The Mekong Sub-regional Project to Combat Trafficking in Children and Women (ILO-TICW), International Labour Office
- Responsible Organizations: The International Labour Office (ILO)/ International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) (International Organisation)
- ILO Regions: Asia
- Country(ies): Cambodia; China; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Thailand; Viet Nam
- Theme(s): International cooperation on labour migration; Migration process; Prevention of abusive practices
- Start date: 2000; End date: 2008
The main objective of the project is to contribute to the elimination of trafficking of children and women in the Greater Mekong Sub-region, through the development, implementation and monitoring of effective and integrated sub-regional and national strategies and actions. Specific objectives include:
i. Develop national frameworks, structures, policies and processes to address trafficking;
ii. Supplement the knowledge base relating to trafficking and labour migration in the GMS and develop a sub-regional platform for sharing information; and
iii. Support government efforts to mainstream good practices in community-based prevention.
- The project was primarily funded by the United Kingdom¿s Department for International Development, with additional funds provided by the Government of Japan through the UN¿s Human Security Fund.
Activities, processes and steps involved:
The ILO-TICW project was initiated in 2000 as a pilot project with an end date in 2003. The success of the project prompted its extension to 2008. The main focus of the ILO-TICW project is to combat human trafficking in women and children in the GMS through the development, implementation and monitoring of integrated regional and national strategies and actions. The project adopted a broader understanding of trafficking as a function of labour migration, focusing research and prevention in labour sectors in which exploitation is likely to occur (i.e. tourism, services, fishing and seafood processing, low-skilled manufacturing, and domestic work). The project also provided technical assistance to help ensure that potential migrants were well informed of the living and working conditions in the destination areas and that migration occurs under safe conditions.
The project¿s overall strategy was to holistically approach trafficking in the GMS, looking at the pull and push factors and involving target communities and individuals, social partners, and government officials. The approach involves local partner agencies at the community, provincial and national levels. Integrated and participatory design, and monitoring and evaluation at all levels were key elements of this approach. The three areas of interventions were:
Capacity building activities, including investments in coordination mechanisms at sub-regional, national and sub-national levels; project management training in participatory approaches; data collection and participatory monitoring and documentation of learning; assistance in development of alternative livelihood strategies, skills training and education; and regular labour migration as alternatives to trafficking.
Information, mobilization and advocacy activities, aiming to harness knowledge and understanding to promote action, attitude change and commitment at all levels, as well as policy change.
Direct assistance, including programmes for participatory and context-driven development, geared at increasing community options, access to services, and alternative livelihood strategies. Measures include identification of new economic opportunities based on market analysis; skills and small business training; improved access to credit and markets; mobilization of workers & employers' organizations; awareness raising and sensitization on critical issues of importance to children, women and communities in general.
In 2006, the ILO-TICW initiated a two-year awareness campaign targeting potential migrants in their areas of origin as well as migrants in destination areas, to raise awareness of the dangers of ill-prepared migration. The ILO-TICW team produced four versions of a guidebook entitled Travel Smart¿Work Smart: A ¿smart¿ guide for migrant workers, translated into seven languages (Burmese, Chinese, Karen, Khmer, Laotian, Shan and Vietnamese). The text of each version was adapted to each national context and to the location of the target audience in a source, transit or destination country. The guide primarily targets young people aged 15¿24 years old, but it is equally relevant to older migrants.
Youth, in particular young women, migrating in search of work in the GMS.
ILO-TICW team partnered with governments, employers and workers organizations, businesses, local communities at the origin and destination, and local and international NGOs, including Save the Children (UK) and World Vision. ILO-TICW also worked with the UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP).
A website providing research on trafficking conducted by ILO-TICW, a series of 'proven practices' and tools: www.childtrafficking.net.
Relevant criteria for assessment
1. Respect for migrant worker rights:
The project promotes well-informed and safe labour migration, and prevention of trafficking and exploitation by empowering potential migrants. It is in line with the provisions and guidelines found in the ILO Multilateral Framework on Labour Migration, in particular principle 11, and the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, which covers core labour standards.
Trafficking is a major concern in the GMS, with Thailand as a trafficking hub. Migration caused by economic distress can result in trafficking. The ILO-TICW project correctly identifies trafficking as a function of labour migration, focusing on sub-regional trends towards uninformed and ill-prepared migration, which creates a vacuum in which human traffickers exploit migrants, especially women and children. While governments in the region recognize this concern, many have a limited capacity to address it. The project effectively responds to this situation by developing tools and practices aimed at prevention and through the involvement of all relevant stakeholders, including employers¿ and workers¿ organizations, social partners, vulnerable populations, and government officials at the various levels.
Children and women from ethnic minorities and tribal groups, in such countries as Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Thailand, whose host countries have refused them the right of citizenship also face a higher risk of exploitation. Effectively stateless, barred from owning land, and with limited access to government services, the children and women from these families are particularly vulnerable to the lure of traffickers and subsequent labour exploitation. As a consequence, this specific group of people can also be considered as the project¿s beneficiaries.
The project assisted countries in the GMS in negotiations for Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) on trafficking. Thailand concluded MOUs with Cambodia and Lao PDR on employment cooperation and elimination of trafficking in children and women. Thailand and Cambodia also concluded an MOU on assisting victims of trafficking. And a MOU on Cooperation against Trafficking in Persons in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region.
4. Potential for replication and extension (adaptability):
Methods introduced by the project are now being replicated and implemented by policy makers in the Greater Mekong Sub-region, such as participatory and ownership approaches that emphasize consultations and needs assessments throughout the cycle of the project and ownership of the process by different stakeholders, depending up the phase of the project. In 2004, the governments of China and Lao PDR replicated the project¿s practices in other provinces.
The project is innovative in that it treats trafficking within a labour migration framework, focusing interventions not only on prevention at the origin but also at the destination, in sectors where exploitation is known to occur.
6. Broad-based and participatory:
The ILO-TICW project worked directly with policy makers and local government officials in Cambodia, China (Yunnan Province), Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam.
The project also engaged with employers¿ and workers¿ organizations to sensitize them to the problem of human trafficking and how it affects them. For example an employers¿ association in Kunming City, China collaborated with the ILO-TICW to inform and train its members on trafficking and exploitation situations and to make the business case for anti-trafficking and exploitation measures. Another, example is the Phuket Declaration, which is an agreement among trade unions in Thailand to advocate on the behalf of migrant workers employed in the country.
NGOs and individuals have also been involved in this initiative, such as Save the Children. Facilitating the interaction and coordination of these groups was integral to the project's approach. The project also directly engaged with the target beneficiaries, notably through the Mekong Youth Forum (2004 and 2007) and the Mekong Women¿s Forum (July 2007). These forums brought youth and women from trafficking-prone communities to discuss and formulate recommendations to improve policies and actions against trafficking.
The methods and tools developed by the project demonstrate their sustainability as officials in the region have extended them to other areas beyond those covered by the pilot projects. The approach adopted by the project, in which work was carried out simultaneously at the grassroots level and at higher levels of government, has been replicated beyond the pilot project phase in some countries.
The project achieved its objectives of better informing and preparing potential migrants, especially women and children, working with local governments at the local, national and regional level to develop tools and practices aimed at preventing trafficking. One important lesson learned in carrying out the project, was that working at the grassroots level while simultaneously working with higher levels of governments was crucial in addressing the problem.