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The negotiations on the UN Protocol on Trafficking in Persons

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The negotiations on the UN Protocol on Trafficking in Persons
Marjan Wijers
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The negotiations on the UN Protocol on Trafficking in Persons
During its meeting of 15 November 2000 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a new Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime. The purpose of this new international instrument was to prevent and combat criminal offences of a transnational nature committed by organized criminal groups.

The Convention and the Protocols were negotiated at a series of eleven meetings of a special intergovernmental Ad-hoc Committee under the auspices of the UN Crime Commission, which were held in Vienna from January 1999 until October 2000 and in which more than 100 countries took part. They were opened for signature in December 2000 at a high level meeting in Palermo, Italy.

This article provides more information of the NGO-lobby at that time and the dynamics of the negotiations at the UN International Crime Commission. One of the most controversial and hotly debated issues during the negotiations concerned the first major lobbying goal of the participating NGOs, namely the definition of trafficking. This is not surprising, as one of the fundamental problems in combating trafficking until then had been the lack of international consensus on a definition and thus on precisely which practices should be combated.  The debate whether prostitution per se is slavery and therefore equivalent to trafficking in persons was related most directly and vehemently to the definition of trafficking in the Protocol, but permeated the whole negotiating process. In order to understand why this was so, it is important to have some insight in the dynamics of the negotiation process.