Delegations Voice Disappointment, Regret at Text’s Failure to Invite Independent Participation by Human Rights Institutions
Acting by consensus, the General Assembly adopted a resolution today laying out organizational arrangements for a high-level meeting to review progress made on implementation of the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons.
By terms of the resolution — titled “Modalities, format and organization of the high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the appraisal of the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons” (document A/71/L.65) — the Assembly would convene the high-level forum on 27 and 28 September 2017.
Also by the text, the plenary would feature a number of statements by prominent United Nations officials, including the President of the General Assembly, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on trafficking in persons. The opening plenary would also feature an eminent person actively engaged in the fight against trafficking in persons and a representative of civil society, one of whom should be a survivor.
The resolution requested that the Assembly President draw up a list of representatives from relevant non-governmental and civil society organizations, academic institutions and the private sector to participate in two interactive panel discussions planned for the meeting. It further requested that the President organize and preside over a one-day informal interactive multi-stakeholder hearing that would include participation by national human rights institutions, non-governmental organizations in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council, civil society organizations, academic institutions and the private sector, among others.
Michael Grant (Canada), speaking also for Australia, Iceland, Liechtenstein and New Zealand after the vote, noted that those delegations had joined the consensus. However, they were disappointed that the text fell short in its failure to reflect key developments since the Assembly’s adoption of the Global Plan of Action in 2010, including the launch of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which made reference to human trafficking and modern slavery in three of its 17 Goals. The Assembly, he added, risked taking an outdated approach instead of seizing the opportunity to move a key aspect of the future development agenda forward in its human rights, development and law-enforcement dimensions.
He went on to state that the text did not enable engagement by the full range of stakeholders working on trafficking at the national and international levels. It was regrettable that national human rights institutions would not be able to participate in the high-level meeting in an independent capacity since they had contributed significantly to previous deliberations at the United Nations. It was also regrettable that the resolution did not invite other special-procedure mandate holders, besides the Special Rapporteur on trafficking, to attend the meeting, he said, adding that the omission contradicted the shift to a broader, more comprehensive approach to human trafficking and modern slavery.
Carmelo Inguanez (Malta), speaking on behalf of the European Union, expressed regret that several of the bloc’s proposals had not been accepted during negotiations. While appreciating the inclusion of human rights institutions in the text, the European Union would have preferred inviting them to participate independently of their respective national delegations, not least because it was important to safeguard their autonomous status, he emphasized. All holders of United Nations special-procedures mandates as well as treaty bodies working on trafficking and related issues must be invited, he emphasized, proposing also that one of the meeting’s panels focus on emerging trafficking issues.