When the U.S. State Department’s 2010 Trafficking in Persons report was released last week, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Mauritania, Sudan, and Zimbabwe were included on the list of countries that have made the least effort to combat trafficking. Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Republic of the Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Libya, Madagascar, Mali,
, many countries in Africa can do more to show a true commitment to stopping trafficking. On this blog, we’ve highlighted some examples of trafficking and forced labor in several specific industries across Africa, including tobacco, cocoa, vanilla, rubber, diamonds, and many minerals used for modern electronics.
The good news is that last week, the African Union (A.U.) announced that it is establishing an A.U. Commission Initiative against Trafficking. The new campaign, announced on the Day of the African Child, will focus on ensuring that member states are adopting and properly implementing international protocols to eliminate trafficking. The new campaign is an important step for the A.U. and will help to provide resources to assist African governments in implementing strong policies to stop trafficking, especially of women and children.
It’s critically important for regional and continental bodies in Africa to work together to find solutions to the problems of trafficking and labor exploitation. Another positive development in this regard was a case before the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Community Court of Justice in 2008 that ruled that Niger had failed to properly implement laws against slavery. Unfortunately, Niger was still listed on the U.S. State Department’s Tier 2 Watch List and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative is continuing to investigate a complaint against Niger filed under the Generalized System of Preferences for the systemic use of slavery in that country. I hope that the new A.U. commission will help to put pressure on countries like Niger to do more to stop these abuses.
At the same time, there is another critical element in ending trafficking that was highlighted in this year’s Trafficking in Persons report. As Amanda Kloer wrote here, the report mentioned the responsibility of corporations to trace their global supply chains and institute policies to stop abuses like trafficking in the production of their goods. The report even included a list of key principles for companies in setting supply chain standards. When it comes to trafficking and forced labor in the production of commodities for export like many of the products mentioned above, corporations also need to step up their efforts to stop exploitation and support governments in implementing appropriate legal protections.
Photo credit: Wayan Vota