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Rights Based Approach to Address Human Trafficking. Md. Shahidul Haque IOM Regional Representative for the Middle East Regional Expert Meeting on Rights Based Assistance to Victims of Trafficking Cairo, 14-16 December 2008. Introduction.

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rights based approach to address human trafficking

Rights Based Approachto Address Human Trafficking

Md. Shahidul Haque

IOM Regional Representative for the Middle East

Regional Expert Meeting on Rights Based Assistance to Victims of Trafficking

Cairo, 14-16 December 2008

  • Human trafficking is a gross violation of fundamental human rights;
  • Global consensus that human rights must be at the core of any protection and wellbeing effort;
  • Human trafficking must be addressed through a rights based approach;
  • Rights based approach is not a new concept, though it has received unprecedented attention recently.
  • Rights based approach is a comprehensive framework normatively guided by international human rights, norms, principles and standards as well as operationally directed to ensure the human rights of affected people;
  • Rights based approach changes situation of beneficiary/ies from a passive recipient to rights holders;
  • From RBA perspectives, VoTs are in a situation that deprives them of their capabilities, choices and power essential to enjoy fundamental rights.
  • Major components of a RBA:
  • ‘Human beings’ at the centre of all activities (respect for human beings);
  • Process is equally important as the outcome that is aimed at empowerment;
  • Principles of non-discrimination, freedom, equality and equity are taken into account when designing rights based interventions;
  • Accountability of all stakeholders is central;
  • Access to information by/for the concerned people;
  • High level of participation of the affected people is essential.
Empowerment is Fundamental

to RBA

  • Expansion of assets and capabilities of people to participate in, negotiate with, influence, control, and hold accountable institutions that affect their lives;
  • Means strengthening the capabilities of the people to exercise control over things that affect their lives;
  • At its core, empowerment means putting people on equal footing to others, by giving marginalized or survivors the opportunity, voice and power to make a decent life.
Trafficking through RBA lens


Person can not leave the situation if he/she wants to due to binding factors (threats, debt bondage, etc.)

  • Person no longer has control over the following elements of their life for a period of time:
  • What type of work they do (their livelihood);
  • Their work environment and the conditions of this work; and
  • Their freedom of movement in the context of this work situation.
  • OUTCOME: Situation of forced labor, servitude or slavery-like practices.


Third parties (traffickers) benefit and/or participate in placing and maintaining a person in the exploitativesituation.


The exploitation results in some kind of commercial/financial gain by a third party (Traffickers)


Basic laws, ethics and human rights are broken/compromised as a part of the process of recruiting, transporting, harboring and selling a person

Challenges in Implementing


  • Traditional approach in dealing with VoTs as criminals (arrest, prosecute and punish);
  • Lack of awareness and understanding of human rights entitlements of VoTs;
  • Ambiguities and confusion in separating VoTs from smuggled migrants or standard migrants or refugees (mixed migration);
  • Lack of specific tools and expertise in measuring impacts of counter trafficking interventions on the human rights of VoTs and other related people and societies;
  • Assistance to VoTs is sometimes conditional upon their willingness to cooperate with LEA.
RBA to Addressing

Human Trafficking

  • Recognition that human trafficking is both a cause and consequence of human rights violations;
  • Integration of human rights, norms, standards and principles in counter-trafficking policies, legislations and programs, including preventative measures;
  • States as duty barriers are obliged to:
  • - Reorganize trafficked persons a holders of rights;
  • - Investigate alleged violations of human rights without any discrimination;
  • - Punish violators of human rights;
  • - Provide effective remedies to survivors;
RBA to …(Cont.)
  • Counter trafficking measures should focus on:
  • Respecting VoTs as human beings;
  • Recognizing their capabilities as assets (empowerment);
  • Offering freedom of choice and self determination;
  • Enhancing protection of rights;
  • Ensuring confidentiality and right to privacy;
  • Extending physical, legal and emotional support;
  • Shared responsibility of family and community;
  • Involving and enabling civil society to engage in counter trafficking efforts.
International Instruments

to Address Human Trafficking

  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948);
  • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1976);
  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1976);
  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1981);
  • Palermo Protocols (2000);
  • OHCHR Recommended Principles on Human Rights and Human Trafficking (2002).
Recommended Principles on

Human Rights and Trafficking

  • The instrument focuses on:
  • Primacy of human rights (VoTs are at the centre);
  • Comprehensiveness in approach (prevention, prosecution, protection);
  • Responsibilities of States in all aspects of human trafficking;
  • Anti-trafficking measures not to adversely affect the human rights and dignity of persons on the move.
Recommended Principles on

Human Rights and Trafficking

  • Provides 11 Guidelines on:
  • Promotion and protection of human rights;
  • Identification of trafficked persons and traffickers;
  • Research, analysis, evaluation and dissemination;
  • Ensuring an adequate legal framework;
  • Ensuring an adequate law enforcement;
  • Protection and support for trafficked persons;
  • Preventing trafficking;
  • Special measures for the protection and support of child victims of trafficking;
  • Access to remedies;
  • Obligations of peacekeepers, civilian police and humanitarian and diplomatic personnel;
  • Cooperation and coordination between States and regions
  • Create a conducive environment so that people can migrate out of choice (not under compulsion);
  • Counter trafficking interventions should not cause “harm” to the VoT and others (“collateral damage”);
  • Governments’ undertaking the primary responsibility to protect and promote rights of VoTs is fundamental to a rights based approach.