Tuesday 01 October 2013

No one would fail to value tariff and trade policies as a strategic issue, but many seem to ignore the implications of several types of illicit trade that pose significant strategic threats to all nations and most acutely to the UAE. Illicit Trafficking, in goods or people, not only hurts our economy, but also opens doors for even greater problems, including potential loss of tourism and increased opportunities for terrorists, plus, it impugns the reputation of a nation always in the forefront of humanitarian action.
Illicit Trafficking can include illegal drug trafficking, the smuggling of weapons, alcohol and tobacco, and also human trafficking. The corrosive nature of illegal drug and arms trafficking is both well known and fairly well controlled in the UAE as a result of focused, professional and technology-enhanced customs inspections and enforcement. Unfortunately human trafficking still poses a continuing challenge.

Human trafficking is trade in humans, most commonly for the purpose of sexual slavery, forced labor or for the extraction of organs or tissues. Human trafficking has well understood international implications, so evident that the United Nations developed an international agreement in 2003 known as the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children. That protocol provides a common definition of human trafficking and is legally binding on the signatory nations; one of its purposes is to facilitate international cooperation to prosecute such crimes. Still, illegal forced labor alone globally generates $31 billion in revenue according to the International Labor Organization, and the problem may be growing. Recently, the International Organization for Migration noted that for the first time ever, it assisted more victims of labor trafficking than those trafficked for purposes of sexual exploitation.

When Illicit Trafficking occurs, it demonstrates the enormous challenges faced by any country trying to control its borders, while at the same time leading in global travel and transshipment statistics. No nation can fully control its borders in the modern world, but Illicit Trafficking risks pose a particularly acute danger to any country , which depends upon the security of its ports to continue to fuel its impressive yet unique economy.

The United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UNGIFT) was conceived in March 2007 to promote the global fight on human trafficking; it was initially financed with a grant made on behalf of the United Arab Emirates. The UAE grant has since been augmented by donations from six other nations. The UAE has also increased prosecutions, convictions, and sentences for sex trafficking offenders; trained law enforcement officers on anti-trafficking methods; and opened a shelter for victims of trafficking – yet more still needs to be done.

A crime that shames us all, human trafficking is an offense so pervasive that it cannot be dealt with successfully by any government alone; it requires a global, multi-stakeholder strategy that builds on national efforts throughout the world. Poverty and globalization will continue to fuel illicit trafficking, so nations must increase knowledge and awareness, coordinate efforts already underway, foster new partnerships for joint action, and above all, ensure that everybody takes responsibility for the fight against it. The UAE has been a major contributor to this effort and should continue to lead its development in the future, so that the offense can be pushed beyond our borders and the risks it poses to the nation’s future prosperity can be reduced to a minimum.