SSDO Organizes International Conference

SSDO Organizes International Conference on Combating Trafficking in Persons in Pakistan in collaboration with the US Embassy.

Pakistan (Muhammad Yasir)
In an effort to reduce trafficking in persons and increase direct referrals of victims for services or rehabilitation and advocating for prevention and prosecution of Trafficking in Persons, Sustainable Social Development Organization (SSDO) in collaboration with US Embassy and Pakistan US Alumni Network (PUAN) organized a two-day international conference in Islamabad on the 27th and 28th of February. The conference’s objective was to strengthen institutional capacity and collaboration of various stakeholders primarily for the implementation of legal frameworks.
The conference initiated with speeches from notable figures of the above-mentioned organizations and was attended by government, private and development sector institutions from both Pakistan and the United States. Participants included senior officials from federal and provincial government departments, Parliamentarians, senior police and FIA representatives, ambassadors, national and international NGOs, and media.
Guest of Honor, Mr. Donald Blome, US Ambassador to Pakistan reminded that trafficking in persons is a centuries old problem that requires everyone to play a role and create innovative approaches to combat perpetrators who remain a threat due to continuous development of new trafficking techniques. His message was further addressed by Chief Guest, Ms. Shehla Raza, Deputy Speaker of Sindh Provincial Assembly by adding that human trafficking is a disaster of its own kind which severely impacts women and children in particular. There is a law-and-order imbalance, alongside poverty and illiteracy, which makes trafficking in persons easier to execute. Ms. Raza stated that her ministry is working on legal aid and provision of rehabilitation for victims.
Mr. Syed Kausar Abbas, Executive Director SSDO emphasized the necessity of judiciary training to sensitize towards and mainstream the issue of trafficking in persons. Pakistan’s geographic location makes it as a destination, transit, and source country for trafficking in persons (TIP). Since 2015, Pakistan appeared five times in the Tier II Watchlist countries in the US Department of State’s annual report on TIP. The reason for Pakistan getting moved up to Tier II in the 2022 US report, is attributed to the development of trafficking prevention legislation, particularly the “Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act, 2018” and the increased efforts of the government and coordination between stakeholders. Mr. Sahibzada Aamir Khalil, President of PUAN, suggested that a victim-centric legislation will achieve the welfare and support needed by survivors of trafficking of persons.
Following the speeches were panel discussions where TIP experts from Pakistan and USA highlighted the issues of trafficking, its relevancy to Pakistan, deliberated the existing legal framework, implementation status and policy gaps to combat human trafficking and stressed the international best practices to combat trafficking in persons in Pakistan.
Latter sessions included breakout working groups for relevant stakeholders to collectively prepare recommendations for parliamentarians, policy makers, law enforcement agencies and judiciary to effective control on internal and external human trafficking.
Sustainable Social Development Organization is implementing a project with the support of US Mission, and contributing in capacity building, strengthening coordination, and spreading awareness about human trafficking among all relevant stakeholders. This conference was one of the initiatives for this cause where participants and panelists alike developed an in-depth understanding of trafficking of persons in Pakistan.