Vienna, Austria – 24 May 2023 – Climate change is a global challenge that is affecting various aspects of human life, including the environment, the economy, and social and cultural practices. The impact of climate change on migration patterns is one of the major concerns that have emerged in recent years. Climate change-related events, such as droughts, floods, and hurricanes, have caused large-scale displacement of people, leading to an increase in migration flows. Migrants, particularly those in vulnerable situations, are at a higher risk of being exploited by human traffickers and smugglers, who take advantage of their desperation to seek better living conditions.
During the 32nd Session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ), held from 22 to 26 May 2023, the UNODC Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Section organized a side event bringing together government officials, experts and civil society from Africa, Asia and Latin America to explore how these various migratory patterns have complex and evolving intersections with the crimes of trafficking in persons and the smuggling of migrants.
Opening the event, Aimée Comrie, GLO.ACT Project Coordinator, emphasized the impact of climate change on migration patterns and how it exposes vulnerable individuals to exploitation by human traffickers and smugglers. She noted that the objective of the side event is to increase understanding of these complex relationships, share best practices, and promote collaboration among stakeholders to combat these crimes within the context of climate change.
Rahat Bin Zaman, Chargé d'Affaires, from the Embassy and Permanent Mission of Bangladesh, addressed the impact of climate change on human trafficking and migrant smuggling in Bangladesh specifically, highlighting new research that showcases the challenges and vulnerabilities faced by women and girls. He emphasized the need for protection, empowerment, and access to freshwater, as well as job creation and sustainable economic development. Zaman acknowledged the various efforts and initiatives undertaken by Bangladesh to address climate change and called for continued collaboration and support from international organizations, particularly the EU and UNODC GLO.ACT, to effectively combat these complex challenges and create a safer and more resilient future.
Emphasizing the importance of including survivors in shaping policies and initiatives related to human trafficking, Malaika Oringo, Executive Director of Footprint to Freedom and Director of Development African Survivor Coalition, stressed that trafficking survivors are crucial stakeholders in the fight against human trafficking, as they possess valuable insights into the experiences, drivers, and patterns of trafficking. By challenging stigmas and bridging the gaps in research and knowledge on traffickers' tactics, survivors can contribute significantly across the board. Oringo emphasized that often survivors’ voices are limited to just sharing their stories which is why there are these major gaps in policy. Sharing an example of how climate change has had a compounding effect one of her referred trafficking clients, the audience was able to better understand the intimate relationship climate change can have with human trafficking.
Speaking on the holistic climate change strategy of Costa Rica, H.E. Alejandro Solano Ortiz, the Ambassador of Costa Rica to Austria and Permanent Representative of Costa Rica to the UNOV, shared the main causes of migration that often overlap with the effects of climate change, such as lack of education, job opportunities and stable housing. H.E. Solano described in detail the comprehensive climate change strategy, defined around five strategic components: metrics, mitigation, vulnerability and adaptation, capacity-building, and education, culture, and public awareness. Through these various policies and initiatives, Costa Rica aims to provide locals and migrants alike, tools, resources and protection to adapt and respond to the effects of climate change in effort to curb vulnerabilities to human trafficking and migrant smuggling. He stressed that addressing climate change and its effects has to be a collaborative effort across the world.
Ritu Bharadwaj, Principal Researcher and Team Leader at the International Institute of Environment and Development, closed the panel discussion by highlighting key findings on the nexus between climate change, human trafficking, and migrant smuggling. Research has revealed that climate change exacerbates inequality, increasing people's vulnerability to trafficking. Distressed migration arises from both slow and sudden onset events, with the former accounting for a significant majority. Gender and class divisions compound these issues, emphasizing the importance of holistic social protection measures and cross-border cooperation. Bharadwaj emphasized the need for collaborative and inclusive efforts, urging collective action in conjunction with existing initiatives to effectively address the challenges at hand.
Over 75 participants, including delegates from Member States and civil society, joined the event online and in-person event.
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 joint initiative by the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) being implemented in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in up to five countries: Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (Afghanistan), Islamic Republic of Iran (I.R. of Iran), Republic of Iraq (Iraq), Islamic Republic of Pakistan (Pakistan). GLO.ACT-Bangladesh is a parallel initiative also financed by the EU and implemented with IOM.
The project builds on a global community of practice set in motion in GLO.ACT 2015-2019 and assists governmental authorities and civil society organizations in targeted, innovative, and demand-driven interventions: sustaining effective strategy and policy development, legislative review and harmonization, capability development, and regional and trans-regional cooperation. The project also provides direct assistance to victims of human trafficking and vulnerable migrants through the strengthening of identification, referral, and protection mechanisms. The project is fully committed to mainstreaming Human Rights and Gender Equality considerations across all of its activities.
This project is funded by the European Union.