The COMMIT Senior Officials Meeting takes place each year to report on progress, exchange experiences and lessons learnt, as well as endorse any new initiatives for COMMIT to address trafficking. The SOM 11 in Vientiane brought together representatives from the six COMMIT member governments, UN-agencies and international organizations such as ASEAN, civil society stakeholders, the COMMIT youth forum, donors, the private sector and UN-ACT.
UN-ACT is a regional project of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), launched in 2015, to counter human trafficking in the Greater Mekong Sub-region and beyond. UN-ACT serves as the secretariat for the COMMIT process. In 2014 and 2015, UN-ACT has helped strengthen the COMMIT Process to become sustainable and self-reliant. The six COMMIT member governments reported 5,420 victims referred and supported through national and transnational referral mechanisms as part of the COMMIT process over 2014-2015. UN-ACT has also facilitated increased regional cooperation between COMMIT countries and other actors to counter human trafficking, as well as assisted civil society and other non-state actors to more effectively contribute to anti-human trafficking efforts.
The topic of the SOM 11 on 24 November was Strengthening Unity to Improve Victim-Centered Approaches To Trafficking in Persons: Learning from COMMIT experiences. At the meeting, the COMMIT member governments reviewed the progress of the implementation of the COMMIT Sub-regional Plan of Action IV, and discussed combating trafficking in persons with stakeholders including ASEAN, civil society organizations, private sector and the COMMIT Youth Forum. Key outcomes of the COMMIT SOM 11 included the adoption of the common ASEAN-COMMIT indicators of human trafficking and related forms of exploitation, and the adoption of the COMMIT Guidelines on Victim Identification and Referral Mechanisms.
Norway and Sweden was invited to the SOM 11 as donor representatives, and Minister Counsellor Mr. Vegard Holmelid from the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Bangkok was invited to give some opening remarks.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Holmelid emphasized the importance of the COMMIT process. On behalf of Norway and Sweden, he congratulated all COMMIT member governments, and their partners, for the impressive achievements in combating human trafficking in the Mekong region over the past decade.
He underlined that human trafficking is a complex issue. He stated that human trafficking is a transboundary crime and addressing it requires joint efforts and effective coordination of many actors. Criminal networks must be stopped and prosecuted by justice systems. Victims of human trafficking must be protected and supported and the root causes for vulnerability to trafficking and exploitation has to be understood and addressed. Therefore, Mr. Holmelid expressed how glad he was to see that Government agencies, police authorities, the judiciary, civil society, youth, businesses, regional organizations as well as donors have come together in this regional initiative and brought results.
He also emphasized that Norway and Sweden are particularly happy to learn that all the COMMIT governments have set aside more and more national resources to fight against human trafficking and exploitation.
Read Minister Counsellor Mr. Vegard Holmelid's full speech here.
Norway is a longstanding and proud supporter of UN-ACT and the COMMIT process. At the SOM 11 in Vientiane, Norway announced an additional contribution to the process of 3 million NOK.