NATO Policy on Combatting Trafficking in Human Beings
- NATO is committed to defending and promoting the principles of individual liberty, human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Gender equality and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda are integral to sustainable peace, and are a reflection of our core values and priorities. NATO remains firmly committed to the North Atlantic Treaty and the Charter of the United Nations.
- As such, NATO's recently adopted Human Security Approach and Guiding Principles1, which is to be integrated across all core tasks, provides a heightened understanding of conflict and crisis. A human security approach2 allows a more comprehensive view of the human environment, consequently enhancing operational effectiveness and contributing to lasting peace and security.
- NATO's essential and enduring purpose is to safeguard the freedom and security of all its members by political and military means. Deterrence and defence, crisis prevention and management and cooperative security are at the heart of the Alliance as they create a spirit of solidarity and cohesion among its members.
- Trafficking in human beings is a violation and a serious abuse of human rights and is an offense to human dignity. Anyone can be targeted regardless of their ethnicity, age, gender, nationality, class and other identity factors, however, it is noted, that vulnerable groups are at higher risk of exploitation. The majority of detected victims and survivors are women and girls, while men and boys are also targeted.
- Trafficking in human beings is a global phenomenon. Vulnerability to trafficking can be exacerbated by various factors, such as socio-economic differences, gender inequality, violence against women and children, and discrimination. It fuels and is fuelled by corruption, terrorism and organised crime and exacerbates situations of conflict and instability.
- Conflict and instability increase the risk of human trafficking and smuggling of migrants. Trafficking in human beings can compromise efforts to secure peace and stabilization in conflict and post-conflict environments and has the potential to weaken and destabilize governments' ability to protect citizens.
- Of particular concern to NATO, trafficking risks have significantly increased as a result of Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine.
- While noting that NATO is not the lead responder, combatting, responding to and preventing trafficking in human beings contributes to enhancing NATO's operational effectiveness and credibility.
- At the NATO Summit in Istanbul in 2004, NATO Heads of State and Government agreed to contribute to international efforts to combat trafficking in human beings by adopting in the same year the first NATO Policy on Combatting Trafficking in Human Beings (CTHB).3
- While trafficking in human beings is not a new problem, evolving technologies, particularly social media and other online spaces, are being exploited by traffickers to expand the pools of potential victims as well as the markets in which they are trafficked. At the same time, these technologies also provide opportunities for CTHB.
- NATO Allies condemn all acts of trafficking in human beings. The Alliance is committed to supporting the global effort to CTHB in line with the United Nations (UN) Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, supplementing the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings and the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.
Aim and scope
- The aim of this Policy is to provide a coherent, consistent and integrated political framework for NATO's role in CTHB. For the purpose of this Policy, the term "combatting" should encompass NATO's efforts to prevent, mitigate, counter and respond to all forms of trafficking in human beings.
- Given that a significant proportion of detected cases of trafficking in human beings involves commercial sexual exploitation4, NATO's Policy on Preventing and Responding to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse5 and NATO's Policy on Preventing and Responding to Conflict-Related Sexual Violence6 are important pillars of the Alliance's efforts to CTHB. Further, given that many detected cases of trafficking in human beings involve children, NATO's future Policy on Children and Armed Conflict will also be relevant in this context.
- This Policy applies to all NATO personnel in all Alliance operations, missions and activities, wherever NATO operates, from peacetime to crisis and conflict, including stabilisation and post-conflict, and should be considered within the broader framework of policies and guidance within NATO, including the wider Human Security Approach and Guiding Principles.
- NATO defines "trafficking in human beings" as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat of use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purposes of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others, or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs. The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a child for the purpose of exploitation is considered "trafficking in human beings" even if this does not involve any of the means set forth above.7 Other forms of exploitation beyond the ones mentioned above, such as for the purposes of forced begging or for criminal activities, shall also be covered by this Policy.
Preventing trafficking in human beings
- While conducting missions, operations, and activities, NATO will avoid, to the maximum extent possible, any action that contributes to any form of trafficking in human beings. NATO's Code of Conduct8, NATO's Policy on Women, Peace and Security9, and NATO's Policy on Preventing and Responding to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, make clear that NATO personnel will uphold the highest standards of integrity, professional and personal conduct.
- NATO will continue to develop and implement gender-responsive, age-sensitive, victim-centred and trauma-informed measures that discourage the demand that fosters all forms of exploitation, especially of women and children, that lead to trafficking in human beings, taking into account the gender and age specific aspects of different forms of trafficking.
- NATO will take steps to prevent and address trafficking in human beings in its procurement processes and through due diligence in supply chain management and to ensure that NATO funds are not used to support actions related to trafficking in human beings directly or indirectly.
- NATO will continue to incorporate contractual provisions that prohibit contractors and sub-contractors from engaging in, supporting and facilitating trafficking in human beings. NATO contracts will incorporate obligations for suppliers to remediate wrongdoing and NATO will terminate contracts and, as appropriate impose sanctions where suppliers fail to fulfil their obligations in this regard.
- NATO will identify risks of trafficking in human beings in relation to NATO missions, operations and activities through a CTHB Risk Assessment, assisted by internal or external expertise, using appropriate analytical and reporting tools to understand the level of risk and to support mitigation and, where appropriate, prevention measures throughout and as part of the mission cycle.
Responding to trafficking in human beings
- NATO will pursue two-way staff level engagement on CTHB related issues with relevant actors, such as the United Nations, the European Union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the African Union, host nations, partners, and civil society, as appropriate.
- While in a majority of cases the most important actor in CTHB remains the host nation, as it has the legal mandate to police such criminal activity, NATO will coordinate its responses with host nation police and, as appropriate, with the relevant actors mentioned in paragraph 21 of this Policy on issues such as gender and age specific referral of victims and survivors for support, assistance and the provision of temporary physical protection, taking into account NATO's human and financial resources. NATO recognizes that Military Police and Gendarmerie type forces have specialized skills that might, depending on the situation and as appropriate, bring a unique added value to NATO's actions on CTHB.
- NATO will include specific guidance, as required, on CTHB for any future missions, operations and activities and, as appropriate, address CTHB in the development of exercises.
- The NATO Military Authorities (NMAs) will update relevant operational documents/guidelines to facilitate prevention, mitigation and response measures to incidents of trafficking in human beings including to support the identification of victims and survivors, in line with this Policy.
- If NATO personnel encounters victims and survivors of trafficking in human beings, the following guiding principles are to be observed:
- In accordance with a gender-responsive, age-sensitive, victim-centred and trauma-informed approach, respect victims and survivors as individuals and their informed choice;
- All victims and survivors will be treated fairly, respectfully, equally, with dignity and without discrimination;
- Do no harm in implementing this Policy: no action should be taken that could worsen the situation or trauma of a victim or survivor;
- Do not interview victims or survivors, unless trained to do so;
- Respect privacy and confidentiality of victims and survivors;
- Protect against retaliation: the confidentiality and dignity of all those involved in an allegation should be protected and respected, including victims and survivors, complainants and whistle blowers;
- Seek consent from victims and survivors to follow-up on reports and respects their privacy and confidentiality, ensuring data protection and security;
- Provide access to services (if the victim or survivor wishes) immediately after the concern is raised and not pending the outcome of an investigation or any other processes.
- In extremis, when and where other actors in the mission area are not able to access victims and survivors, NATO will, within the given mandate and where possible within means and capabilities, provide emergency first response to victims and survivors, including medical assistance, and refer victims and survivors to local services, international and civil society organisations, as appropriate.
Reporting and information sharing
- Within the given mandate, all personnel in NATO missions, operations and activities must report any incidents of trafficking in human beings that they observe, or that a victim or survivor reports to them, in accordance with established reporting mechanisms, through the NATO chain of command and to relevant actors with a legal mandate to action on the reporting.
- The NATO Commanders will report through the chain of command on instances of trafficking in human beings using gender, age and, if possible, any other -disaggregated data to NATO Headquarters in a timely manner.
- Consistent with the relevant operational documents/guidelines set out in paragraph 24 of this Policy and within the framework of the NATO Battlefield Evidence Policy10, information and material obtained by military forces on NATO operations, missions and activities, including related to CTHB, may be used to support law enforcement outcomes, provided that the government to which those military forces belong has consented to such use of the information and material.
- Reporting on CTHB, using standard and functional mechanisms, will also contribute to informing the situational awareness in theatre.
Education and training
- All NATO personnel deployed to operations, missions and activities, will receive information, guidance and mandatory training on NATO's role in identifying, preventing and responding to trafficking in human beings, either prior to deployment, or as part of theatre in-processing. Training must be victim-centred and trauma-informed and include the gendered aspects of human trafficking as well as how to report effectively through the chain of command. Education and training for troop contributing countries should include minimum standards.
- When invited to train security forces of a host nation, as part of the agreed mandate, NATO will be prepared to provide gender-responsive, age-sensitive, victim-centred and trauma-informed training on and raise awareness of trafficking in human beings in accordance with this Policy and developed training programs.
- PO(2022)0429, Human Security Approach and Guiding Principles
- The five areas listed under the NATO Human Security Approach are: protection of civilians; preventing and responding to conflict-related sexual violence; combating trafficking in human beings; children and armed conflict; and cultural property protection
- EAPC(C)D(2004)0029, NATO Policy on Combatting Trafficking in Human Beings
- UNODC Global Report on Trafficking in Persons (2022)
- PO(2019)0459 (INV), NATO Policy on Preventing and Responding to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse
- PO(2021)0190 NATO Policy on Preventing and Responding to Conflict-Related Sexual Violence
- This definition is consistent with the definition of "Trafficking in Persons" included in the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, supplementing the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (also known as the "Palermo Protocol")
- NATO Code of Conduct, Annex 2 of ON(2013)0078
- NATO/EAPC Policy on Women, Peace and Security EAPC(C)D(2018)0019
- NATO Battlefield Evidence Policy PO(2020)0315