Fifteen Years of the UN Trafficking Protocol


The year 2015 marks the 15th anniversary of the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. Is this a time to celebrate progress or has the Protocol caused more problems than it has solved?

Issue 4 of the Anti-Trafficking Review takes stock of the impact of the Trafficking Protocol. This issue presents thoughtful, innovative and well-researched articles by a range of academics, experts and practitioners that address critical questions on this landmark piece of legislation.

The Protocol created frameworks which have impacted people’s lives: differentiating smuggling from trafficking; marking out women and children, rather than men, as priority stakeholders; defining trafficking broadly; placing organ sale within the mainstream of anti-trafficking work; and emphasising the concept of ‘abuse of power’ in the identification of trafficking. What do the effects of these aspects of the Protocol look like on the ground, after 15 years of building anti-trafficking into government, NGO and INGO programming?

How do those who negotiated the Protocol view it now? How has the Protocol’s definition of trafficking been received and what aspects of the definition continue to be problematic or controversial? Furthermore, what work needs to be done to make the Protocol more useful (to people who are trafficked) in the decades ahead? Some have questioned the new international legal framework around trafficking established by the Protocol due to its placement under a crime control convention and the implicit prioritisation of prosecutions over human rights and victim protection. Many have worked hard to prioritise human rights in anti-trafficking laws as well as in anti-trafficking practice.

Some of the articles take a global or general viewpoint, while others are grounded in certain contexts - India, the Burma-China border, Eritrea and the Horn of Africa, the UK, Norway, Brazil and Singapore. The issue has five full research articles and one interview with a prosecutor from Brazil, in addition to a ‘Debate’ section.

Five ‘Debate’ pieces defend or reject the following proposition: The Trafficking Protocol has Advanced the Global Movement Against Human Exploitation.

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