By Lisha Kim
The ongoing war in the Ukraine is recently forcing millions of people to flee their country and desperately look for help. It can be observed in the news that there are human traffickers waiting for fleeing women and children right at the Ukrainian borders which shows that this is a classic setting for a precondition of Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery (HT/MS). So, the time is now to learn fast about the FAST Initiative.
Last week, the members of MUN Bern had the honour of attending a presentation of Anti-Money Laundering (AML)-Specialist Simon Zaugg from the FAST Initiative about what the FAST Initiative is about, what the work of FAST consists of, about HT/MS in general and how the financial sector is tied to it.
The FAST Initiative in the UN System
The FAST Initiative stands for Finance Against Slavery and Trafficking and has been initiated by the Liechtenstein government (therefore also known as the Liechtenstein Initiative). FAST is part of the United Nations University (UNU) that again is subordinated to the General Assembly, a UN principal organ. As a global think tank, the UNU pursues three thematic clusters that are Peace & Governance, Global Development & Inclusion and Environment, Climate & Energy. The UNU is divided into thirteen institutes all over the world, whereas the Centre for Policy Research (CPR) with its base in New York City is one of them. Its focus lies on Migration, Conflict Prevention & Sustaining Peace as well as HT/MS. There, embedded as a project in this system of the UNU-CPR, lies the FAST Initiative with a team consisting of Human Rights and AML experts. The Initiative is funded by different governments, such as Norway, the Netherlands, Australia, Luxembourg and – the initiator – Liechtenstein as well as by private sector donors.
HT/MS and the Financial Sector
The terminology of HT/MS includes forced labour, the worst forms of child labour and human trafficking, including sex trafficking. The extent of this hidden crime becomes apparent when looking at the estimated numbers: Human trafficking ranks as one of the top three international crimes with a total annual profit of USD 150 billion. Around 40.3 million of people are estimated to live under this condition – with an increasing tendency, not least due to the war in the Ukraine as mentioned above. Meanwhile, 10’000 persons per day would have to be freed from enslavement to reach Target 8.7 of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to eradicate this crime by 2030.
The financial sector is connected to HT/MS in three different ways: The financial sector handles the proceeds of this crime, it lends to and invests in businesses relying on slavery for cost reduction and profit, and financial exclusion often contributes to and amplifies vulnerability to modern slavery. Within the first connection by the financial sector to HT/MS especially financial investigations are a crucial and powerful tool.
The Work of Simon Zaugg within FAST
A gap analysis between the worldwide estimates of HT/MS and the actual figures registered in the countries showed that the estimated number of unreported HT/MS cases has to be high. In order to reduce this gap, FAST developed a series of Awareness Raising Events for the financial sector and is establishing an Online Training Program for the Financial Intelligence Units (FIU) of the Egmont Group (an international forum of 167 FIUs worldwide). An FIU is the central entity within a country’s government that receives, analyses and disseminates suspicions of money laundering and its predicate offences, amongst them HT/MS. The focus of the Awareness Raising Events lies on Eastern Europe, currently mostly on neighbouring countries to the Ukraine, with the goal to improve the reporting of suspicions of HT/MS by the financial sector to FIUs which is currently very low. The Online Training Program is being developed together with the Egmont Group and is designed to raise the FIUs’ awareness of HT/MS risks and of their role in the fight against this particular crime.
To raise your awareness about HT/MS follow the link to learn more: