Event: Collaborating across sectors to build a world free of human trafficking

Date: Friday, March 9, 2018

Tackling Human Trafficking Event. Photo: Ryan Brown
Participants of the one-day conference focused on collaboration to tackle human trafficking. Photo: Ryan Brown/UN Women

A one-day conference at UN Women’s Headquarters in New York on 9 March 2018 discussed and agreed on collaborative modalities to tackle human trafficking and modern slavery.* Co-hosted by the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund) and the UK-based Shiva Foundation, the event brought together the hospitality industry, the private sector, civil society, Government representatives and the UN to design joint efforts to end this human rights violation.

The conference, which was held in the lead up to the 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women, presented and distributed resources that show how hotels and private sector industries can help curb human trafficking. Often unwitting venues for victims of exploited labour and sexual exploitation, the hotel and hospitality industry can be utilized for their anonymity. Participants in the event explored the many ramifications of trafficking including the continuum of violence against women across different forms of violence and during different stages of life, as well as the gender dimensions of this pervasive form of organized crime where 71% of victims are women.

Panel Trafficking Event. Photo: Ryan Brown
Event panel including (left to right) Carolina Henriquez-Schmitz, Thomson Reuters Foundation; Nishma Jethwa, Shiva Foundation; Sian Lea, Shiva Foundation; Didier Bergeret, Consumer Goods Forum; Heidi Koester Oliveria, Mars Inc.; David Hircock, Estee Lauder speaking at the UN Trust Fund and Shiva Event on 9 March. Photo: Ryan Brown/UN Women 

Topics discussed at the conference included:

  • how to implement survivor-centered approaches from service delivery to decision-making about adequate solutions;
  • leveraging the purchasing power of private companies to end and prevent human trafficking;
  • effective use of technology towards the goal of ending and preventing human trafficking; and
  • moving from a corporate social responsibility approach towards a more holistic model for companies to effectively contribute to end human trafficking.

Aldijana Sisic, the Chief of the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women, added:

“To end human trafficking we need meaningful policies and global best practices that are rigorously implemented through joint efforts of public, private, civil society sectors and the UN. The UN Trust Fund welcomes the Shiva Foundation’s efforts to tackle the issue within the hospitality sector with the launch of their dynamic model. Today’s event aims to create a dialogue and share resources to end human trafficking. The UN Trust Fund awards grants to prevent and end all forms of violence against women, and as women and girls are the vast majority of human trafficking victims, the work of its grantees complement these efforts to tackle human trafficking.” 

Marija Andjelkovic, Executive Director of ASTRA, a Serbia-based NGO that focuses on anti-trafficking and is a UN Trust Fund grantee, said:

“Anti-trafficking is not only [about] implementing projects, awareness raising campaigns or helping persons who survived trafficking. It is also – even more importantly – building a world where human trafficking is not possible.”

During the conference, Shiva Foundation, established by the Shiva Hotels group, presented its model for tackling human trafficking. This includes: urging hotels to work collaboratively on this issue; using the industry’s collective purchasing power to change supply chains; and demanding stronger action from labour market regulators.

Meenal Shiva Foundation. Photo: Ryan Brown
Meenal Sachdev, Director of Shiva Foundation, speaking on ways to tackle human trafficking in the hotel industry. Photo: Ryan Brown/UN Women

Meenal Sachdev, the Director of Shiva Foundation said:

“Modern slavery is a truly widespread and entrenched crime, perpetuated by an organized network of traffickers. You cannot tackle something of this scale without every possible institution working together. This conference is a great example of the type of collaboration we need, bringing civil society, businesses, policy-makers and UN agencies together to strengthen coordinated action in fighting this crime.”

Collaboration across sectors brought insights and perspectives from private sector participants such as Mars Inc, Estee Lauder and Hilton Worldwide, as well as Foundations, and civil society. Carolina Henriquez-Schmitz, Regional Lead and Legal Manager with Thomson Reuters Foundation said:

“The Thomson Reuters Foundation is committed to convening diverse stakeholders to take action and forge tangible commitments to fight trafficking, empower women, and advance human rights worldwide. We are delighted to be part of this conference and to continue exploring how different sectors can work collaboratively to find effective and innovative solutions to tackle slavery.”

The event made clear that to end the exploitation of women and girls, the inspiring work of UN Trust Fund grantees such as ASTRA must be complemented by meaningful policies and global standards that are rigorously implemented by governments and businesses. This is particularly true for human trafficking, where business decisions about labour standards and sourcing can have an impact on women's lives around the world. The collaborative efforts and joint actions of the public and private sectors, civil society and the UN to end human trafficking discussed during this day-long conference will serve as a catalysing force paving the way towards a brighter future free from violence against women and girls.

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The UN Trust Fund has supported 16 projects aimed at ending human trafficking, implemented by civil society organizations worldwide.

*The UN Trust Fund uses the term ‘human trafficking’ as defined in the Palermo Protocol; Shiva Foundation primarily uses the term ‘modern slavery’. Both terms were used during the conference.