Parliaments and parliamentarians have a very important role to play in the fight against trafficking. They can create the political and legislative environment for the successful development and implementation of anti-trafficking initiatives.
In order to respond to the problem of trafficking, comprehensive national strategies must take into account the need to review and amend, as necessary, the legislative framework within which the response will take shape. This includes various legislative reforms required to bring national legislation into compliance with international standards and ensuring that the offence of trafficking is created in domestic criminal law. It also involves the criminalization of other offences related to trafficking. As the legislative authority, parliaments are entrusted with the ratification of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children and any other international instruments related to trafficking in persons.
In addition to ensuring the adequate legislative framework to fight trafficking, parliamentarians have an important role in adopting legislation that is in accordance with international standards so that the crime of trafficking is precisely defined in national law, and detailed guidance is provided as to its various punishable elements. They also play a role in other prevention, protection of victims, and prosecution efforts, such as raising awareness; promoting national campaigns; ensuring appropriate allocation of funds to anti-human trafficking programmes; and promoting inter-agency and international cooperation, when necessary.
Parliamentarians at the Vienna Forum to Fight Human Trafficking
In a joint effort by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the Austrian Parliament and UNODC, the Parliamentary Forum to Fight Human Trafficking aimed to bring the legislative dimension to the Vienna Forum. It provided an opportunity for over 150 parliamentarians from around the world to discuss and share good practices in anti-human trafficking legislative review, and to clarify the critical role parliamentarians and parliaments have in national and international efforts to combating human trafficking.
Building upon its work in developing model legislation, UNODC has prepared a draft handbook for parliamentarians which was first presented and discussed at the Parliamentary Forum. The handbook is based on an analysis of the various provisions of the Trafficking Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, as interpreted by the legislative guide and the UNHCHR Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Human Trafficking. The handbook also provides concrete examples of how parliaments around the world are tackling the problem.
As a follow up to the Parliamentary Forum, a report of the proceedings of the event was presented at the Plenary Session of the Vienna Forum. The report was part of the official proceedings of the Forum and contains recommendations and follow up actions on the discussion topics outlined.
Link to IPU website: http://www.ipu.org/splz-e/vienna08.htm
Human trafficking at the 118 th IPU Assembly
In April 2008, over 1500 parliamentarians gathered for the 118 th IPU Statutory Assembly in South Africa. The Assembly's main topic for the general debate was the political, economic and social situation in the world with the overall theme of "Pushing Back the Frontiers of Poverty." One of the many important issues that were addressed under this theme was human trafficking.
In Assembly's opening session, Mrs. Barbara Prammer, President of the Austrian National Council and Member of UN.GIFT's Women Leader's Council, stated "…the fight against human trafficking, one of the most cruel crimes of today's globalized world, is of utmost concern to me. Trafficking in persons affects thousands of individual lives worldwide. (…) Good governance and legislation are key elements in fighting and preventing human trafficking and protecting the victims. Inter-regional and international cooperation and joint action are equally important."
In April 2008, the final version of the publication Combating Trafficking in Persons: A Handbook for Parliamentarians was launched in Ethiopia. As elected representatives, parliamentarians have a responsibility and the power to ensure that laws and other measures are put in place and implemented to that end. The Handbook is intended to inspire them to enact sound laws and adopt good practices that will strengthen national responses to human trafficking.
The Handbook also contains a compilation of international laws and good practices developed to combat human trafficking and offers guidance on how national legislation can be brought in line with international standards by, for example, defining trafficking in persons and criminalizing all its forms. It outlines measures to prevent the commission of the crime, to prosecute offenders and to protect victims.
Equipped with this important tool to fight human trafficking, more initiatives are expected to be lead by parliamentarians from around the world.