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UN.GIFT Q&A: 2012 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons

Last week the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released the 2012 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, one of the most comprehensive reviews of the state of human trafficking around the world. UN.GIFT sat down with Kristiina Kangaspunta, Chief of the UNODC's Global Report on Trafficking in Persons Unit, to discuss the challenges of in preparing the biennial report, some of the key findings, and how the report contributes to efforts to combat human trafficking.


UNGIFT: UNODC's Global Report on Trafficking in Person 2012 is the most comprehensive and data-rich report on human trafficking that the organization has released to date. Past UNODC reports on human trafficking highlighted the difficulty of collecting data on the crime. What has changed over the past few years that enabled the publication of this report?



KK: This Report has an approach that is global and local at the same time. It is global because we cover a large part of the world and we aim to depict patterns and flows globally. It is local as the information is collected and supplied by local institutions. The data availability and collection at the national level has also improved during the last years. There are more than 80 countries around the world with an established National Rapporteur or equivalent mechanism. Also, local authorities are currently better equipped to collect data. This makes it easier for the Member States to send information about their trafficking in persons situation to UNODC.


UNGIFT: What were the most challenging aspects of data collection and analysis in the preparation of the 2012 Global Report?


KK: A great part of the work does not appear in the Report when we tried to understand what is behind the numbers. The Report actually presents the analysis of the metadata, a fancy statistical word for the information about the data: What does the data represent? Is it biased and in which way? Is the data source reliable? And many other questions. We needed to gain a deep understanding of the trafficking situation and the institutional framework in each country through previous studies and listening to local experts.


UNGIFT: The Report highlights an increase in the number of child victims of human trafficking. Are children being trafficked with greater frequency, or has detection of child victims improved?


KK: More precisely, between 2007-2010 we register a reduction of the average age of the detected victims compared to 2003-2006. The reason for this age reduction might be the better detection of child victims. However, there are also indications that this trend is reflecting a real pattern related to the profile of the victims. Increasing child victimization trend is recorded in more than 20 countries around the world and it is confirmed by the majority of the European countries which are historically best equipped to detect and report human trafficking crimes. It is hard to believe that all these countries simultaneously decided to focus more on child trafficking during the last 4 years. We would need more research to understand why child trafficking seems to be increasing.


UNGIFT: Can you highlight a few of the most unexpected findings of the 2012 Report?


KK: For me, one of the most striking results is the diffusions of the trafficking flows around the world. There are 135 nationalities detected in 118 countries, and at least 460 trafficking flows officially detected between 2007 and 2010. If we think what this really means, we can see that human trafficking flows are extraordinary complex, which also explains the difficulties in observing this phenomenon.


UNGIFT: How do you expect this report to be used?


KK: The best thing that can be done with a Report is to read it in full. Too often we go through this type of studies by having a quick look at the summary or at the summary of the summary presented by the media. These brief summaries necessarily leave out many different aspects, insights, details and nuances of the Global Report which would help the reader to better understand the complexities of trafficking in persons in different parts of the world.


UNGIFT: How does a robust body of data contribute to efforts to combat human trafficking?


KK: Global and regional data are helpful to better understand different patterns and flows of human trafficking in the world. This kind of data can also raise several questions about different aspects of trafficking. For example, if we know that detected cases of child trafficking or labour exploitation are increasing, policy makers and practitioners should ask why this is happening and what should be done about it.


UNGIFT: Earlier this year the ILO released its Global Estimate on Forced Labour, putting the number of victims of forced labour at around 21m. Does that UNODC Global Report complement ILO's Global Estimate, or how are these two reports related?


KK: While the ILO report is targeting forced labour according to the Forced Labour convention, UNODC is studying trafficking in persons following the UN Trafficking in Persons Protocol. This means that the phenomena that we are studying are defined differently in two different international treaties. Forced labour and trafficking in persons are related and overlapping to an unknown extent. Many victims of forced labour are in this situation as a result of trafficking; but we also have victims of trafficking that are not covered by the ILO convention, and victims of forced labour that are not trafficked. ILO aims at estimating the size of forced labour at regional and international levels, while UNODC is mandated to analyze patterns and flows - not the severity - of trafficking. We also collect our data differently and use different methodologies in our analyses. Despite of these differences, some of our results complement each other's: as UNODC, also ILO arrives to the conclusions that the number of child victims ranges around 25% of the total number of victims.


UNGIFT: Out of the 132 countries covered in the 2012 Global Report, 16 per cent did not record a single conviction for trafficking in persons between 2007 and 2010. Why are human trafficking prosecutions and convictions so rare compared with other crimes?


KK: Currently, only 9 countries, or 5 per cent, do not have a specific legislation against trafficking in persons. In 2003, 65 per cent and in 2008 20 per cent of countries did not have such a legislation. So, the criminalization of trafficking has happened relatively recently. This might partly explain the low prosecution and conviction rates. However, the overall low rate is disappointing and shows that there is a great need to increase both the capacity and awareness of the law enforcement to better respond to trafficking crimes.


UNGIFT: The next report will be published in 2014. Are there any areas that need to be covered that were not able to be included in the 2012 Report?


KK: We are planning to strengthen our data collection for the next report. Our aim is to cover all our Member States and we will try to deepen our understanding of national situations by collecting more qualitative information. This time we focused on the criminal justice responses, which is an important part of trafficking. However, it would be interesting to collect data also on prevention and protection following the articles of the Trafficking in Persons Protocol. This would allow us to better assess the real implementation of the Protocol.


Click here to read the Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2012.