This module is a resource for lecturers

Effective prevention strategies

Demand side strategies: discouraging or prosecuting demand

Concerns about the ineffectiveness of supply side strategies have led to discussions around the need to revisit the approach to strategic responses to trafficking generally. At the forefront of this discussion has been growing interest in analysing the factors that contribute to the demand for goods and/or services that could be tainted by trafficking for labour exploitation. An advantage of such a demand side focus is that it directly targets the prime motivation for trafficking: profit. Without demand for the goods and services produced as a result of labour exploitation, there is no market and therefore no profit ( Inter-Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons 2014. See also U.S. State Department, 2008; Mickelwait, 2013; Ryan and Ferjak). As part of an economic analysis of trafficking in persons, Wheaton, Schauer and Galli (2010, pp. 131-132) note several ways of reducing demand:

"Reducing the demand for trafficked humans means decreasing benefits to employers of employing trafficked labour, whether on-site or through subcontracting. If information is used to educate consumers about the horrors trafficked individuals face, consumer boycotts of certain products and services can be used to decrease benefits to employers. Another way is to increase police administration intent to prioritize enforcement of trafficking offences. Laws can be reworked to more severely punish those caught knowingly using trafficked labour, including […] consumers of trafficked victim-produced products and services".

Article 9(5) of the Protocol against Trafficking in Persons states that "States Parties shall adopt or strengthen legislative or other measures, such as educational, social or cultural measures, including through bilateral and multilateral cooperation, to discourage the demand that fosters the exploitation of persons, especially women and children, that leads to trafficking."

The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings also endorses preventive measures to discourage demand. Article 6 specifically concerns measures to discourage the demand and provides as follows:

"To discourage the demand that fosters all forms of exploitation of persons, especially women and children, that leads to trafficking, each party shall adopt or strengthen legislative, administrative, educational, social, cultural or other measures including:

  • research on best practices, methods and strategies;
  • raising awareness of the responsibility and important role of media and civil society in identifying the demand as one of the root causes of trafficking in human beings;
  • target information campaigns involving, as appropriate, inter alia, public authorities and public makers;
  • preventive measures, including educational programmes for boys and girls during their schooling, which stress the unacceptable nature of discrimination based on sex, and its disastrous consequences, the importance of gender equality and the dignity and integrity of every human being".

Reducing demand is challenging, given the diverse types and complexity of trafficking in persons. Nonetheless, as Kelemen and Johansson (2013, p. 248) note, "if demand is what fuels human trafficking by making it profitable, it is insufficient to focus only on traffickers while ignoring those paying for the services of their victims - the market must be tackled".

Strengthening international labour standards to address demand-side aspects of human trafficking

Offenders engaging in most forms of trafficking, and in particular forced labour, slavery or practices similar to slavery and servitude, are motivated by the profits to be made through evading the costs of wages and complying with labour laws.

Although mere breaches of labour laws do not themselves amount to trafficking in persons, where compliance with these laws is not monitored and enforced this can lead to further deterioration of employment relationships with vulnerable workers, particularly irregular migrants. This may, in turn, lead to their abuse and exploitation, and ultimately situations of trafficking. The risk is compounded if labour laws, policies and practices prohibit or inhibit a worker's freedom to terminate his employment with an abusive employer and find employment elsewhere. Conversely, the demand for trafficked labour or services is markedly lower where workers are organized and labour standards are routinely monitored and enforced.

Advocating a move away from a purely supply side and criminal justice centered approach, Fouladvand (2018, p. 139) argues that "strengthening labour standards in reducing demand for the labour or services of trafficked persons is crucial. Where these standards are monitored and routinely enforced, the cost of non-compliance by employers can well outweigh any benefits derived by exploiting their workers, thus reducing exploitation and, in turn, severe forms of this exploitation which amount to criminal conduct".

In its comments on the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 29, the ILO's Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations highlighted the contribution of labour inspections in identifying, preventing and prosecuting the illegal treatment of workers, including trafficking in persons. Given that labour inspectors commonly have statutory powers to enter work places without search warrants, they are uniquely placed to detect breaches of labour laws and suspected cases of trafficking and initiate prompt enforcement action. By taking effective and immediate action to address and correct labour law violations, labour inspectors can prevent exploitative situations from becoming instances of forced labour and trafficking in persons.

The strengthening and enforcement of international labour standards is therefore imperative to addressing demand-side aspects of human trafficking. They can create an environment where the risks and costs of breaching labour laws significantly erode the potential profits to be generated from trafficking. This includes strengthening and protecting the rights of workers, particularly migrant and refugee workers, and ensuring they have access to prompt, effective and affordable remedies for exploitation and abuse, regardless of their legal status. Specific steps, as indicated in the ICAT paper on countering trafficking in persons by addressing demand, include:

  • Ensuring fundamental human and employee rights are incorporated into domestic laws;
  • Ensuring all forms of work, notably domestic work, are covered by labour laws;
  • Ensuring labour laws apply to all workers, including irregular migrants and refugees, regardless of their migration status;
  • Providing an enhanced mandate and greater capacity for labour inspectorates;
  • Encouraging the establishment of workers' organizations that include migrant and refugee workers, even those with an irregular legal status;
  • Ensure exploited workers, including migrant and refugee workers, have access to effective enforcement and compensation mechanisms to promptly and affordably address infringements of their rights.

The private sector can also contribute by complying with employment laws, as well as developing industry codes of conduct and ceasing business relationships with corporations and other employers known to engage in abusive and exploitive labour practices ( Inter-Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons 2014).

Box 11

Discouraging demand for forced labour in Brazil

Legal initiatives in Brazil have included several measures to address forced labour. In 2006, a regulation was issued requiring State financial institutions to bar financial services to entities listed in the Ministry of Labour's "dirty list", which contains the names of persons and companies documented as users of forced labour.

UNODC, Toolkit to Combat Trafficking in Persons Chapter 9: Prevention of Trafficking in Persons (2016)

Of course, in addition to strengthening labour laws to adequately criminalize labour trafficking and forced labour, such laws must be rigorously enforced and employers who breach them held to account, including by criminal prosecution. In his February 2012 paper entitled "Regulation and enforcement to tackle forced labour in the UK: a systematic response?" , Balch (2012) observed:

"Labour exploitation, in common with other types of crime, evolves over time to evade attempts by legislators and regulators to eradicate or circumscribe it. The fact that forced labour still continues to exist in a liberal democratic country such as the UK underlines this, and also the importance of not taking the implementation of basic human rights for granted. As the International Labour Organization (ILO) observes, while forced labour is now generally recognised as a crime, it is 'rarely prosecuted because of the difficulties in articulating the various offences that constitute forced labour in national laws and regulations. In addition, there are various obstacles to law enforcement and the identification of forced labour victims".

The paper spells out these difficulties and obstacles in the context of the United Kingdom labour market where the regulatory environment is complex (see also Plant, 2009).

Removing exploitation from supply chains

Trafficking in persons and exploitation of workers is only profitable as long as somebody is willing to buy the goods that victims produce. In most cases, the immediate buyer of such goods is another company. Consequently, the behaviour of buying companies, particularly those at the top of a supply chain, could be an important determinant of labour standards. Potential strategies include:

  • Conducting/requiring independent supply chain audits and workplace monitoring.
  • Increasing and strengthening the mechanisms through which cases of abuse, exploitation, trafficking and forced labour can be identified.
  • Defining measures of assistance, compensation and remedy for victims of trafficking for labour exploitation and forced labour.
  • Governments rewarding good practices.
  • Promoting coherence in the measures taken by businesses specifically to stop trafficking in persons and those taken by businesses more generally to respect human rights lower down the chain.

For example, legislation in California, the United Kingdom and France address exploitive labour practices in supply chains of large corporations (for an analysis of the Californian and UK legislation, see Planitzer 2016, and Ezell, 2016 for an analysis of corporate liability for trafficking in supply chains).

Prosecuting consumers of trafficked sex services

Article 19 of the Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Persons encourages States to create laws making it an offence for any person to use services that they know are supplied using trafficked labour (see Niemi and Aaltonen, 2017 for an analysis of implementation in Finland). It provides:

"Each Party shall consider adopting such legislative and other measures as may be necessary to establish as criminal offenses under its internal law, the use of services which are the object of exploitation as referred to in article 4 paragraph a of this Convention, with the Knowledge that the person is a victim of trafficking in human beings".

The Explanatory Report to article 19 clarifies what is intended by the Council:

  • "Several considerations prompted the drafters to include this provision in the Convention. The main one was the desire to discourage the demand for exploitative people that drives trafficking in human beings.
  • The provision targets the client whether of a victim of trafficking for sexual exploitation or of a victim of forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or organ removal.
  • Article 19 is intended not to prevent victims of trafficking from carrying on an occupation or hinder their social rehabilitation but to punish those, who by buying the services exploited, play a part in exploiting the victim.
  • "The provision is not concerned with using the services of a prostitute as such...It therefore does not affect the way in which Parties deal with prostitution in their domestic law".

Several countries follow the approach of article 19 of the Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Persons. For example:

  • Article 402-A of the Criminal Code of the Republic of North Macedonia provides that "the one who uses or enables another person's usage of sexual service from the persons for whom he knows are victims of human trafficking will be punished with imprisonment from 6 months to 5 years".

Similarly, a user of the services provided by a victim of trafficking is liable under

  • Article 323 of the Penal Code of Greece.
  • Section 13 of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of the Philippines.
  • Article 9 of the law of Syria regarding crimes of trafficking in persons.

To establish liability against a customer of trafficked sex services, it must be proven that the customer knew or should have known that the provider of the services is a victim of human trafficking. So actual knowledge is not required; constructive knowledge will suffice (of interest may be a study on criminalization of consumers by Kelemen and Johansson (2013)).

Changing consumer attitudes and buying patterns

Most forms of trafficking become unprofitable if customers refuse to buy the resulting goods and services (including organs, sexual services as well as consumables). Working with consumers to encourage them to refuse to buy trafficked goods and services therefore appears to have considerable potential.

In its 2015 White Paper entitled "Will Consumer Awareness Put an End to Modern Slavery?", Asian Inspection highlights:

"Modern day consumers are an increasingly powerful force that drives businesses to become more socially accountable. Consumers are taking companies to court demanding full disclosure of their supply chains, and they are willing to pay a premium for TIP-free products. In this landscape of growing awareness, brands, retailers and manufacturers can no longer ignore their responsibilities to their workers, regardless of how far down the supply chain they might be …

… As more cases of modern-day slavery come into view and are put under investigation, consumers are adding increased pressure to companies, demanding more transparency in their supply chains. More and more modern consumers want to know the full story behind the products they buy, and whether or not their purchase indirectly facilitates unethical practices and violations of human rights.

It is undeniable that consumers have real power to demand transparency and compliance of the brands - but once they are aware of the problems. Increasing the level of such awareness is among the top priorities of numerous anti-slavery initiatives and NGOs…

Consumer surveys show that most consumers would change their purchasing decision depending on whether or not a certain product involved slavery or exploitation. In the UK and the US, 66% of consumers would stop buying such a product, and more than half would agree to pay more for TIP-free goods (up to 10% premium in the US, up to 50% premium in the UK). The sentiment was even stronger in shoppers of high-end brands; 86% of consumers in the UK and 70% in the US would take action to ensure that their purchase did not involve exploitation. In the medium-range brand sector, this number was around 75%.9 (see also Mickey Goodman, 2011)".

Building consumer action against trafficked goods and services requires the following ( Inter-Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons, 2014):

  1. Encourage consumers to take a more active role in combating trafficking and exploitive labour practices by making informed and responsible buying decisions. This would require the counter-trafficking sector to build on existing work to encourage consumers to question what they buy, particularly goods known to be produced using exploited labour (clothes, electronic goods, certain foods such as seafood products) and commercial sex services and child sex exploitation material.
  2. Bring pressure to bear on manufacturers and retailers to make disclosures of inquiries they have made to ensure their supply chain is free from trafficked labour in order to improve the quality of information available to consumers to enable them to make informed buying decisions.
Box 12

Mobilizing consumers

Nielsen's Global Corporate Citizenship Survey in 2012 provides further evidence of the potential for mobilising consumer action. The survey of more than 28,000 respondents in 56 countries found that "46 percent of global consumers are willing to pay extra for products and services from companies that have implemented programmes to give back to society".

More specifically on trafficking, the MTV Exit campaign has generated the interest of over 100,000 Facebook users, a potentially rich starting point for those seeking a network for action against exploitative supply chains. Various other groups are becoming increasingly active in advocacy, often taking advantage of the space provided by social media.

To use their purchasing power effectively, however, consumers need accurate information - which is often not available - about the source of products they are considering buying. The International Organization for Migration's 2009 "Buy Responsibly" campaign aimed to increase attention on the demand side of trafficking in persons for the purpose of labour exploitation and specifically to encourage individual consumers to be proactive in seeking information about the labour practices used to develop and deliver products when making purchasing decisions.

Inter-Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons, Preventing Trafficking in Persons by Addressing Demand (2014)

Addressing social norms

Social and cultural norms are rules or expectations of behaviour based on shared beliefs within a specific cultural or social group (for additional reading, see the University Module Series on Integrity and Ethics, particularly Module 2 on Ethics and Universal Values and Module 3 on Ethics and Society). While often unspoken, norms offer social standards for appropriate and inappropriate behaviour that govern what is (and is not) acceptable in interactions among people (WHO, 2009). Social and cultural norms are highly influential over individual behaviour in a broad variety of contexts, including violence and its prevention, because norms can create an environment that can either foster or mitigate violence and its deleterious effects (see Tomaszewski, 2018).

As reported in the aforementioned ICAT (2014) paper, trafficking in persons does not occur in a vacuum, but against a background of social norms by which the exploitation of vulnerable people is tolerated. Such norms erode the commitment of government employees, law enforcement, immigration and labour officials to enforce laws and protect and assist victims. These norms exist in societies in which the exploitation occurs and in societies in which the demand for cheap goods outweighs concerns for the rights of workers who produce them.

However, such norms can change, as demonstrated by the abolition of slavery in the 19 th Century and of apartheid in 1991:

"Unfortunately, apart from expressing shock and anguish at the wretched fate of trafficking victims, as a society we have yet to show that we are determined to erase this shameful exploitation from our midst. Perhaps our inaction reflects a sense of frustration at the hidden forces that are feeding the greed and corruption that lie behind the network of human trafficking …

… No doubt it is natural that many people would feel helpless and discouraged in the face of the relentless materialism and unstoppable deviousness that drive human trafficking.

Nevertheless, history is full of examples of the triumph of the human spirit over apparently insurmountable obstacles. The abolishment of slavery in the 19 th century and of apartheid in 1991 stand as shining examples of the progress of society. Likewise, the adoption of universal suffrage and progress towards gender equality demonstrate that fair play and equal opportunity can replace archaic social norms that have stunted society for ages.

In all these social reformations, the light of justice began to burn first in the hearts and minds of a few good people. Convinced about the righteousness of their views against the flow of mainstream opinion, they dared to proclaim their message loud and clear to society, and did not rest until the wrong that pervaded society was righted (Bhattacharjee, 2015)".

There is a growing body of academic work and practical experience suggesting that these social norms can be changed to build an intolerance to trafficking and other exploitative labour practices. This requires a combination of credible information, compelling advocacy and mutual deliberation about the advantages and disadvantages of abandoning a norm, spread through existing and created social networks within the community, including creative use of all forms of media. Specific steps, as indicated by ICAT, might include:

  • Winning the support of donors to fund initiatives to address social practices and norms that tolerate exploitation of trafficked persons.
  • Building alliances to confront social norms that allow trafficking in persons to flourish.
  • More creative and higher profile messaging on behaviours that contribute to exploitation ( Inter-Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons, 2014).
Box 13

Campaigns aimed at lessening demand

The End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT) campaign is an international movement to raise awareness of these issues. ECPAT International is a network of organizations and individuals working to eliminate the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Local campaigns highlighting extraterritorial jurisdiction and warning that engaging in sex with minors is a criminal offence have been successful in many Western countries. In Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Asia, ECPAT has succeeded in getting airlines and travel agents to post signs in airports warning people that engaging in sex with minors is illegal and to distribute fliers about the brutal nature of the trade. ECPAT International has special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council.

Every year, ECPAT International collaborates with other non-governmental organizations, governments and UNICEF to organize a World Congress against the Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents.

UNODC, Toolkit to Combat Trafficking in Persons , Chapter 9: Prevention of Trafficking in Persons (2008)

Laws and policies to curb trafficking in business and military sectors

Several international treaties and guiding materials have been adopted that directly or indirectly help to curb trafficking and factors conducive to it in the business and military sectors, for example:

  • The United Nations Convention against Corruption of 2003 provides in article 12 that States shall take measures including "promoting the development of standards and procedures designed to safeguard the integrity of relevant private entities, including codes of conduct for the correct, honourable and proper performance of the activities of business and all relevant professions and the prevention of conflict of interest, and for the promotion of the use of good commercial practices among businesses and in the contractual relations of business with the State".
  • In 2011, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights published Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. It is grounded on three guiding principles:
    • States' existing obligations to respect, protect and fulfil human rights and fundamental freedoms;
    • The role of business enterprises as specialized organs of society performing specialized functions, required to comply with all applicable laws and to respect human rights;
    • The need for rights and obligations to be matched to appropriate and effective remedies when breached.

These Guiding Principles apply to all States and to all business enterprises, both transnational and others, regardless of their size, sector, location, ownership and structure".

  • Article 2(3) of the Code of Ethics for Tourism of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) provides that "[t]he exploitation of human beings in any form, particularly sexual, especially when applied to children, conflicts with the fundamental aims of tourism and is the negation of tourism; as such, in accordance with international law, it should be energetically combatted with the cooperation of all the States concerned and penalized without concession by the national legislation of both the countries visited and the countries of the perpetrators of these acts, even when they are carried out abroad".

Similar policies and laws have been enacted to punish members of the military engaging in trafficking or similar exploitative activities.

The NATO Policy on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings of 2004 "takes into account the universal condemnation of the crime of trafficking in human beings and reiterates that it constitutes a serious abuse of human rights, especially affecting women and children. […] This modern-day slave trade fuels corruption and organized crime. It has the potential to weaken and destabilize fragile governments and runs counter to the goals of NATO- led efforts especially in South Eastern Europe. A zero-tolerance policy regarding trafficking in human beings by NATO forces and staff, combined with education and training, is required". This policy has been developed by NATO in consultation with its partners and nations contributing forces to NATO-led operations and they agreed "that all personnel taking part in NATO led-operations should receive appropriate training to make them aware of the problem of trafficking and how this modern day slave trade impacts on human rights, stability and security, as well as being informed of their own responsibilities and duties and the respective responsibilities of International organizations in this field".

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