On October 16, 17, and 18th, the SGG facilitated the Counter Child Trafficking Global Online Conference. The event, held entirely online using the SGG’s eConferencing platform, was an initiative of Touchpoint Child Protection and the Counter Human Trafficking Bureau and their partner organization, Love146 Europe.
In total the conference included 46 sessions and 54 speakers, including academics, clinicians, practitioners, and representatives from organizations such as the Polaris Project, ECPAT UK, the International Justice Mission, UNICEF, and many more. This roster of speakers included individuals working in the counter-trafficking field from almost every corner of the globe. Over 1,500 members of the counter child trafficking community – along with some interested outsiders – registered to take part in the conference. Participants heard from high-profile keynote speakers such as Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, the UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons; Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, the OSCE Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings; and Dr. Myria Vassiliadou, the European Commission Anti-Trafficking Co-ordinator. In short, the event was extremely well-attended, and presented the counter child trafficking community with a valuable chance to network and share their experiences.
Presentations from the conference encompassed several important themes that highlight pressing issues for the counter child trafficking community. For example, several speakers, including Kate Berry (Polaris Project) and Vincent Tournecuillert spoke about how technology can be used to strengthen understanding of human trafficking and responses to it. Another important theme amongst the presentations was the issue of caring for survivors once they are rescued from human trafficking – a complex issue to be sure. Halleh Seddighzadeh, a forensic traumatologist from Asylee, Refugee, Migrant Assistance Network (ARMAN) gave a presentation about the clinical effects of trauma on child trafficking victims. Others such as Sam Inocencio and Jan Murk, from the International Justice Mission and Nidos respectively, spoke about the legal elements of aftercare and how children’s care continues long after they are rescued from trafficking. Overall, the conference’s agenda was far-reaching and comprehensive, offering substance for individuals involved in numerous fields of counter child trafficking.
Official estimates report that human trafficking is now a $32-billion industry, and is growing rapidly. UNICEF estimates that up to 2 million children fall victim to trafficking globally, many of which become involved in the commercial sex trade. Human traffickers are adept at manipulating the deficiencies of a state’s security apparatus, such as inadequate border control and a lack of specialized training for security personnel. Ineffective legal procedures also hamper counter-trafficking measures. Indeed the rates of convictions for human trafficking are extremely low, despite the existence of legislation in many countries to combat the problem. 134 countries have enacted legislation to prosecute offenders, but many of those countries have yet to record a single conviction.
Thus, security sector reform is a pressing issue of concern for the counter-trafficking efforts. Although, the concept of SSR may need to be expanded or redefined in order to better facilitate counter-trafficking efforts. According to DCAF, traditional definitions of SSR (for example the OECD DAC definition) focus too heavily on security institutions such as the military and the police. Effective counter-trafficking means taking into account the judiciary, civilian oversight bodies, and particularly non-state actors such as NGOs.
Chris Bordeleau is a Project Manager with the Security Governance Group.