“Trafficking in persons is a global phenomenon which crosses borders, markets and industries,” said United Nations Special Rapporteur Joy Ngozi Ezeilo while urging business enterprises around the world to refrain from using trafficked labour, and prevent and monitor the use of such labour by its suppliers. “In today’s globalized world, the risks of human trafficking in supply chains are significant throughout economic sectors and affect all States, whether as source, transit or destination countries,” Ms. Ezeilo warned at the end of an international expert meeting in Ankara, Turkey, which gathered over 20 specialists on human trafficking, business and human rights, from the international organizations, trade unions and NGOs, as well as business representatives from leading international corporations.
“Supply chains in the current global economy are often complex and involve multiple layers of suppliers and sub-contractors in various countries and regions, thus hampering the monitoring and reporting process,” said the Special Rapporteur.
“States have the primary obligation to protect against human rights violations, such as trafficking, committed by third parties including business enterprises; but businesses must also respect human rights”, reaffirmed Ms Ezeilo, recalling the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
The UN expert noted that there is wide international consensus that businesses are uniquely positioned to prevent or mitigate any risk of trafficking in the supply chains. “Businesses are generally aware of human trafficking and may find it morally unacceptable,” she said, “yet the connection between trafficking in the supply chains and business is still not well understood”.
“Businesses cannot shy away from tackling this issue not only because it amounts to human rights violations, but also because it creates reputational and financial risks to their operations,” reiterated Ms. Ezeilo. “However, the solution to the problem of human trafficking in supply chains lies beyond the reach of any single stakeholder.”
The international experts gathered in Ankara concurred that a multi-faceted approach and broad partnerships are needed so that every actor can play its part: Governments must take legislative and policy measures and provide for the necessary enforcement framework; businesses must refrain from using trafficked labour and prevent and monitor the use of such labour by suppliers; consumers and the media must shape corporate and Governments’ behaviour.
The international expert meeting in Ankara was convened on 12 and 13 November by the UN Special Rapporteur to: (a) deepen discussion around the findings of her latest report to the UN General Assembly, (b) share information on trends, good practices and lessons learnt in addressing trafficking in supply chains among experts in this field, and (c) reach concrete proposals towards achieving real changes that would protect the human rights of trafficked persons as well as prevent and combat trafficking in persons.
Joy Ngozi Ezeilo started her mandate as Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children in August 2008. Ms Ezeilo is a human rights lawyer and professor at the University of Nigeria. She has served in various governmental capacities and consulted for various international organizations, and is currently involved in several NGOs, particularly working on women’s rights. She has published extensively on a variety of topics, including human rights, women’s rights, and Sharia law. Ms Ezeilo was conferred with a national honour (Officer of the Order of Nigeria) in 2006 for her work as a human right defender.