Summer Institute on Preventing Trafficking and Slavery Emphasises Need for Real Partnership in ASEAN

Denpasar, 12 August 2015. On the second day of the 8th Annual Summer Institute in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, open and insightful dialogues continued to engage the attending representatives of ASEAN bodies and speakers from civil society, international organizations, and business actors on preventing slavery and trafficking in persons in the region.

The day opened with a panel discussion on regional and governmental responses in ensuring safe migrant labor practices, as well as identifying and addressing the needs of trafficked persons across ASEAN. The panelists included Mr. James Nayagam, Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, H.E. Ms. Chongchith Chantharanonh, Lao PDR’s Representative on Children’s Rights to the ACWC, and Mr. Alexander Lorenzo, who acted as discussant based on his perspectives working with the Philippine Center for Transnational Crime, which is the SOMTC Philippines Secretariat. Mr. Nayagam emphasized the Human Rights Commission’s efforts to influence not only the Malaysian government, but also the wider public. Regarding regional institutions, he noted, “We can go around on cordial relationships, and we have achieved nothing,” insisting instead that ASEAN and AICHR “should have ownership and take responsibility” over the issue of trafficking in persons. H.E. Ms. Chongchith presented the ACWC’s plans for a new baseline assessment report on member states’ efforts to address the needs of trafficking victims, especially women and children. Mr. Lorenzo noted the “big challenge in cross-border control” as ASEAN integration proceeds this year, and he stressed the need for a joint rescue force, joint enforcement, and “real partnership” across ASEAN.

Following the first panel, the conference held a break-out session in two streams. The first stream discussed “lessons learned” for ASEAN based on the legal protections against preventing slavery and human trafficking from around the world, while the second stream centered on the tools and resources that private companies can utilize to ensure they address slavery and trafficking.

Two plenary sessions after lunch focused on details often left out of the dialogue on trafficking in persons. The first discussion was led with an insightful presentation from Ms. Jessie Brunner, of the WSD HANDA Center for Human Rights and International Justice at Stanford University, on the normative, methodological, and technical challenges to data collection on human trafficking in ASEAN. She presented her research on the commonly used data and methodologies concerning prevalence and scale, and she noted a “gap between what’s on paper and what happens in implementation.” She encouraged ASEAN to share methodologies and encourage them to “get local.” A second plenary session dealt with the survivor’s perspective. Mr. Yunus Hussein, deputy of Indonesia’s Task Force on Preventing and Eradicating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing, presented details of the recent cases of victims in Benjina, Ambon, and other Indonesian fisheries. Mr. Syaipul Anas, from an Indonesian non-governmental organization, Migrant Care, spoke about his own experience as a victim of trafficking in Korea, and he provided important insight into the suffering and needs of victims across Indonesia and ASEAN.

In the final session of the day, the Institute held a second break-out session, with participants dividing this time into three groups focused on each of the relevant ASEAN institutions: AICHR, ACWC, and ACMW. Representatives from each of the bodies presented their work thus far and discussed cross-collaboration on the matter of trafficking in persons. Other interested participants had the opportunity to directly engage with the representatives on a host of fascinating topics.

Today’s panelists and participants all called for greater coordination across ASEAN member states, led by the regional association’s bodies. They also presented optimistic expectations for ASEAN, international organizations, national ministries, civil society, and private business to actively fight against trafficking and slavery. However, participants brought a realistic sense of institutional awareness to the debate, exemplified by Ambassador Rosario Manalo’s comments concerning bureaucratic delays that often require the intervention of political leaders. She asked, “Are we working for the benefit of the people, or is this just a show?”

This year’s Summer Institute is made possible through the generous support of USAID, the U.S. Department of State, the British Embassy in Jakarta, the WSD Handa Center for Human Rights and International Justice at Stanford University, and the East-West Center.