MINISTERS FROM SIX MEKONG COUNTRIES SIGN HISTORIC AGREEMENT ON HUMAN TRAFFICKING

31 Jul 2006   |  ASEAN Migrant Workers   |  COMMIT  

MINISTERS FROM SIX MEKONG COUNTRIES SIGN HISTORIC AGREEMENT ON HUMAN TRAFFICKING

29 October 2004,  Yangon, Myanmar -- Six Mekong countries agreed today to a set of concrete commitments and priority actions to address human trafficking. Among the areas of practical cooperation are the creation of a network for repatriation of victims, building similar networks between specialist police units, and improving extradition procedures.

The Greater Mekong Sub-region is commonly regarded as one of the global hotspots of human trafficking. Meeting today in Yangon, Myanmar as part of the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative against Trafficking (COMMIT) process, Ministerial representatives from Cambodia, P.R. China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam gathered to sign a comprehensive COMMIT Memorandum of Understanding after a year of intensive six-country negotiations. This Memorandum of Understanding is the first of its kind in the Asia-Pacific region, reflecting joint commitments for action.

The unprecedented Memorandum of Understanding clearly lays out methods and areas of cooperation to combat all aspects of human trafficking. The Memorandum of Understanding addresses trafficking from a comprehensive perspective, encompassing areas of policy and cooperation at the national and international levels; legal frameworks, law enforcement and criminal justice; protection, recovery and reintegration of victims; as well as preventive measures.

The meeting was attended by eighteen ministerial representatives from all GMS countries, senior officials from national COMMIT task forces on human trafficking, and representatives from Embassies and the UN community.

The keynote address was delivered by H.E. Lieutenant General Soe Win, Prime Minister of the Union of Myanmar, who commended all six Governments for coming together to \"unitedly stem the tide of human trafficking.\" He acknowledged \"the seriousness of the issue we collectively face today, not only as the Prime Minister but as a citizen of the Greater Mekong Sub-region.\" He reaffirmed his sincere resolve and willingness to work together to \"translate our words of commitment into actions. We can and we will show the world and challenge the traffickers that we mean business…we will break the vicious cycle of trafficking in the region.\"

Welcome remarks were given by H.E. Colonel Tin Hlaing, Minister, Ministry of Home Affairs who welcomed the strong determination to solve this problem through efforts of cooperation and coordination, which will add a much-needed strength to fight this crime. He stated that countries in this region \"…need to act in a concerted manner, to ensure a just and equitable world, where opportunities to exploit are minimized.\" He noted that while globalization has its positive aspects, one of the downsides of this is trafficking, and countries need to find locally appropriate and effective solutions. Without \"strong consolidated action,\" he noted, \"from social welfare to law enforcement to legalistic measures, trafficking and traffickers will always be a step ahead of us.\"

Mr. Charles Petrie, UN Resident Coordinator in Myanmar, highlighted that \"this gathering today underscores the Greater Mekong Sub-Region\'s commitment to addressing a transnational problem that has serious national implications. Created to serve and contribute to efforts to address conflict and suffering, the United Nations system has an obligation to support the efforts that your Governments are trying to implement.\"

Mr. J.K. Robert England, Chair of the Regional UN Working Group on Human Trafficking Group, applauded this inter-governmental process. He stressed that human trafficking could only be addressed by such cross-border collaboration. Moreover, he welcomed \"…the balance between law enforcement and human security that the Memorandum of Understanding embodies.\" He both stated that \"COMMIT was setting an excellent example to other regions, and looked forward to its active implementation.\"

Just prior to the actual Ministerial gathering, a two day meeting was held on 27-28 October 2004, where over forty senior officials from all six countries came together to work out specific concrete activities for the COMMIT Sub-regional Plan of Action, to be developed under the framework of the MOU. This will be a roadmap of concrete priority action under the MOU. Some of the areas of practical cooperation include: creation of a seamless network for repatriation and reintegration of victims between the six countries; networking of specialist police units from different countries to build cooperation in investigations and prosecutions; support for a regional training facility to build capacity for government officials to better understand and act against trafficking; and improved extradition procedures.

The COMMIT Sub-regional Plan of Action will be in place in the first quarter of 2005 at the next Senior Officials\' meeting of the COMMIT Process, to be hosted by the Government of Viet Nam in Hanoi.

COMMIT\'s first consultative Senior Officials\' meeting, hosted by the Government of Thailand, 28-30 July 2004, laid the groundwork for the entire joint agreement process. Senior officials from the six Governments, across a wide cross-section of portfolios hammered out areas where cooperation across borders would be forged, and collaborations developed.

The Secretariat for the COMMIT Process is the UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking in the GMS (UNIAP). The COMMIT initiative is being funded by the ADB, The Royal Norwegian Government, AUSAID, NZAID, SIDA, UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNODC, Save the Children UK, and International Organization for Migration (IOM).

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