Trafficking in human beings (THB) is one of the most pressing and complex issues in the OSCE region and beyond. Every year, hundreds of thousands of vulnerable women, children and men are trafficked into conditions amounting to slavery. The OSCE accepts the definition found in Article 3 of the UN Trafficking Protocol which includes "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."
As either countries of origin, of transit or of destination, trafficking in human beings affects virtually all the OSCE participating States. This modern form of slavery is an affront to human dignity, often involving psychological terror and physical violence. Trafficking encompasses issues of human rights and rule of law, of law enforcement and crime control, of inequality and discrimination, of corruption, economic deprivation and migration. It therefore cuts across all dimensions of OSCE's work and, as such, requires a resolute and multi-faceted approach.
Since the earliest appearances of human trafficking on the world stage, the OSCE has played an active role in addressing an issue which is both a severe human rights violation as well as a crime. This engagement is reflected in the organization's numerous political commitments. These commitments, affirming the primary responsibility of the participating States for addressing THB and tasking the OSCE institutions, structures and field operations in clearly defined areas, constitute a comprehensive framework for combating THB.
OSCE Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings
Maastricht Ministerial Council Decision No. 2, Combating Trafficking in Human Beings (2003), endorsed the OSCE Action Plan - the key document which provides a framework for the anti-trafficking efforts of the entire organization. This Action Plan contains far-reaching recommendations for the participating States on the best ways and means to implement the various anti-trafficking commitments as well as precise tasks for the OSCE bodies to assist the participating States in this endeavor. The implementation of the Action Plan remains a long-term obligation for the OSCE bodies.
The Action Plan establishes a direct link between the political commitments of the participating States since 1975 and recommendations at the national level in the areas of a) investigation, law enforcement and prosecution; b) prevention of trafficking in human beings; and 3) protection and assistance. These recommendations draw upon the best practices and guidelines elaborated by leading international organizations, NGOs and build upon the OSCE's field and institutional experience. They cover the broad scope of state anti-trafficking activities in countries of origin, transit and destination, and envision the strategic involvement of a broad array of social actors in the fight against THB.
Office of the Special Representative
To further assist the participating States with the implementation of commitments and full usage of recommendations proposed by the Action Plan, the Maastricht decision established an OSCE mechanism, under the aegis of the Permanent Council, consisting of a Special Representative, appointed by the Chairman-in-Office, and a special unit in the Secretariat.
The mandate of the Mechanism was, inter alia, to ensure co-ordination across all three dimensions of the OSCE, strengthen co-ordination among the relevant authorities of the participating States and between the OSCE and other relevant organizations, raise the political profile of efforts to combat THB and operate in the whole OSCE area. In other words, the mandate of the mechanism formulated the geographically balanced and multi-dimensional approach of the Organization.
This structure was modified in 2006, combining both structures into a single organizational unit, the Office of the Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, located in the Secretariat.