Opening Remarks by Ambassador Bill Tweddell
AAPTIP-ILO Regional Conference on the Labour Dimensions of
Trafficking in Persons in the ASEAN region
27 January 2015
• Honourable Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz, Secretary of the Department of Labour and Employment
• Your Excellency Neil Reeder, Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines
• Mr Lawrence Jeff Johnson, Country Director, International Labour Organization
• Assistant City Prosecutor Darlene R Pajarito, representing Honourable Leila de Lima, Secretary of the Department of Justice
• Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen
• To my fellow Australians present, happy Australia Day for yesterday!
I’m very pleased to join you today at this conference on Labour Trafficking, jointly convened by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and AAPTIP – the Australia – Asia Program to Combat Trafficking in Persons.
I want to thank the Philippines government for hosting this week’s workshop, and to thank also the respective AAPTIP and ILO teams for creating this opportunity for experts from all over the region to come together. The conference is both timely and well-targeted, as we seek to combat this pernicious trafficking in our region.
Pope Francis’s recent visit to the Philippines helped put the global spotlight on human trafficking – what the Pope called ‘a crime against humanity’. On the World Day of Peace earlier this month, His Holiness denounced the ‘general indifference’ that allows trafficking to continue and to grow. He has made special mention of the obligations of business to ensure that the goods and services they create are free of the taint of exploitation and trafficking. Your participation in this week’s conference is itself a signal that our respective nations, and the workers and business groups that you represent, are not indifferent to the harm caused by trafficking.
Trafficking in persons is not only a grievous breach of human rights but also a crime that stifles development. Since 2009 Australia and the Philippines have been partnering together to tackle the problem of trafficking in persons, with a strong focus on the criminal justice system and law enforcement.
AAPTIP is a regional program to which Australia has committed A$50 million over five years. Last year in July I was pleased to sign, together with the Department of Justice, an agreement to begin implementing the program in the Philippines. The AAPTIP program aims to reduce the incentives and opportunities for human trafficking in the Philippines, and in ASEAN more broadly.
AAPTIP builds on Australia’s ten years of regional experience in supporting anti-trafficking efforts and is just one of the ways in which we are working with the Philippines to promote stability, security and prosperity in our region.
As we come together for this conference and look at practical ways to respond to this regional problem, we should be in no doubt as to the scale of the problem we face in the region. After drugs and illegal arms sales, human trafficking is the biggest criminal industry in the world and, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, over half of all victims of trafficking are estimated to come from the Asia-Pacific region.
For this reason, I’m proud that Australia is taking a leading role in fighting human trafficking across South East Asia. Our approach supports our regional partners in all pillars of the fight against human trafficking - not just in prevention, but in the protection of victims and the vulnerable, the prosecution of offenders and the development of policy.
From the work of the Australian Federal Police on transnational crime operations – and the head of the Australian Federal Police presence in the Australian Embassy is with us here today – to our support for the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime, and to the regional programs which have brought us all here together for this conference – partnering with countries in the region and with the ILO.
As Australia is proud to be the largest national anti-trafficking donor in the region, and we are committed to supporting practical measures to combat trafficking in the region; not just with the countries of ASEAN on criminal justice responses through the AAPTIP program, but also with the countries of the Greater Mekong Sub-region and Malaysia through the ILO ASEAN Triangle project.
Transnational problems cannot be addressed solely at the local level and that is why Australia supports programs which span our region. Regional collaboration is a key strength of both the AAPTIP and ILO programs, and that is why I am so pleased to see practitioners from around the region gathered here for this conference.
In our region, ASEAN’s strong response to the need to fight trafficking is something to be proud of.
With 166 states around the world now party to the Trafficking Protocol of the UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime, ASEAN’s focus on a regional anti-trafficking convention consistent with the UN Convention is an important and timely step.
And Australia supports ASEAN efforts to conclude this convention for our region within the year.
Continuing efforts to develop an ASEAN instrument on migrant workers are also very important, and we look forward to its finalization.
And of course, as we look to greater regional integration as part of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), the need for this cooperation is felt even more deeply.
The recent report of the Asian Development Bank and ILO on the impacts of this integration gives us a lot to be optimistic about, but also points clearly toward the need to improve protections for the most vulnerable people in the region.
With the majority of ASEAN’s post-2015 workers predicted to be employed in vulnerable and informal sectors, a greater number of migrants within the region face a greater risk of being trafficked in coming years.
We have both a moral obligation and a pragmatic incentive to ensure that we continue to protect these workers from exploitation and to ensure that those who seek to exploit the vulnerable face effective and swift justice.
There is certainly a lot of work to be done, but also much about which we can be optimistic.
Practitioners and policymakers in this room possess significant experience in combating labour trafficking and exploitation. The challenge to each of us here is to turn our respective experiences into effective and powerful cooperation that makes a difference to the many vulnerable migrants and victims of trafficking.
I wish each of you the best in coming up with practical ways to make real our commitments to end labour exploitation over the coming days.