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Human Trafficking in Asia: Progress and Continued Challenges

Facing up to Asia's other growth industry

In New York on Nov. 2, Nandita Baruah discusses the private sector's responsibility for ensuring their operations in poor countries abide by labor standards. (1 min., 47 sec.)

In New York on Nov. 2, Nandita Baruah discusses the private sector's responsibility for ensuring their operations in poor countries abide by labor standards. (1 min., 47 sec.)

Facing up to Asia's other growth industry

NEW YORK, November 2, 2010 - Human trafficking is a multi-faceted problem which requires collaboration between governments, civil society, and the private sector, argued the participants in Asia Society panel on human trafficking in Asia.

Nandita Baruah, Chief of Party of The Asia Foundation's Counter Trafficking in Persons program in Cambodia; Jean D'Cunha, UNIFEM Adviser on Global Migration; and Mark Taylor, Senior Coordinator for Reports and Political Affairs, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, US Department of State, joined moderator Alyse Nelson, President of Vital Voices, to discuss current challenges to combating human trafficking, as well as promising approaches to protect and support victims, bring traffickers to justice, and prevent trafficking in local communities across Asia.

800,000 men, women, and children are trafficked across international borders every year, generating billions of dollars for the human trafficking industry. One important way of disrupting the industry, says Baruah, is by holding companies responsible for ensuring that their operations in poor countries abide by labor standards. "[Companies cannot avoid] responsibility by saying that it was sublet to someone else. It becomes your moral responsibility to say whether your producer is producing [your product] in-house with legitimate labor, or is subletting it out to somebody who has got ten minor children who are actually producing it in his backyard."

While some governments have made great strides in the fight against human trafficking, D'Cunha argued that greater attention needs to be paid to prevention. "There is more emphasis on post-violation assistance," D'Cunha observed. "Whenever you do have preventive initiatives, they are often in the nature of micro-livelihood projects, which are not sustainable, they are not gender responsive, they often are not market responsive, and they only reinforce susceptibility to distress migration or to trafficking."

Fortunately, the issue of human trafficking has benefitted from rare bipartisan support in Congress. "It is truly remarkable, the extent of support we receive from all political walks in the US," Taylor said. "The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 passed unanimously and there have been three amendments to the law since then showing the great congressional support and interest in the issue .... In a time when that kind of consensus is pretty rare, it continues and it has been terrific to see the continuity from administration to administration."

One of the most important victories in the fight against human trafficking, according to Nelson, is that the issue is not seen solely as a women's issue. "It is a law enforcement issue; it is an organized crime issue; it is a human rights issue; it is a global security issue; it is a health issue."

Reported by Ben Linden