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The UN Human Rights Office addresses the issue of trafficking through the lens of the human rights-based approach. This approach stems from international human rights conventions and other international legal frameworks on trafficking. It is conceptualized in the Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Human Trafficking. 

Since 2000, OHCHR has been successful in promoting this approach. Our efforts are focused on three main areas: capacity development, research and knowledge production, and partnerships.

Capacity development

We help build the capacity of Member States to ensure that their laws, policies and administrative regulations comply with international human rights standards in the area of human trafficking. Over the past decade, the Office has assisted countries in Central Europe, the Middle East and North Africa to achieve positive steps in integrating human rights in their responses to trafficking. 

We also raise awareness and build capacities on trafficking of migrants. In several countries in Africa, the Office has helped organize workshops and trainings to educate gendarmerie and border control officers about international and regional human rights instruments regarding people on the move, and to strengthen their capacities to protect and identify human rights violations. More recently, the Office has supported civil aviation authorities and airlines in their role in identifying trafficking victims.

Past and ongoing projects:

  • ICAO-OHCHR Guidelines for training cabin crew on identification and response to trafficking in persons. The UN Human Rights Office is working in partnership with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to develop guidelines and an e-learning course for cabin crew on identifying victims of trafficking. This project also includes the development of an awareness-raising message to be broadcasted in airplanes. The guidelines will be launched in 2018 during the first Civil Aviation Authorities and Airlines Forum on Human Trafficking.
  • Assistance in Strengthening National Capacity of the Republic of Belarus in the Field of Protection of Human Rights in the Context of Addressing Trafficking in Persons and Related Crimes. Since 2013, the Office supports capacity building in combating trafficking in persons in the Republic of Belarus. The project aims to strengthen national capacity in protection of human rights in the context of the administration of criminal justice.
  • Capacity development projects, including trainings, for law enforcement and judiciary authorities, as well as civil society organizations from several countries, including Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Ukraine, Cameroon, Philippines and Colombia, among others.

Research and knowledge production

Even though a solid legal and policy framework to combat trafficking in persons is in place at the international level, there are still many grey zones with regards to trafficking and the most efficient means to eliminate it. The UN Human Rights Office is committed to contribute to further research and knowledge production on emerging and under-researched issues such as trafficking for the purpose of organ removal, the right to remedies, and modern forms of slavery, among other issues.

Past and ongoing research projects:

  • Guidelines on human rights and trafficking for the purpose of organ removal. The GA resolution A/71/L.80 mandates OHCHR, in collaboration with WHO and UNODC, to develop international guidelines on the health, criminal and human rights aspects relating to trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal and trafficking in human organs. In this regard, OHCHR has undertaken research that aims at adapting the Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Human Trafficking to the specificities of TPOR. The research draws on the work undertaken in 2013 by the Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children.
  • Compendium of definitions and concepts related to human trafficking and contemporary forms of slavery, which looks at linkages and overlaps between trafficking and modern day slavery and other forms of exploitation.
  • ICAT Issue briefs. As part of ICAT, OHCHR has led the development of several ICAT issue briefs including What is the Difference between Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants? (PDF) and Providing Effective Remedies for Victims of Trafficking in Persons (2016) (PDF).


Human trafficking is a complex issue that requires a multidisciplinary approach to stop it. For this reason, the UN Human Rights Office is strongly committed to engaging with UN inter-agency processes and strengthening cooperation with various actors.

Engagement with the Inter-Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons (ICAT)

At the global level, the Office is an active member of the Inter-Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons (ICAT), which is a policy forum mandated by the UN General Assembly to improve coordination among UN agencies to facilitate a comprehensive approach to preventing and combating trafficking in persons. In this context, the Office contributes to the inclusion of a human rights-based approach in the joint policy papers, issue briefs and briefings to Member States, which are developed by the ICAT.

The UN Human Rights Office was chair of ICAT in 2017. In that role, the Office led the drafting of the group’s submission (PDF) to the Appraisal of the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons (PDF) and the drafting of the Political Declaration, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2017. As chair of ICAT, the Office also actively contributed to the organization of the preparatory multi-stakeholders hearing held in New York, in June 2017.

As part of ICAT, we work towards the development of trafficking indicators. The General Assembly resolution on improving the coordination of efforts against trafficking in persons (A/RES/XX) “requests ICAT to work closely with the UN group of chief statisticians to compile and develop sets of indicators of trafficking relevant to different and specific contexts and agreed methods for data collection.” The Office  also contributes to the study of linkages between trafficking in children in conflict situations and the six grave violations against children affected by armed conflict, including the links between Monitoring Report Mechanisms and trafficking in persons. This is in the context of the Security Council resolution on Children and Armed Conflict (SCR 2388) that invites all UN agencies to explore and brief the Security Council on this issue.

Alliance 8.7

Target 8.7 of the UN 2030 Agenda calls for us to “take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms.” Alliance 8.7 is a multi-stakeholder initiative that was created to help us work together towards achieving this target. The UN Human Rights Office is part of the governing body of the Alliance and leads the Action Group on Rule of law and Governance. In the context of Alliance 8.7, the Office also contributed to the development of the Global Estimates on Modern Slavery and Child Labour.

Alliance against Trafficking in Persons

The Alliance against Trafficking in Persons is a broad international forum that includes international, non-governmental and inter-governmental organizations who join forces to prevent and combat human trafficking. The UN Human Rights Office is an active member of the Alliance. We participate in the meetings of the Alliance Expert Co-ordination Team and support the organization of the annual high-level Alliance conference.