Moving from rhetoric to action: Incorporating human rights-based and gender-equal responses to smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons

Vienna, Austria 05 October 2020 – Mainstreaming of a gender-responsive and human rights-based approach is an important focus of UNODC. Under the Global Action against Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrant (GLO.ACT-Asia and the Middle East) we pursue a victim and migrant centred, rights-based and gender-sensitive approach in line with the UNODC guidance note on the promotion of human rights, and the organizations strategy for Gender Equality. In an effort to assist policy makers, practitioners and United Nations staff in meeting their due diligence obligations when planning and implementing activities to prevent and address migrant smuggling and trafficking in persons, GLO.ACT developed a Human Rights and Gender Mainstreaming Toolkit. The Toolkit has been designed primarily for GLO.ACT countries with a view that it will also be applicable elsewhere. To solicit feedback on the finalized version of the Toolkit, GLO.ACT convened an expert group meeting (EGM) on 20 September 2020 in which 47 (32 female/15 male) experts participated in.

It is important to point out that the focus of the Toolkit is not on the consequences of the crimes themselves, but on the human rights and gender equality objectives of the work that UNODC does to support States in responding to them. To validate the Toolkit prior to the EGM, it was piloted across GLO.ACT partner countries and UNODC staff also applied it in other countries in which UNODC delivered technical cooperation to prevent and address human trafficking and migrant smuggling.  Moreover, consultations with UN agencies, as part of the Inter-Agency Coordination Group on Trafficking in Persons and the UN Migration Network, took place as well as with experts from the European Union.

Addressing the participants of the EGM, Aimée Comrie, GLO.ACT Project Coordinator explained that “The need for this toolkit was born out of the experiences and lessons learned in implementing UNODC’s mandate to support Member States in the implementation of their obligations deriving from the Protocol. But it also very much reflects the challenges that we face in our current work. Ms Comrie also said that “understanding how best to uphold, maintain, promote and integrate human rights and gender considerations and principles in our programing is not an abstract or theoretical proposition: it is a daily challenge, and it has real consequences for victims and migrants who could easily come to harm when programming goes wrong.” A sentiment echoed by Heather Komenda, IOM Migrant Protection Officer who pointed out that we know that when it comes to human trafficking and migrant smuggling human rights and gender are a central experience of those affected and thus, they have to be central in our response. She went on to say, “Providing practitioners with accessible tools that can stand the test of time is a key step in ensuring this”.

Marika McAdam, UNODC Expert Consultant and author of the Toolkit, explains in the Toolkit that “Human rights are interrelated, interdependent and indivisible, meaning that all human rights of trafficked persons, smuggled migrants and the persons accused or convicted of these crimes, are relevant for a comprehensive human rights and gender-equality approach to criminal justice work”. Ms McAdam goes on say, “Activities that are not rights-based and gender-responsive risk that impact will be negligible or even harmful, and amount to missed opportunities to achieve effective and sustainable change”.

The EGM focused on key aspects of the Toolkit such as strengthening understanding, usability, accessibility and dissemination. Eurídice Márquez, GLO.ACT Programme Management Officer explained that the Human Right and Gender Mainstreaming Toolkit was designed following the findings and recommendations from the final in-depth evaluation of the first phase of GLO.ACT (2015-2019), acknowledging previous limitations and working pro-actively on finding solutions for them. She further pointed out that the toolkit should enable partitioners to calibrate a human rights-based and gender-responsive approach to their specific intervention or activity and offer guidance, and that the EGM had been designed wholly with a view to eliciting expert feedback on the Toolkit.

The feedback provided by the experts during and following the EGM will be used to adapt and enhance the Toolkit prior to its wide-ranging dissemination.


The Global Action against Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants - Asia and the Middle East (GLO.ACT Asia and the Middle East) is a four-year (2018-2022), €12 million joint initiative by the European Union (EU) and UNODC being implemented in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in four countries: Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Islamic Republic of Iran, Republic of Iraq and Islamic Republic of Pakistan. This project is funded by the European Union.


For more information, please contact:

Twitter: @glo_act