The Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative against Human Trafficking (COMMIT) represents a Government-led process incorporating the six countries in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam) in a formal alliance to combat human trafficking. The COMMIT Process was initiated to create a sustained and effective system of cross-border cooperation and collaboration to combat human trafficking. Anti-trafficking activities implemented in support of COMMIT are designed and implemented through innovative partnerships between numerous GMS government ministries and development partners. The approach is a consultative and collaborative one that involves civil society, victim support agencies, international organisations, and trafficked persons, including children and youth.
The objectives of the COMMIT Process are:
- To promote and strengthen systems and arrangements of inter-country and regional cooperation against human trafficking;
- To establish a holistic regional response, covering all aspects of the trafficking problem and ensuring that concern for the victim is at the center of all interventions;
- To identify and adapt successful models in one country to others as appropriate; and
- To enhance national capacities to address human trafficking in order to facilitate each country’s engagement at the regional level, building on existing strengths in each country
COMMIT Memorandum of Understanding
At the first COMMIT Inter-ministerial Meeting (COMMIT IMM 1) in Yangon, Myanmar in October 2004, the COMMIT Memorandum of understanding to combat human trafficking (COMMIT MoU) was signed by the six GMS countries at the Ministerial level. It contains five sections, with 34 articles in total. Section V of the COMMIT MoU established the infrastructure and procedures for the COMMIT Process, including:
- Article 28. Developing an initial Sub-Regional Plan of Action Against Trafficking in Persons, 2005-2007 and undertaking all necessary efforts to fully implement this plan
- Article 31. Reviewing the implementation of the Plan of Action and adopting a new Sub-Regional Plan of Action through a GMS Ministerial meeting in late 2007
- Article 32. Creating a national task force to collabourate with the COMMIT Secretariat (United Nations Inter-Agency Project Against Trafficking in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region) and other partners
- Article 33. Inviting government funding agencies, as well as relevant United Nations and other inter-governmental and non-governmental organisations and the private sector, to provide financial, material, and technical assistance to support GMS countries in their anti-trafficking efforts, including the implementation of this MoU and the forthcoming Plan of Action
Other relevant clauses within the opening statements of the COMMIT MoU emphasise the absolute commitment by the six governments to proactively reduce impunity for human traffickers, protect the rights of trafficked persons, and commit government human and financial resources to anti-trafficking efforts:
- Deeply concerned over the suffering caused by the trafficking in persons within the Greater Mekong Sub-Region and from the Greater Mekong Sub-Region States to other regions of the world
- Asserting that it is completely unacceptable that human beings are traded, bought, sold, abducted, placed, and maintained in exploitative situations, thus being denied their most fundamental and inalienable rights
- Recognising the need for a strengthened criminal justice response to trafficking in order to secure justice for victims of trafficking and end impunity for traffickers and others who derive benefits from this crime
- Acknowledging the importance of effective and proportionate penalties for traffickers, including provision for freezing and confiscating their assets, and for the proceeds to be used for the benefit of victims of trafficking
- Recognising that each government hereby undertakes to take steps, individually and through international assistance and co-operation, to the maximum of its available resources, with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of the commitments recognized in this MoU by all appropriate means
- Intending fully that this MoU reflects the continuing political will of our governments to cooperate to combat trafficking in persons
- Calling upon all countries outside the GMS to join our countries in the fight against human trafficking
COMMIT First Sub-regional Plan of Action
(COMMIT SPA I, 2005-2007)
With the aim of translating the MoU into action, a series of annual Senior Officials Meetings (SOMs) as well as regional and national consultations resulted in the six governments adopting the first Sub-regional Plan of Action in 2005 (COMMIT SPA I, 2005-2007).
COMMIT Second Sub-regional Plan of Action
(COMMIT SPA II, 2008-2010)
Article 31 of the COMMIT MoU stipulated the following:
“Reviewing the implementation of the Plan of Action and adopting a new Sub-Regional Plan of Action through a GMS Ministerial meeting in late 2007.”
This outlined that the life of the first COMMIT SPA would only extend up to December 2007, requiring a second Sub-regional Plan of Action to continue on the commitments and activities initiated by the COMMIT MoU and COMMIT SPA (2005-2007). A series of consultations were conducted involving government and non-government partners, with support from the COMMIT Secretariat which resulted in COMMIT SPA II (2008-2010) being drafted in late 2006. This was agreed upon by the Ministers of the six COMMIT governments at the second Inter-Ministerial Meeting (IMM 2) in December 2007, with the following improvements over the COMMIT SPA I:
- Victim identification activities were separated from other victim protection activities in the SPA I but were merged under a single victim protection heading in the SPA II, in line with the original COMMIT MoU
- Prosecution and apprehension of perpetrators’ activities were separate from other criminal justice activities in the SPA I but were merged under a single criminal justice heading in the SPA II, with a title and scope in line with the original COMMIT MoU
- The trafficking prevention activities in SPA I only addressed exploitative brokering; the SPA II was thus expanded to include other trafficking prevention activities, with a title and scope in line with the COMMIT MoU
- The titles in SPA II for PPC 1 and PPC 3 were updated as appropriate
- Importantly, a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) framework was integrated into the COMMIT SPA II, which was absent in the COMMIT SPA I. Each activity area contained targets and timelines for key goals that were agreed by the six COMMIT governments, and the COMMIT Secretariat generated annual monitoring reports using this M&E framework
COMMIT Third Sub-regional Plan of Action
(COMMIT SPA III, 2011-2013)
The COMMIT SPA III was drafted, deliberated and agreed upon in mid-late 2010, focusing on:
- How the commitments in the original COMMIT MoU have been reflected in the COMMIT SPAs to date, and the identification of gaps to be addressed by the COMMIT SPA III
- How the commitments in the original COMMIT MoU have been acted upon by the COMMIT governments to date, and the identification of gaps to be made a higher priority during the course of implementation of COMMIT SPA III
- Completed versus not completed activities under the COMMIT SPA I and II, and the appropriateness of rolling some of the not completed activities into the COMMIT SPA III
- Structural changes in the COMMIT SPA III, with activities outlined in a less prescriptive manner in recognition of the flexibility required by each country to approach activities in different ways
- Taking into consideration new and emerging anti-human trafficking initiatives and building on lessons learned within the Mekong Region, other parts of Asia and throughout the world.
The third Strategic Plan of Action (SPA III) was developed by the COMMIT Task Force countries based on their commitments in the COMMIT MOU. Implementation of SPA III consists of five key areas:
Area 1: Policy and Cooperation
Area 2: Legal Frameworks, Law Enforcement and Justice
Area 3: Protection, Recovery, and Reintegration
Area 4: Preventive Measures and Vulnerability Reduction
Area 5: Monitoring, Evaluation, and Anti-Human Trafficking Data Systems
Activities under these Areas are being implemented in each of the six Mekong countries and at a multi-country level where needed (both bilateral and multilateral). Implementation is typically done in partnership between relevant government departments and non-government entities, whether UN agencies or NGOs. Since human trafficking is multi-dimensional, each of the six COMMIT countries have a multi-disciplinary COMMIT Task Force which is a governing body with oversight responsibility consisting of representatives from numerous relevant ministries including police, justice, social welfare and women’s affairs.
Second COMMIT Memorandum of Understanding
During the third Inter-Ministerial Meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, which took place in February, 2012, ministers from the six COMMIT countries signed the second Joint Declaration of COMMIT, reaffirming their commitments made in the signing of the original COMMIT Memorandum of Understanding and first Joint Declaration, to work collectively to eradicate all forms of human trafficking in the region.
The United Nations Action for Cooperation against Trafficking in Persons (UN-ACT)
UN-ACT is a project of the United Nations Development Programme, with a regional management office in Bangkok, Thailand and six country offices across the Greater Mekong Sub-region (Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam).
It manages the strategic intersection of governance, policy, coordination, research and direct interventions – as a facilitator and coordinator as well as expert and innovator in the sub-region’s counter-trafficking efforts.
UN-ACT has assumed the secretariat function for the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative Against Trafficking (COMMIT) from its predecessor, UNIAP.
The project coordinates within the COMMIT framework at the country and regional level. This includes ensuring a comprehensive and inclusive approach, empowering often-underrepresented institutions such as labour ministries, and providing non-government groups with opportunities to engage with policy-makers.
UN-ACT works to ensure a sustainable, self-reliant COMMIT by focusing on building institutional capacities of government agencies. It has prepared a capacity development strategy including a baseline assessment of existing anti-trafficking capacities to guide the design and implementation of interventions in this regard.
For more information on UN-ACT, visit the website at www.un-act.org.
The COMMIT Process is governed by the 6 national COMMIT Taskforces, each comprised of government officials from the ministries most relevant to the fight against human trafficking – including police, justice, social welfare, and women’s affairs. The COMMIT Taskforces make all the major decisions regarding anti-trafficking programming and policy in their country, with COMMIT programming being reflected in annual COMMIT workplans. Two representatives from all six COMMIT Taskforces convene at least twice a year to set priorities and hold discussions on urgent issues at a regional level.