Handbooks of Research on International Political Economy series
Edited by Leila Simona Talani and Simon McMahon
Chapter 5: Assessing the international regime against human trafficking
Since the turn of the century there has been a rapid development of what is often referred to as an international regime against human trafficking. Its extraordinary success is reflected by the fact that anti-trafficking norms have now become an integral part of broader attempts to develop partnerships around migration governance (Kunz et al. 2011). We thus see regional initiatives to reform international labour migration predicated partly on the basis of their potential to reduce human trafficking (EC 2011; ILO 2013). The existence of this international regime has also been seen as an opportunity to push for a further strengthening of an international institutional framework around migration based on human rights (OHCHR 2013). As I shall explain, as a cause, the fight against human trafficking has the capacity to provide a rallying call to bring together all kinds of disparate political forces. However, the nature of the international regime that has developed since Palermo (2000) also divides opinion. Some see a fundamental tension between the fight to eradicate human trafficking and core human rights goals (Hathaway 2008), while others see ‘unprecedented opportunities’ to create an international regime that finally moves beyond ‘platitudes’ and the ‘illusion of legal protection’ (Gallagher 2009: 794). This tension relates to the potential for anti-trafficking efforts to enhance human rights protections for migrants alongside the placement of the topic in the category of new security threats, which includes international terrorism and drug trafficking, for example.
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