Human Security and Human Trafficking

In part one of her four-part series on human security and human trafficking, Youth Ambassador Konstantia Tsiaousi focuses on the what and the why of human security.

5 June 2017

Human trafficking is a human rights violation. Clearly, a number of human rights are relevant to this crime such as the right to life, the right to liberty and security and the right not to be submitted to slavery, servitude, forced labour or bonded labour. The 2000 Palermo Protocol for example supplements the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and aims to prevent and combat trafficking in persons and to protect and assist the victims of such trafficking. Article 3 of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons defines Trafficking in Persons as the movement of people by means such as force, fraud, coercion or deception with the aim of exploiting them. Modern Slavery is the term used within the UK and is defined within the Modern Slavery Act 2015. The crime is broken down into different offences of Slavery, Servitude and Forced or Compulsory Labour and Human Trafficking.

Trafficking in persons has most often been studied within the migration studies framework and a human rights one, but in the last few decades it has been incorporated in security studies too. Too often violations of human rights result in conflicts, displacement, and human suffering on a massive scale. In this regard, the human security discourse highlights the universality and primacy of a set of rights and freedoms that are fundamental for human life as the central focus for ensuring both state and global security.

What is Human Security?

The UN Trust Fund for Human Security defines Human Security (HS) as a “dynamic and practical policy framework for addressing widespread and cross-cutting threats facing Governments and people.”. Among its characteristics, its people-centered aspect allows it to focus on multidimensional threats that challenge the survival, livelihood and dignity of people. It emphasises the need to protect the people when facing any kind of risk.

This is a concept for addressing the world’s most complex and crucial issues; human security is a global concern. When it comes to situations of human insecurity, trafficking in persons is a priority, for which HS can be applied as an operational tool to tackle it. So how can this framework be operationalised? From a practical perspective, a human security approach aims to address complex situations of insecurity through collaborative, responsive and sustainable measures. HS can be applied through a well-known three phased program; analysis and planning, implementation and finally impact assessment. One of the goals of the second phase is to ensure ownership by the beneficiaries and local counterparts through capacity building and partnership. Local counterparts’ participation is key to the successful implementation and maintenance of any HS programme. While Human Security cannot stand by itself to fight and prevent a crime like human trafficking, it can however provide the framework in which powerful participators are included and can work on overcoming this challenge. A typical process of a participatory implementation includes the establishment of a multi-actor local committee for overseeing the implementation, the mobilisation of local resources and the establishment of monitoring and reporting mechanisms.

Human insecurities threaten not only the immediate victims – in this case, the victims of human trafficking – but also to the collective security of the international community. In this regard, the human security concept is an imperative tool in responding to current and emerging crises.

The relationship between security and trafficking

First, Human Security is needed in response to the complexity and the interrelatedness of both old and new security threats – from poverty to violence, to human trafficking. Second, threats to human security are mutually reinforcing and intertwined; there is a domino effect whereby each threat feeds on another. For example, fragile environments can lead to trafficking and trafficking can lead to even more fragile communities. In that sense, HS and human trafficking can be closely intertwined. On the practical side of things, Human Security involves thorough approaches that highlight the need for cooperation and unified responses that bring together the agendas of those dealing with security. Human trafficking will not be tackled just with siloed initiatives; an organised plan of collaboration is needed to combat it and human security can provide the relevant framework.

On reflection of the above, the next articles for this blog series will aim to mark upcoming international observance days that relate in some way to Human Security. In so doing, I will be exploring the subjects of child exploitation and sexual violence in conflict. I will complete the series with an analysis of a working example of a human security approach to tackling human trafficking.


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