Vienna (Austria), 25 June 2021 - Like in many regions around the world, human trafficking remains prevalent in Africa. Despite valuable work from stakeholders in the region, more is needed to protect victims and ensure that traffickers do not continue to operate with a high level of impunity. As outlined in UNODC's Strategic Vision for Africa 2030, it is essential that existing efforts are intensified to prevent and combat the crime and reduce its impact on the continent.
In order to contribute to these efforts, the Civil Society Unit and Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Section of UNODC recently organized the fourth Regional Expert Group Meeting (REGM) on ‘Fostering Cooperation between the Public and Private Sector to Counter Trafficking in Persons in Africa’. The REGM was convened with the support of the Federal Government of Germany and co-hosted by the Government of the Republic of Kenya. The REGM brought together over 70 regional actors from the private sector, governments, civil society and academia with the aim of reinforcing each other’s work and establishing effective Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) to combat trafficking in persons in the continent.
Marygorret M. Mogaka, Head of the Counter Trafficking in Persons Secretariat, State Department for Social Protection, Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, Republic of Kenya emphasized that the Kenyan government recognises trafficking as a serious crime and continues to expand victim assistance and protection programmes, which have helped to bring more criminal cases into the justice system. Jan-Christian Niebank from the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Government of Germany, highlighted the importance of PPPs, particularly, for international and intersectional collaboration. “To achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) we need to strengthen our efforts. It is essential to guarantee corporate responsibility to respect human rights along supply chains”, added Niebank who also presented the new German Act on Corporate Due Diligence in Supply Chains, which was adopted on 11 June 2021.
The REGM engaged some of the largest regional and global financial and technology corporations, including Microsoft and Facebook. Participants of the REGM also stressed that the comprehensive multi-stakeholder approach and enhanced international cooperation to counter trafficking in persons (TIP) are needed. Stressing the importance of collaboration, David Williams from Microsoft said that “It takes a network to defeat an organized crime network”. It was also widely agreed that “business as usual is not an option” anymore, and “decent labour conditions, decent work” are for everyone.
In three breakout group sessions focused on supply chains and the technology and financial sectors, experts and participants discussed the challenges and benefits of mutual collaboration, the post-pandemic situation and work with regional and local law enforcement agencies. The role of UNODC was highlighted as a connecting platform where governments, businesses and the civil society can unite forces to counter trafficking in persons.
In his concluding remarks, Jean-Luc Lemahieu, Director of the Division for Policy Analysis and Public Affairs of UNODC stressed that “both the government and the private sector must seek innovative ways to ensure that the Public Private Partnerships mechanism to combat Trafficking in Persons remains a successful endeavor, for example by enacting laws and policies to reduce business’ dependency on cheap labour, or any vulnerable situations that can increase the risk of becoming a victim of human trafficking.”
Many recommendations were made during the REGM, including enhancing the private sector’s understanding of the crime of human trafficking and increasing capacity building programs available to businesses to help mitigate human trafficking risks within their operations and supply chains.
The four REGMs organized in the context of the UNODC Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Project have brought together more than 270 experts from 52 countries across Africa, Asia, South-Eastern Europe, Central America and the Caribbean. As a direct outcome of these meetings, the Compendium of existing PPP and promising practices is being drafted and will be published and presented later this year. It will capitalize on the wealth of information and knowledge that was shared throughout all the REGMs and provides practical guidance on ways and means in which PPPs can help to prevent and counter trafficking in persons.
In addition, the WhatsOn knowledge hub has also been launched, which is a UNODC-wide platform for non-governmental stakeholders working to prevent and counter organized crime and corruption. This will serve as a platform for PPP partners to showcase their work and collaborate. It will facilitate enhanced cooperation and trust-building between the private sector, NGO communities and governments and convene dialogues between multi-stakeholder groups.