Somewhat slow to update its 2004 Human Trafficking strategy, the countries in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation known as NATO finally bit the bullet, and in July 2023 approved the decision to strengthen their Policy on Combatting Trafficking in Human Beings.
The 32-paragraph document, which brings to the table coherence and commitment regarding the organisation’s role in addressing and understanding human trafficking, makes for encouraging reading. And this is not said lightly. As an academic one is trained to critically analyse every policy and to find room for improvement in any document under scrutiny, and so on opening the document I was ready to critically examine it. I was pleasantly surprised.
As was to be expected the document sits within wider human security considerations, with paragraph two outlining that a ‘human security approach allows a more comprehensive view of the human environment, consequently enhancing operational effectiveness and contributing to lasting peace and security.’ The link between human security and human trafficking is indeed a strong one. With the concept of human security placing focus on an individual’s freedom from fear, want, and indignity, it goes beyond traditional conceptions of security by viewing individuals, rather than states, as the key object of attention. Human security also advances a normative agenda that places a premium on the survival, livelihood and dignity of the individual. In doing so human security mandates the addressing of factors that negatively impact on a person’s freedom from fear and want, with human trafficking being an obvious one. Human trafficking, a crime that is both a product of conflict and a fuel for it (e.g., through providing revenue), is often found at the intersection of all other threats to human security. Unsurprisingly, the links between the two concepts have been made many times, and though the new policy re-affirms it, this is not where its modernisation lies.
What is most progressive is that the document acknowledges that NATO Member States and their troops (para. 14 states that this policy applies to all NATO personnel in all Alliance operations) may be the only ones present in situations of conflict where human trafficking is happening, and that the responsibility to do something lies with them. Paragraph 26 states: