, AFESIP, ECPAT, LWU, UNIAP and ARTIP amongst others.Impact
The R76 Project has through the implementation of its project activities made an impact in the following key areas:
- Strengthened awareness on human trafficking of various target groups in the country: Through various types of workshops and events, campaigns and materials, the project has been able to raise awareness on human trafficking, and particularly on legal issues, amongst senior officials, legal and law enforcement officials, students and the general public. This work has taken place in Vientiane Capital and provincial level, but also at community level through student activities and awareness-raising campaigns through radio programmes.
- Strengthened capacity of legal and law enforcement officials at central and provincial levels to identify and act upon human trafficking crimes: The R76 Project has trained and established a Core Training Group comprising officials from all the main bodies of the Lao legal and law enforcement institutions at central level. The CTG trainers represent a unique pool of national expertise on the legal and human rights issues involved in relation to human trafficking. Trainers from the CTG have carried out five workshops in five provinces this year in which approximately 150 practitioners from the Lao legal sector have taken part. Training material, including a Trainers' Reference Guide on Human Trafficking for the Legal Sector in Lao PDR, has been developed in Lao and provides the CTG trainers and others hands-on guidance and support for future awareness-raising, capacity-building and training.
- Promoted information-sharing and cooperation across the institutions in the Lao legal sector and in the counter-human trafficking sector in the country: The establishment of the Core Training Group is a significant step in the promotion of more inter-institutional information-sharing and cooperation. Such linkages are critical for effective responses to a cross-cutting issue and crime such as human trafficking. The project has also sought to create stronger linkages between the central and provincial levels within the legal and law enforcement institutions. In addition, the R76 Project has contributed to inter-agency collaboration through the participation in coordination meetings, joint project activities and support to national and regional initiatives to prevent and combat human trafficking.
Since its inception in the last part of 2006, the R76 Project has identified the following issues that need to be addressed:
-The need for continued awareness-raising and capacity-building
-The importance of strengthening the legal framework
-The benefits of non-criminalisation of victims and provision of access to justice
-The necessity of strengthening international cooperation with destination countries
-The availability of data/indicators on cases of human trafficking
UNODC's mandate and custodianship of the TOC, as well as its long-standing experience in Lao PDR working with the Lao Government to prevent and combat human trafficking provide the backbone and thrust to continue this work in collaboration with all key stakeholders in the sector. For instance, initially the R76 Project was to work more directly on the legal framework itself by "...ascertaining the capacity of the Lao Government to implement the Trafficking in Persons Protocol (TIPP) and to support the design of required legislative measures." It was deemed that awareness-raising and capacity-building was a more pressing issue to be addressed by the project. However, the project did look into and engaged the Lao authorities on the issue. It is now deemed that a foundation has been laid by the R76 Project and others working on human trafficking in the country, and that the country is ready for further work in the above-mentioned key areas.