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Trafficking in conflict and humanitarian crises

Human trafficking is an increasingly common feature of modern conflict, whether national or international. Existing forms of trafficking and vulnerabilities ranging from gender-based violence to discrimination to lack of economic opportunities are exacerbated before, during and after conflict. 

Furthermore, conflict tends to fuel impunity, the breakdown of law and order and the destruction of institutions and communities, which foster conditions within which trafficking will flourish, often beyond the point at which hostilities have ceased. Lack of access to safe and legal migration options forces many persons fleeing conflict to use the services of illegal facilitators, increasing their exposure to exploitation, including trafficking.

The most common forms of trafficking in conflict are: 
(a) trafficking of persons fleeing conflict;
(b) trafficking during conflict; and 
(c) trafficking in post-conflict situations. 

Work of the mandate on these issues

The report to the Human Rights Council in 2016 (A/HRC/32/41) recognized the clear link between trafficking and conflict. It acknowledged that conflict influences the form and nature of the severity of trafficking-related exploitation. Also, certain forms of trafficking-related exploitation are either particular to conflict or more prevalent in situations of conflict, such as forced military recruitment of both children and adults. It recognized that not only trafficking is linked to conflict but conflict also fuels trafficking. It amplifies vulnerabilities and increases opportunities for exploitation. 

The following report to the General Assembly in 2016 (A/71/303) built on the previous one and looked into trafficking in conflict and how it affects populations in three different scenarios, people fleeing conflict, trafficking during conflict and finally, the particularities of trafficking in the aftermath of conflict. The Special Rapporteur also discussed these issues at the Security Council open debate on the theme “Conflict-related sexual violence: responding to human trafficking in situations of conflict-related sexual violence of 2016”. Through these reports and engagement in international policy for a, the work of the mandate contributed to bring the spotlight to this issue and stir the international community to pay attention to it. 

Later in 2017, as a result of advocacy efforts by IOM and UNHCR, the anti-trafficking task team within the Global Protection Cluster was created. Through the work of the task team, organizations on the ground have benefited from training and capacity building on identification and assistance to victims of trafficking affected by conflict and in humanitarian settings. For example see the Introductory Guide to Anti-Trafficking Action in Internal Displacement Contexts.

Subsequent reports of the mandate to the General Assembly continued to expand on different aspects of trafficking in humanitarian settings or in relation to the WPS agenda. The report in 2017 (A/72/164) together with the Special Rapporteur on sale and sexual exploitation of children, provided a study on the vulnerabilities of children to sale, trafficking, and other forms of exploitation in situations of conflict and humanitarian crisis. 

Finally, the 2018 report to the General Assembly (A/73/171) focused on the gender dimension of trafficking in persons in conflict and post-conflict settings and its nexus with conflict-related sexual violence, as it relates to the women and peace and security agenda of the Security Council.

Upcoming projects

In order to improve stakeholders’ capacity to implement the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations, a working methodology will be established based on adaptation of recommendations into user friendly guidance in an online format. This approach will allow the Special Rapporteur to dedicate resources to work alongside identified stakeholders to adapt and implement recommendations in practice. In order to do so, recommendations of the Special Rapporteur will be organized in thematic areas to allow identification of relevant stakeholders that will be organized on thematic clusters. The first such cluster will be dedicated to recommendations related to trafficking in conflict and humanitarian settings. 

More information coming soon.

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