The 23rd Inter­na­tion­al Human­i­tar­i­an and Secu­ri­ty Con­fer­ence, pre­sent­ed by Web­ster Uni­ver­si­ty Gene­va took place on Feb­ru­ary 15–16, 2018, at the Inter­na­tion­al Con­fer­ence Cen­ter Gene­va with the theme of THE NEED FOR EFFECTIVE GLOBAL COMPACTS ON REFUGEES AND MIGRATION.

The acute world-wide cri­sis of refugees, inter­nal­ly dis­placed peo­ple and of migrants dri­ven by eco­nom­ic fac­tors rep­re­sents one of the most impor­tant human­i­tar­i­an and polit­i­cal chal­lenges for indi­vid­ual coun­tries and for the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty as a whole. There is a broad con­sen­sus that beside emer­gency relief and pro­tec­tion there is a need for a long-term strength­en­ing of the inter­na­tion­al refugee regime and for a more effec­tive and humane approach to labor migration.

It is the recog­ni­tion of these needs that is at the ori­gin of the process, launched in the fall of 2016, of defin­ing two close­ly relat­ed but still dis­tinct “glob­al com­pacts,” one on refugees and the oth­er on migra­tion, to be adopt­ed by the mem­bers of the Unit­ed Nations before the end of 2018.



Thank you to the orga­niz­ers for choos­ing this top­i­cal theme, impor­tant in both human­i­tar­i­an action, human­i­tar­i­an diplo­ma­cy in Gene­va and New York, and also in the heart of pas­sion­ate polit­i­cal debates.

I will not talk about migra­tion in gen­er­al, nor about refugees and migrants in par­tic­u­lar, but about a cat­e­go­ry of peo­ple reduced to des­per­ate sit­u­a­tions, deprived of almost all their rights as vic­tims of human trafficking.


Traf­fick­ing in human beings is too often mis­un­der­stood, in its extent and even in its exis­tence. And yet this form of mod­ern slav­ery is a scourge that today affects tens of mil­lions of peo­ple around the world, in all coun­tries, whether in the form of forced labor, forced pros­ti­tu­tion or organ harvesting.


And the issue of this resur­gence of slav­ery and tor­ture, the denial of vir­tu­al­ly all fun­da­men­tal human rights comes in a year when we should cel­e­brate the 70th anniver­sary of the Uni­ver­sal Dec­la­ra­tion of Human Rights, adopt­ed on the 10th of Decem­ber of 1948.


What can Gov­ern­ments and civ­il soci­ety do to pre­vent traf­fick­ing, to pro­tect vic­tims, to reha­bil­i­tate sur­vivors, to pros­e­cute the per­pe­tra­tors of this crime, which could often be described as a crime against humanity?


The first pri­or­i­ty seems to me to be trig­ger an alert, to make Gov­ern­ments and civ­il soci­ety aware of the grav­i­ty, extent of this form of con­tem­po­rary slav­ery and also of the need and pos­si­bil­i­ty to pre­vent human traf­fick­ing and to abol­ish it.


The sec­ond pri­or­i­ty is to train, edu­cate a wide range of polit­i­cal, police, judi­cial, med­ical and social lead­ers, not to men­tion mil­i­tary, human­i­tar­i­an and reli­gious per­son­nel. It is nec­es­sary to teach how to iden­ti­fy, how to save, how to reha­bil­i­tate the vic­tims. And also to research and share good practices.


How could the two Glob­al Com­pact, one on refugees led by UNHCR and the oth­er on migra­tion led by IOM, help to pre­vent or even com­bat human trafficking?


My response will be cau­tious­ly opti­mistic, based on the text of the two “Zero Projects”, made pub­lic a few days ago, and on the nego­ti­a­tions that have just start­ed in Gene­va yes­ter­day and the day before yes­ter­day at the Palais des Nations.


The urgency is not to have a new legal instru­ment, espe­cial­ly non-bind­ing as will be the two “Covenants”: we have indeed already many treaties, pro­to­cols, dec­la­ra­tions and res­o­lu­tions con­demn­ing traf­fick­ing in human beings in sev­er­al areas of domes­tic and inter­na­tion­al law: crim­i­nal law, human rights, mar­itime law, etc.


On the oth­er hand, the nego­ti­a­tion of the two Covenants — and their imple­men­ta­tion and fol­low-up — should cre­ate oppor­tu­ni­ties and plat­forms to facil­i­tate the exchange of reflec­tions and, above all, good prac­tices to com­bat human traf­fick­ing with­out fur­ther delay.


The two Glob­al Covenants are root­ed in a New York Dec­la­ra­tion, adopt­ed by the Gen­er­al Assem­bly on 19 Sep­tem­ber 2016. This New York Dec­la­ra­tion on Refugees and Migrants already con­tains sev­er­al ref­er­ences to traf­fick­ing, based on Human Rights, Refugee Law, Inter­na­tion­al Human­i­tar­i­an Law Applic­a­ble in Armed Con­flicts, also recall­ing the impor­tance of the Unit­ed Nations Con­ven­tion against Orga­nized Crime and its Pro­to­col, also com­mit­ting States to pro­vide sup­port to vic­tims traf­fick­ing in human beings, whether migrants or refugees. The New York Dec­la­ra­tion also refers to region­al ini­tia­tives against traf­fick­ing, such as the Bali Process, the Khar­toum Process, the Euro­pean Union Ini­tia­tive in the Horn of Africa, the Rabat Process, the Valet­ta, the Euro­pean Union Strat­e­gy, the ASEAN Action Plan.


The two draft Glob­al Com­pacts also address the issue of trafficking:


The Draft Refugee Com­pact calls for the pros­e­cu­tion and extra­di­tion of per­sons engaged in crim­i­nal activ­i­ties of traf­fick­ing. He also asks for iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of and assis­tance to vic­tims of trafficking.


The draft “Glob­al Com­pact for Safe, Ordained and Reg­u­lar Migra­tion” is more explic­it. It requires an approach from all sec­tors of gov­ern­ment (whole-of-gov­ern­ment) and soci­ety (whole-of-soci­ety). It con­tains an Objec­tive 10 on “Pre­vent­ing and com­bat­ing traf­fick­ing in per­sons in the con­text of inter­na­tion­al migra­tion”, which includes the need to har­mo­nize def­i­n­i­tions of traf­fick­ing, to pros­e­cute crim­i­nals and to pre­vent the crim­i­nal­iza­tion of vic­tims. Oth­er objec­tives of this draft Migra­tion Com­pact high­light the need to share infor­ma­tion on migra­tion trends, includ­ing traf­fick­ing, to strength­en the transna­tion­al response to migration.

Tp pros­e­cute migrant smug­glers, to build con­sular pro­tec­tion capac­i­ties to iden­ti­fy and assist vic­tims of trafficking.

The two projects will be nego­ti­at­ed, one in Gene­va (Refugees), the oth­er in New York (Migra­tions). They should be adopt­ed one by the Gen­er­al Assem­bly of the Unit­ed Nations, the oth­er by a Con­fer­ence in Mar­rakesh on 10 and 11 Decem­ber this year. Accord­ing to the Direc­tor Gen­er­al of IOM, Ambas­sador William Swing, and to the High Com­mis­sion­er Assis­tant for Pro­tec­tion, Dr. Volk­er Türk, the two Pro­to­cols should be action-ori­ent­ed, should pro­vide tools for migrants and refugees and be adapt­ed to par­tic­u­lar sit­u­a­tions. The aim would be to make the actions for mas­sive move­ments of refugees and migrants more effec­tive, to draw lessons for the future. It is dif­fi­cult to say at this stage how the Gov­ern­ments will wel­come these Glob­al Com­pacts, even non-bind­ing, and these pro­pos­als for action.

The ques­tion of col­lab­o­ra­tion between dif­fer­ent orga­ni­za­tions will also be high­light­ed, per­haps dis­cussed: the role of UNHCR does not exclude that of IOM, UNICEF, ILO , the Office of the High Com­mis­sion­er for Human Rights, and the ICRC. These are not the heavy coor­di­na­tion mech­a­nisms that should be sought, but effec­tive oper­a­tional coop­er­a­tion, on the ground, between human­i­tar­i­an lead­ers moti­vat­ed by the same cause in favor of life and the dig­ni­ty of the human person.
Includ­ing oth­er orga­ni­za­tions, in par­tic­u­lar region­al and sub­re­gion­al, is often a guar­an­tee of suc­cess. Sim­i­lar­ly, donor or recip­i­ent Gov­ern­ments, coun­tries of ori­gin, tran­sit des­ti­na­tions often exchange their expe­ri­ences for­mal­ly or infor­mal­ly, region­al­ly and sub­re­gion­al­ly, includ­ing on human trafficking.

The Draft Com­pacts do not aim to include every issue: even some fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ples, such as non-refoule­ment, are not includ­ed, for fear of see­ing a rule that has until now been con­sid­ered cus­tom­ary, sub­ject to dis­cus­sion, dimin­ished or relativized.

The two nego­ti­at­ing process­es, as well as the infor­mal con­sul­ta­tions that could be held between the month­ly ses­sions in Gene­va and New York, should high­light both the exist­ing stan­dards of pro­tec­tion of refugees and migrants, includ­ing against traf­fick­ing, and also high­light long­stand­ing coop­er­a­tion agree­ments such as those between IOM and UNHCR in 2010 (“Frame­work for the Devel­op­ment of Stan­dard Oper­at­ing Pro­ce­dures (SOPs) to Facil­i­tate the Pro­tec­tion and Assis­tance of Refugees and Oth­er Per­sons on the Move (see the exam­ple of “Pro­tect­ing Refugees and Oth­ers on the Move in the ECOWAS Space” (http: // where human traf­fick­ing is exten­sive­ly dealt with in Chap­ters 7, 8, 9 and 10. This pub­li­ca­tion was the prod­uct of col­lab­o­ra­tive efforts. It was pro­duced by the IOM and UNHCR, with con­tri­bu­tions from ECOWAS, OHCHR, ILO and UNICEF.


Sim­i­lar­ly, a “Dig­i­tal Plat­form for Best Prac­tices”, a dig­i­tal plat­form for shar­ing good prac­tices, is an excel­lent idea, as long as you know who will set it up, will keep it in the long run and how will the choice of doc­u­ments and lan­guages be made on this platform.

In short, we are, with the two draft Pact, at the begin­ning of a long road. A good start, judg­ing the first steps of these last days. And an effort that will not only be the work of UNHCR and IOM or some gov­ern­men­tal or non-gov­ern­men­tal organizations.

Uni­ver­si­ties have been repeat­ed­ly iden­ti­fied as actors. Gene­va, with its uni­ver­si­ties, inter­na­tion­al civ­il ser­vants and diplo­mats, could thus play a role that would sur­pass that of a nego­ti­a­tion plat­form in 2018, and, in 2019, var­i­ous con­fer­ences relat­ed to traf­fick­ing: the cen­te­nary of the ILO in 2019, the Glob­al Plat­form for Dis­as­ter Risk Reduc­tion (fol­low­ing Can­cún in 2017 and Sendai in 2015), the anniver­sary of the four Gene­va Con­ven­tions of 1949 on the pro­tec­tion of war vic­tims, the Inter­na­tion­al Con­fer­ence on Dis­as­ter Risk Reduc­tion, the Red Cross and Red Cres­cent in Novem­ber 2019.

The Refugee Glob­al Com­pact Mon­i­tor­ing Pro­gram pro­vides for a Min­is­te­r­i­al Con­fer­ence in 2021 to take stock of the 70th anniver­sary of the 1951 Refugee Con­ven­tion and of the 1961 Con­ven­tion state­less­ness). With­out neglect­ing the aware­ness­es, the gen­er­ous dec­la­ra­tions, the texts under dis­cus­sion of the Covenants and the action pro­grams, it is imper­a­tive act­ing both urgent­ly and in the long term by pro­tect­ing and reha­bil­i­tat­ing the vic­tims and by address­ing the root caus­es of human traf­fick­ing, defend­ing the life and dig­ni­ty of all, end­ing impuni­ty for crim­i­nals, putting lim­its to vio­lence and research


unlim­it­ed prof­it, even if it means reduc­ing mil­lions to slavery.Vast pro­gram, in which the two Covenants will be use­ful sup­ports and inevitably incom­plete and imper­fect. But we must already pay trib­ute to those who have thought and writ­ten, and to those who will com­plete them and espe­cial­ly to strength­en the implementation.

This imple­men­ta­tion will be main­ly local, and, as the two Covenants say, the work of a mul­ti­tude of actors, all sec­tors of the Gov­ern­ment and all sec­tors of soci­ety, not to men­tion the vic­tims themselves.

The vic­tims them­selves, I have met some of them, are often the most con­vinc­ing actors in res­cu­ing and reha­bil­i­tat­ing vic­tims of trafficking.

As for us, we are spoiled for choice as to where to engage in pre­vent­ing and con­tribut­ing to the elim­i­na­tion of traf­fick­ing. If you want address­es, I will give them to you will­ing­ly and if you have good ideas, know that they are very nec­es­sary and very welcome.

The mil­lions of vic­tims of mod­ern slav­ery deserve our atten­tion and support.

The hon­or of our gen­er­a­tion and the legit­i­ma­cy of our civ­i­liza­tion are at stake.

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