Protections for Trafficking Victims: Translating Regional Commitments into Community-Level Impact
How USAID partnered with ASEAN and anti-trafficking stakeholders in Southeast Asia to bridge regional policy on victim protections with actual practice in local communities.
TRANSLATING REGIONAL COMMITMENTS ON TRAFFICKING VICTIM PROTECTIONS INTO COMMUNITY-LEVEL IMPACT
Characterized by high inter-regional trade and mobility, Southeast Asia has long been a major hub for human trafficking. Victims of trafficking are lured into hazardous jobs, the commercial sex industry, and forced criminality, including online scams. While exact numbers are difficult to assess, a majority of victims are believed to go unreported, unrecognized, and without assistance. Many victims face detention and deportation for immigration or work-related offenses; some victims may be identified but receive inadequate support for their physical, psychological, or financial recovery. For these reasons, victims of trafficking are often vulnerable to re-trafficking.
Countries in the region have taken significant steps to combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP) and have ramped up identification, protection, and support for trafficking victims. However, significant capacity challenges remain. In the 2023 U.S. State Department Trafficking in Persons Report, half of ASEAN member states were placed in the two lowest rankings – Tier 2 Watchlist and Tier 3.
Since the ASEAN Convention against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (ACTIP) came into force in 2017, USAID has partnered with the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) to transform the victim protection commitments outlined in the ACTIP into tangible efforts to support practitioners at the community level. Over the past five years, the partnership has resulted in key resources and training for practitioners directly involved in victim assistance across the region.
In 2019, with USAID assistance, ACWC launched the ACWC Regional Guidelines and Procedures to Address the Needs of Victims of Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. Mr. Wanchai Roujanavong, ACWC Thailand Representative for Children’s Rights, explains how the Guidelines and Procedures support practical implementation of the ACTIP: “These Guidelines provide ASEAN Member States with a common approach through which to implement commitments under the ACTIP, presenting a set of agreed upon regional multi-sectoral guidelines and procedures that reflect national, regional, and international commitments.” The Guidelines were supplemented by a Model Implementation Toolkit for Practitioners, which was translated into Burmese, Khmer, Lao, and Thai.
As a next step, USAID partnered with regional and community organizations to develop a comprehensive regional curriculum and conduct training for practitioners on victim identification, protection, and recovery and reintegration through the ASEAN-USAID Partnership for Regional Optimization in the Political-Security and Socio-Cultural Communities (PROSPECT).
In 2020, an initial Regional Training Curriculum on Victim Identification, Protection and Support, and Recovery and Reintegration was developed in collaboration with NEXUS Institute and UNDP. With support from ASEAN-USAID PROSPECT, the USAID Thailand Counter-Trafficking in Persons project and World Vision Thailand adapted and piloted the curriculum with practitioners across three provincial trainings in Thailand. Over 120 practitioners from government social services and NGOs across four target provinces were trained. USAID Thailand CTIP has since refined the adapted curriculum and continues to work with Thailand’s Department of Anti-Trafficking in Persons and other partners to conduct additional trainings for multi-disciplinary teams that identify and protect victims of trafficking.
The pilot trainings and the practitioners themselves also provided invaluable insights to refine the regional training curriculum, which takes an interactive, evidence-based approach to encourage trainees to apply standard principles and best practices within their local context and lived experience. In addition to covering relevant laws, policies and principles at national and international levels, different activities and case studies encourage practitioners to reflect on their own conceptions and engage victim-centred approaches to identifying and protecting victims of trafficking. The Regional Training Curriculum is designed so that organizations across the region can tailor and translate the learning modules and material for their capacity building activities with practitioners.
Recently, ASEAN-USAID PROSPECT partnered with NGOs Chab Dai Coalition in Cambodia and Dark Bali in Indonesia to deliver training based on the Regional Training Curriculum to practitioners across their networks to enhance service delivery to victims of trafficking. Between April and June 2023, over 90 practitioners from law enforcement, social services, and NGOs in Cambodia and Indonesia completed training conducted by Chab Dai and Dark Bali, strengthening their knowledge and skills to better identify and assist victims of human trafficking. Dark Bali conducted training for practitioners in Denpasar, Bali, while Chab Dai conducted three trainings for practitioners in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Battambang, collectively representing six government agencies and 28 different NGOs. According to Ms. Sokey, a social worker with a Chab Dai member organization who joined the training in Phnom Penh, “The curriculum is easy to understand and implement. It is also easy to find examples to illustrate the lessons since there are many case studies provided in this curriculum. The curriculum fits with the Cambodian context which we can use to share and make awareness with our members.”
Over 200 practitioners from government social services and NGOs across Cambodia, Indonesia and Thailand were trained how to apply victim-centric approaches to identifying and assisting victims of trafficking in persons. Source: UNDP; Chab Dai Coalition
Coming from a range of sectors and levels of experience, participants were able to learn from one another and be more aware of others’ efforts in countering trafficking in person, and outline ways to improve protection and reintegration practices at individual and organization levels. Across the trainings, a majority of participants demonstrated significant growth in their knowledge about key concepts in victim protection, support, and recovery and reintegration as well as their confidence to apply them in their work. Some critical learnings identified by participants include better understanding of special considerations and protections needed for specific groups, such as children or transgender victims, and the need to build trust with the victims of trafficking in order to provide better assistance and support. A few participants from the Chab Dai trainings reported sharing their experience and learning with colleagues afterward, further expanding the reach of the training modules and materials among their respective organizations and provinces.
In subsequent interviews conducted a few months after the training, a participant from Indonesia who attended the Dark Bali training noted that gaining a clearer understanding of the definitions and various types of trafficking enabled her to more effectively identify victims of trafficking: “I become more aware of the importance of victim identification and understanding their perspectives better.” Another participant from Cambodia who attended the Chab Dai training reported a shift in her approach to engaging victims of trafficking as a result of what she learned, enabling her to more clearly explain and provide more service information to ensure their safety prior to the reintegration process.
Chab Dai and Dark Bali have adopted the locally-tailored curricula for future capacity building for their NGO network members and demonstrates how USAID promotes regional policies from the grassroots level.
CONTACT: USAID/RDMA ASEAN Office email@example.com