A two-day regional counter trafficking forum bringing together civil society representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan was hosted this week by the UN Migration Agency (IOM) in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.
The forum, held from 22 -23 June, connected civil society organizations working in the field of counter trafficking in order to promote cross-border and regional cooperation, and strengthen protection and reintegration mechanisms for victims of human trafficking and other vulnerable groups.
“Trafficking in persons is a serious concern in Afghanistan and its neighboring countries,” said IOM Afghanistan Chief of Mission Laurence Hart. “By bringing together organizations that have been on the frontline of fighting trafficking in the region, this forum provides a valuable opportunity for exchange of ideas and improved cooperation.” he added.
While usually the source country for victims of human trafficking, the participating countries have also been identified as transit and destination countries for men, women, and children subject to forced labour and sexual exploitation. An increase in the number of young female victims of trafficking arriving in Afghanistan from neighboring countries has also been observed in recent years.
Civil society organizations play an important role in reaching victims and survivors of human trafficking, to provide them with legal, social and psychological assistance, and to reintegrate them back to society.
At the forum, the participants presented the unique human trafficking situation in their respective countries, and discussed the efforts being made to combat the crime and assist survivors. Emphasis was placed on sharing best practices and exploring opportunities for joint programming and advocacy to implement regional initiatives.
“Civil society organizations are the eyes, ears and hands of the international community in the field,” said IOM Tajikistan Chief of Mission Dragan Aleksoski. “Civil society is an agent of change helping us to understand the needs of vulnerable people and plan our activities accordingly. This event will serve as a starting point for fruitful cooperation between civil society organizations from all of the participating countries.”
In 2016 IOM Afghanistan launched a multi-year counter trafficking project funded by USAID which aims to improve regional cooperation and strengthen the prevention of human trafficking, protect victims and improve response through a more holistic approach.
This week’s forum is the first major regional cooperation initiative under the project, which will continue to foster networking and advocacy on human trafficking in South and Central Asia.