Thank you for convening this Open Debate on trafficking in persons in conflict situations, with focus on forced labor, slavery and other similar practices.
About a year ago, the Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, addressed this Council and said “Trafficking in persons in conflict and post-conflict situations is a consequence of crisis and conflict on a regular basis, and it must therefore be seen and addressed as a systemic outcome of conflict. Conflict-related trafficking is rarely detected, however, and even less addressed.”
This observation is shared by our Philippine Inter agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) who acknowledges the existence of trafficking in persons incidents in conflict areas in the Philippines but faces the difficulty of tracking incidents and measuring the extent of this kind of activity.
The Philippines has adopted a one-country team and multi-stakeholder approach to trafficking in persons that consolidates the mandates, efforts, resources and interests of the duty bearers and stakeholders to come up with a robust response. This has resulted in promoting awareness and mainstreaming of interventions down to the grassroots-level.
Realizing the increased vulnerability of populations in conflict areas, the government has activated a structure called the Gender-based Violence Cluster, composed mainly of law enforcers, social welfare service providers who specialize in gender issues, and civil society representatives. The Cluster is tasked to address the needs of women and children in conflict situations, especially in mitigating vulnerabilities to sexual violence and trafficking. The Cluster develops and implements programs for access to protective information, psychosocial and trauma informed care, protective custody and access to education and economic opportunities.
The issue of child soldiers, especially young men and boys, is also of serious concern to the Philippine government. The government considers recruitment and use of children as soldiers as a case of grave child rights violation. In this regard, our efforts are focused on preventing their recruitment, investigating allegations of recruitment, holding the perpetrators accountable, and training front-line officers on appropriate methods to assist children rescued from armed groups.
To address the problem of human trafficking as a means to finance the activities of terrorists, armed groups and transnational organized crime networks, it is important to examine trafficking corridors and the business flow of trafficking. This approach has enabled the Philippines to strategically locate victims and traffickers in the entire process, especially at critical points of intervention where victims are the most visible and can be rescued. It also allows identification of critical points in the business flow to deal the strongest blow to the operations of trafficking syndicates; and to expose and develop strategies to arrest new means employed by traffickers.
The Philippine government has made it a priority to provide them protection from human trafficking and exploitation. This protection is provided through national laws, international arrangements, cooperation with destination countries and initiatives in multilateral forums. Recently, we have worked with the United States, IOM, and other partners on the Migrants in Countries in Crisis Initiative to improve responses to assist migrants in countries experiencing conflict or natural disaster. The guidelines, principles and practices leverage on the competencies and strengths of various stakeholders to save lives, increase protection, decrease vulnerabilities, including from trafficking, of migrants.
The Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration also provides us an opportunity to strengthen international cooperation to allow migrants to move across borders safely and prevent them from falling into the arms of traffickers.
The very nature of human trafficking requires cross-border cooperation. Member States need to strengthen international coordination on information sharing, law enforcement, border control and judicial systems, and learn important lessons to enhance their own national action plans to more effectively combat this problem. Criminal networks, armed groups and terrorists groups must not be allowed to further thrive in situations of instability and chaos, to prey on the fear, hardship, and misery of others caught in conflict and post-conflict situations, and to profit from activities as forced labor, slavery and other forms of exploitation.
I thank you.
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