Celebrating Feminists’ Voices, Inspiring Global Peace

Human Trafficking at the Human Rights Council; What’s Missing from the Conversation?

31 May 2013

At this 23rd Human Rights Council Session, along with violence against women, Syria and extrajudicial killings, Human Trafficking has also been a recurring theme.

The discussions surrounding this phenomenon are centred around the report of the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, which was brought to the Council’s attention this Tuesday.

This year’s report focuses on the role of demand in fostering exploitation and trafficking in persons. In highlighting this demand, the Special Rapporteur chose to explore the position of private companies and their corporate responsibilities in supply chains. In this way, she made clear human trafficking is not just a sexual violence issue, but also includes issues like forced labour and organ removal.

To support the work of the Special Rapporteur, Germany and the Philippines have taken the lead on introducing a resolution which will be tabled and voted upon at the end of this Session. The Resolution includes calls to strengthen labour laws and developing programmes and initiatives that motivate businesses to proactively contribute to prevent and combat human trafficking.

The view this report and resolution brings to the discussions on Human Trafficking is important and often overlooked. The role private businesses can play in combating Human Trafficking is crucial, which is why the work of NGO’s like End Human Trafficking Now, which tries to facilitate businesses in analysing their supply chain in the context of exploitation and Human Trafficking, is excellent and greatly needed.

However, we feel part of the conversation has been missing.

While the discussions did focus on commercial sectors that are vulnerable to exploitation and Human Trafficking, such as agriculture, construction and the sex industry, the security sector was left out of the conversation. As the past has taught us, private military and security companies have and still can play a major role in creating demand for such practices, and must therefore also be addressed. In fact, we feel exploitation and Human Trafficking must be discussed in the much broader context of conflict, post-conflict and peacekeeping economies, in which structural problems of accountabilities, militarisation and masculinities are also addressed as important but missing parts of the current picture.

The reason why we would like to hear about this issue in this particular forum, the Human Rights Council, is that the Council is an intergovernmental body, meaning the role of States in protecting Human Rights is central to its process. As such, we would like to use the Human Rights Council and the UN system to highlight the role States can and must play in combating exploitation and human trafficking, which is especially significant in the conflict, post conflict and peacekeeping context.

Therefore, WILPF is proud to introduce its newest project to you, ‘Paths to Justice, Peacekeeping Accountabilities’.

Paths to Justice is a project aimed at utilising and strengthening the accountability mechanisms in place for victims of peacekeeping abuses, such as sexual violence, exploitation and human trafficking. Through advocacy and working closely with our NGO partners on the ground, this project hopes to contribute to simplifying the often arduous and complex paths to justice for victims of these abuses and put an end to the impunity these perpetrators often enjoy.

We are starting work on this project in the coming weeks, so keep an eye out for it on our website, or sign up here to stay updated on all our projects, news and alerts.

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Melissa Torres

VICE-PRESIDENT

Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani

VICE-PRESIDENT

Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo

PRESIDENT

Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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Demilitarisation

WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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