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Human Trafficking in BelarusBelarus, located in Eastern Europe, is one of the world’s worst offenders of human trafficking. Belarus is a 3rd tier country, meaning it requires severe interference in addressing this issue and exploitation of its citizens. While human trafficking in Belarus has decreased since 2006, it still remains a big problem.

  • Human trafficking violations in Belarus have dropped from 555 in 2004 to 184 in 2016. While crimes are declining, there is still a great need within the Government of Belarus to create legislation that will eliminate human trafficking.
  • Belarusian women are most likely to be exported to countries of Western Europe but also to Russia and the Middle East.
  • Women are victims of trafficking more than men.
  • There were more than 20,000 sex workers in 2016.
  • In the 2018 Trafficking in Person report, Belarus did not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so.
  • Vulnerable unemployed families find informal ads and notices guaranteeing them a steady job with high wages. Human trafficking offenders design these ads to lure in women, men and children and force them to work in dangerous, low-paying jobs.

Good News

  • Belarus has cooperated with human trafficking organizations to set billboards across the region that highlight the dangers of trafficking and provide a hotline number for victims.
  • Belarus is working with other Western countries to set foreign policies that will downgrade human trafficking crimes across the globe.
  • Non-governmental organizations received more than $11,000 from Government to provide victims of human trafficking with psychological and medical assistance.
  • IomX is a campaign that encourages safe migration and put an end to exploitation and human trafficking. The organization teaches journalists how to effectively report trafficking in a way that would not only raise public awareness but offer treatment for victims as well.
  • Belarus continues to host international conferences that define human trafficking as a concern and outline actions for combatting these problems in Belarus and overseas. At the first forum on human trafficking, 20 international organizations and over 100 non-governmental organizations came to speak against the trafficking crimes.

Solutions

  • Belarusians migrate to Russia in hopes of finding work, only to fall victim to forced labor and severe exploitation. Before the Government of Belarus investigates issues in other countries, they must fix the state-sponsored labor. Forced labor of soldiers and prisoners violates workers rights and allows the corruption to take place inside the country. Not only does the Government needs to open more jobs in Belarus, but there should also be regulations of the labor force to prevent exploitation of workers.
  • There are limited treatment centers and mental health support for victims of human trafficking. To ensure these victims receive substantial care, services need to be accessible to all victims and treatment centers should focus on specific needs to combat further mental trauma.
  • In 2014, no trafficking offenders were convicted. The Government of Belarus needs to hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes and investigate offenders on their knowledge of other human trafficking sites.

While Belarus is still a 3rd Tier country, measures taken from the Government of Belarus and NGO’s will ensure a steady decline of human trafficking crimes for the years to come.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline is a national, toll-free hotline, available for calls, texts, and live chats from anywhere in the United States, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in more than 200 languages. If you are in need of assistance, call 1-888-373-7888 or text BeFree (233722).

– Lilly Hershey-Webb
Photo: Google

Child Soldiers in Nigeria

Violent conflicts largely incited by the militant group Boko Haram continue to ravage northeastern Nigeria and the larger Lake Chad region. Due to these conflicts, youths in the area face the unwanted yet real menace of being recruited as child soldiers in Nigeria.

Parties Recruit and Abduct Children for War

In 2016 alone, there were 2,122 cases of deployment of children for military purposes in Nigeria, according to a 2017 United Nations report on children and armed conflict. The report also stated that Boko Haram used four boys and 26 girls for suicide attacks in 2016; 13 more children were killed in November and December by the Nigerian security forces, which suspected them of carrying bombs.

Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), a vigilante group that opposes Boko Haram, also recruited child soldiers in Nigeria, though they were mostly used for supporting roles. The Nigerian Security Forces (NSF) was also accused of deploying children in warfare.

A United States 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report pointed out that children merely 12 years old were recruited by NSF. The report also explains that some of the child soldiers in Nigeria were originally arrested or detained for alleged connections with Boko Haram and might have been forced into military operations by the state.

“Human Bombs”

Some suicide bombers were as young as seven or eight years old. In a bombing in Maiduguri in December 2016, two young girls set off explosions in the middle of a crowded market, killing at least one and injuring 17 people.

“They got out of a rickshaw and walked right in front of me without showing the slightest sign of emotion. I tried to speak with one of them, in Hausa and in English, but she didn’t answer. I thought they were looking for their mother. She headed toward the poultry sellers, then detonated her explosives belt,” local militia member Abdulkarim Jabo told United Press International.

In only the first eight months of 2017, 83 children were made into “human bombs,” more than doubling the number of child suicide attacks in the entire year of 2016. Most of the children used were girls.

Reintegration for Child Soldiers in Nigeria

Children who were able to escape from Boko Haram often suffered further from rejection as they tried to reintegrate into civilian life, as the use of child soldiers in Nigeria aroused fear and distrust among the general public. Child soldiers also have to endure severe physical, psychological and sexual abuse. Those who return home often face discrimination and even ostracization by their families, including girls who were forced to be “wives” in captivity.

The United Nations calls for the unconditional release of children from armed forces worldwide and the increase of resources for the purpose of reintegration and education of released children. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimated in 2017 that 65,000 children worldwide had been released from armed groups in the past decade.

U.S. Government (USG) Programs Support Highly Vulnerable Children

On June 7, 2018, U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria Stuart Symington announced a $112,000,000 donation to assist with humanitarian efforts in the region. USAID will manage the use of funds via Food for Peace, Foreign Disaster Assistance and the U.S. State Department’s Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration. Ambassador Symington said that among its recipients, the donation would go toward helping child victims of the violent conflicts in the area, many of whom have been forced to separate from their families.

USAID and other USG agencies have cooperated to mediate similar humanitarian programs around the world. A USAID program based in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) helped reintegrate previous child soldiers through communication campaigns that directly talk to local community leaders, psychosocial counseling, family tracing, education, financial support, etc.. In a single year, the program identified 1,905 children and provided them with health and psychological support.

More attention must be given to the children being exploited by these groups. With the continued efforts of government programs, there is still hope for child soldiers in Nigeria.

– Feng Ye

Photo: Flickr

russia_exploits_veto_power
Following landmark political shifts in Ukraine during 2014, the scope of international politics has heavily focused its lens upon tension between Ukraine and Russia, and more recently in the eastern Ukrainian region of Crimea.

Popular uprisings in Ukraine have divided the population between western supporters of the European Union and eastern supporters of Russia. Although the majority of Ukraine’s population wants to be in alignment with the European Union, the region of Crimea contains a significant amount of Ukraine’s Russian-supporting population.

Russia has recently received international attention by its military occupation in the region of Crimea. In addition, the parliament of Crimea has even voted to secede from Ukraine. Critics of Russia, such as President Barack Obama of the United States, argue that Russia’s actions are in violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and established international laws.

Deputy Secretary General of the UN, Jan Eliasson stressed that meaningful discourse and dialogue ought to be facilitated within the Security Council in order to reach a resolution to alleviate the problems in Ukraine.

The situation in Russia has consistently been a heavily debated topic in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC); however, extensive use of veto power by Russia has hindered the UN Security Council from reaching any substantial resolutions to alleviating the escalating tension between Ukraine and Russia.

The UNSC contains a body of five permanent member states including the United States, the United Kingdom, China, France and Russia. The ability for Russia to block actions that are clearly within the goals and intentions of the UN to “pursue diplomacy, and maintain international peace and security,” and “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,” provides significant concern for the institutional framework of the UNSC.

Although the United Nations Security Council accounts for the most powerful UN body, Russia’s ability to exploit its status as a permanent member have produced consequences with their violation of international law.

Moreover, while the UNSC remains in suspension of reaching a resolution, the situation in Ukraine is continuing to rapidly escalate. Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations pleaded to the UNSC in an emergency session to do everything that is possible to end the violation of national sovereignty and invasion of Crimea by Russian military forces.

Failure to make steps to remedy the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is exemplary of some of the weaknesses inherent to the UNSC. However, it has not been the only case of Russia’s exploitation of its permanent status and veto power in the UNSC. Critics have also argued that failure to resolve the conflict in Syria has also been the result of blocked motions by Russia.

Considering the level of power and influence the UNSC has, problems arise when just one nation has the means to restrict action in addressing pressing international problems. Russia has been quintessential in portraying how special interests can hinder the intentions of international law—which is at the root of why international law may need to be reformed in accommodating 21st century problems.

– Jugal Patel

Sources: Reuters, Al Jazeera, UN News Centre, ABC News
Photo: Rianovosti

child soldier facts
The subject of many a documentary, news report, and even novel, the figure of the child soldier emerged onto the global stage in the late 20th century, largely the result of publicized conflicts in places like Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  The heartbreaking and sometimes frightening images of children—almost all of them African boys—turned into violent killers captured the attention of many in the west.  Like most images, these tell only a part of the story.  Here are five important and sobering facts about child soldiers.

1. Not all child soldiers are African. The organization Child Soldiers International reports that “since 2000, the participation of child soldiers has been reported in most armed conflicts and in almost every region of the world.” No exact figures have been compiled, but some estimates put the number at 250,000 child soldiers currently fighting in conflicts around the world. Countries where child soldiers can be found include Afghanistan, Burma, Iraq, the Philippines, Colombia, Thailand, India, Somalia, and Yemen.

2. Child soldiers do more than just fight. Child soldiers not only fight on the front lines, but they also serve as runners, spies, and in some cases human shields. Many of them are also sexually abused and exploited.

3. Not all child soldiers are boys. Girls under 18 are often recruited or captured during conflicts, and most of the time they suffer sexual abuse and exploitation. An estimated 40% of child soldiers are girls.

4. Child soldiers are both recruited and forced into serving. Many soldiers are violently kidnapped and forced to serve in armies or in opposition groups.  Some, however, are drawn in because poverty and deprivation leave them vulnerable to the promise of money, food, and clothing if they take up arms. Desperation proves to be a powerful motivating force for some children.

5. Child soldiers can be and have been rehabilitated. Despite the horrors they have suffered and in many cases committed, these soldiers are children forced or lured into war. Many organizations around the globe work to provide the therapy, medical attention, and education that these children need. Hundreds of former soldiers have benefited from this kind of care and been reunited with family members and loved ones.

– Délice Williams

Sources: Child Soldiers.org, Peace Direct USA
Photo: MW

HumanTrafficking
The Assistant Foreign Minister for Legal Affairs, Dr. Abdul-Rahim Al Awadi, expressed that fighting human trafficking “depends largely on addressing poverty and weakness, as well as on building national capacities to tackle such crime.” According to him, the U.A.E. has been committed in its contribution to this fight, which included the creation of a trust fund to aid those affected by human trafficking, and the release of a trafficked person’s report in 2012 for the first time. Dr. Al Awadi pointed out that addressing human trafficking is not merely a job for the countries where these crimes are taking place, instead, it is a “shared responsibility,” a cooperation with the countries where these trafficked persons came from. He says that coordination should occur between labor exporting countries and labor importing countries.

The U.A.E. has dealt with these crimes in accordance to international measures since the creation of the Comprehensive National Campaign for Anti-Human Trafficking in 2006; they established trials for those accused of trafficking, protected victims, and fortified global partnerships. Also, in 2006, the U.A.E. put the Federal Anti-Trafficking law into action, which is the “first law of its kind in the Middle East.” The state has also used the media to spread awareness and implemented procedures at entry ports.

In hopes of fighting human trafficking, and especially focusing on trafficking of women and children, the U.A.E. joined the U.N. Convention against trans-national organized crime. Further more, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi granted 15 million dollars to the United Nations initiative on human trafficking which was launched in 2008. Lastly, to the countries where persons are more prone to becoming victims of human trafficking, Dr. Al Awadi suggests that they avert the very factors which lead to human exploitation, and that they ensure that women are not falsely recruited and then exploited instead.

– Leen Abdallah
Source: Khaleej Times