Bhutan: Bhutan accedes to UNTOC and its Trafficking in Persons Protocol

Thimphu, Bhutan/20 February 2023: On 20 February 2023, Bhutan has acceded to the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.

The Convention, adopted on 15 November 2000 at the 55th session of the UN General Assembly, is the main international instrument in the fight against transnational organized crime (TOC). It represents a major step forward and signifies the recognition by States of the seriousness of the problems posed by TOC, as well as the need to foster international cooperation towards tackling those problems. States that become parties to the Convention commit to taking a series of measures against TOC, including the creation of domestic criminal offences, the adoption of necessary legislative frameworks, enhancing law enforcement and judicial cooperation, and promotion of training and technical assistance for building or upgrading the necessary capacity of national authorities, among others.

The Trafficking in Persons Protocol, is the first global legally binding instrument with an agreed definition on trafficking in persons (TIP). The intention behind this definition is to facilitate convergence in national approaches with regard to the establishment of domestic criminal offences that would support efficient international cooperation in investigating and prosecuting trafficking in persons cases. An additional objective of the Protocol is to protect and assist the TIP victims with full respect for their human rights.

As guardian of UNTOC, UNODC assists states in implementing their commitments under the Convention and its Trafficking in Persons Protocol.

Through its accession, Bhutan becomes the 191st party to the Convention the purpose of which is to promote cooperation to prevent and combat transnational organized crime more effectively.

Bhutan’s accession to UNTOC and the Trafficking in Persons Protocol is a welcome step towards safeguarding the well-being of society, and particularly vulnerable persons, against TOC and TIP.

Building on the existing national legal frameworks, UNODC has conducted a country assessment and supported the Bhutan’s Government in amending the Bhutan Penal Code as per the Trafficking in Persons Protocol in 2021. To ensure capacities are equipped to effectively address the threat, UNODC has formalized a Standard Operating Procedure for a Multisectoral Approach to Prevent Trafficking in Persons and has trained hundreds of local leaders and front liners including health workers, legal officers, teachers and community volunteers. Hundreds of Law enforcement officials and judges have also been trained  in efforts to strengthen the criminal justice systems. Complementing these efforts, awareness raising campaigns have meanwhile reached tens of thousands of youth and  vulnerable persons.

UNODC and Bhutan continue to work closely on strengthening multi-stakeholder responses to counter trafficking in persons. This will also be reflected as an integral part of the new UNODC Regional Programme for South Asia (2023-2027), which is currently being developed by the UNODC Regional Office for South Asia. 

Read Also: 2022 UNODC Global Report on Trafficking in Persons