International Relations Sample Essay


Choose an essay title from one of the following questions. At the post-graduate level, you are expected to demonstrate analytic capability and to construct a fluent and logical argument. Your work should evidence extensive reading and research and be fully and accurately referenced.

1. Is there a difference between human trafficking and the smuggling of migrants?
2. Why are human trafficking victims exploited? 
3. Have international law developments influenced the practice of human trafficking? 
4. Can the victims of human trafficking be effectively protected?
5. Is a partnership approach the most effective way to fight human trafficking?
6. Do prevention strategies and awareness-raising campaigns work to combat trafficking in human beings?
7. Do governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental agencies and civil society need to respond differently to combat child trafficking and protect children?
8. Is there a business model of human trafficking? 
9. Is it possible to reduce the harm caused by human trafficking?


The Partnership Approach as the Most Effective Way to Fight Human Trafficking

Name of Student:

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Introduction. 2

Existing Partnerships and their Level of Effectiveness in Tackling Human Trafficking. 3

The Root Socio-Economic Causes of Human Trafficking. 7

The Need for the Human Security Approach. 11

Conclusion. 14

References. 16


Human trafficking is a serious crime and transnational problem. In this crime, victims are taken from their countries of origin and transported to their destinations via transit countries. In its preamble, the Palermo Protocol, a UN instrument that aims to prevent and punish human trafficking especially the kind that involves women and children, states that cooperation among countries of origin, transit, and destination is necessary for the crime to be tackled effectively. By coming together, these countries can punish the traffickers while at the same time offering protection to victims. It is against this backdrop that the Palermo Protocol is designed in such a way as to be implemented in the context of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.


It is unfortunate that human trafficking has continued to thrive despite the fact that the international community has already come up with instruments that provide guidelines on how to combat this crime. This is perhaps because these instruments do not address all aspects of this form of exploitation. Those who carry out the trade of exploiting persons are likely to take advantage of such structural weaknesses within the international legal system to perpetuate their criminal activities. The aim of this paper is to explore the question of whether the partnership approach is the most effective way of fighting human trafficking. The thesis of this paper is that the partnership approach can provide an ideal platform for the fight against trafficking in persons, specifically by encouraging states to deal with the underlying problems that force women and children to seek a better life abroad even in the face of the risk of being trafficked.

Existing Partnerships and their Level of Effectiveness in Tackling Human Trafficking

            The problem of human trafficking has dogged humankind for centuries. However, it is only after the change in the international order that came with the end of World War II and the establishment of the United Nations that states started coming together to establish an international framework to deal with this problem. The role of the United Nations in mobilizing international support for the fight against this crime stands out because it provides an international platform of cooperation among states. This is evident in the different UN treaties and conventions that the organization encourages member states to ratify. Most states see the sense in ratifying these conventions and treaties because of the understanding that human trafficking is a transnational problem to which any individual can fall victim regardless of his or her nationality.

            In 2000, the UN enacted the Palermo Treaty with the aim of preventing, suppressing, and punishing human trafficking especially the kind whose victims and women and children (UN Palermo Protocol, 2000). The convention supplements the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. Prior to the enactment of this treaty, issues to do with the trafficking in women and children were being handled through the convention against organized crime. In the preamble to this protocol, the UN acknowledges that the most effective problem of tackling human trafficking is through international cooperation among countries. The Palermo Protocol was the culmination of formal discussions that led to a resolution in December 1998 in which the UN General Assembly decided to form an international framework for fighting trafficking in children and women.

            More than a decade after its enactment, the Palermo Protocol has enabled countries to deal with human trafficking not just as a serious crime against women and children but also a gross violation of fundamental human rights (Heinrich, 2010). However, its major shortcoming is that it portrays the weak women and children in a manner that does not fully acknowledge the difficult circumstances of life that force them to seek a better life abroad even when confronted with the risk of falling into the hands of human traffickers.

            The reality of life today is that people who are desperately looking for employment can easily find themselves in awkward situations where they must submit to the coercive strategies of pimps and agents of international trafficking cartels that masquerade as genuine employers. The wording of the Palermo Protocol connotes just movement but also the criminality of compelled service even within one’s borders. This is important because many victims of human trafficking are never moved across the national borders of their countries. Instead, their purported employers simply take advantage of existing weak points within the national legal framework as well as laxity in law enforcement to commit the crimes.


It is unfortunate that many countries have either been uncooperative or unsuccessful in enacting laws that are in tandem with the letter and spirit of the Palermo Convention. In most cases, lack of cooperation occurs because of political considerations. Many countries tend to lack the political incentive to spare some time to discuss issues of human trafficking. They often wait until there is a public outcry following a much-publicized media coverage of the ordeal some citizens may be going through in a foreign country after falling victim to the crime. The foreign country in question may be perceived to be complacent because of its failure to impose stringent penalties on offenders. Such an omission creates the notion that the financial benefits of trafficking in persons outweigh the risks. Unregulated labor recruitment policies also create an excellent breeding ground for both national and transnational human trafficking cartels. All these challenges come at a time when migration trends are rapidly changing, catching many countries flat-footed as far as the process of enacting stringent laws against human trafficking is concerned.

            It is not clear whether the understanding of human trafficking has undergone any significant changes more than a decade since the enactment of the Palermo Protocol. It also remains unclear whether UN member states have aligned their understanding of this phenomenon with the realities of slavery in the postmodern world. It is evident, however, that many countries have been overwhelmed by the rapidly changing migration patterns that outpace the rate at which laws are being amended. This situation puts national governments and international actors in an awkward position where they have to keep playing into the hands of the criminals. This situation calls for a strategic reorientation of the measures that the international community has been employing in its fight against human trafficking.

            The Palermo Protocol was enacted during the same year in which the UN Secretary-General certified the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea, and Air. In this protocol, the emphasis is on the need for governments, regional organizations, and other international actors to cooperate in order to prevent trafficking in persons by land, air, and sea. One way of cooperating is through the exchange of information. The Protocol also paves the way for the introduction of socio-economic measures that can lead to a reduction in the number of people being trafficked. For example, Article 15 of the Protocol requires every State Party to promote and strengthen development programs that pay attention to economically depressed areas as a way of combating the root economic causes of human trafficking such as underdevelopment and abject poverty (United Nations, 2000).

            The need to address the root economic catalysts for trafficking in persons seems to have been put down very well on paper but not so well in terms of implementation mechanisms. For example, programs that condition the provision of services to victims on cooperation and successful prosecution tend to shift the burden of problem-solving to those victims. In such a situation, it becomes understandable why the victims refuse the services and instead choose to go underground. An important lesson in this regard is that despite the best intentions of the law enforcement approach, it is wrong for the international community to depend solely on law enforcement agencies in the task of identifying of victims. Insensitivity to such issues easily creates a situation where existing partnerships fail despite the best intentions on the part of the participants.

            The challenges that are being faced in regards to UN instruments are to some extent similar to those of regional blocs such as the European Union. In July 2002, the EU Council Framework Decision on combating human trafficking was launched. Two years later, the EU Council issued a directive addressing the issuance of residence permits to nationals from third-world countries who have fallen victim to trafficking in persons or are complicit in the perpetuation of illegal immigration (Council of Europe, 2005). In the directive of 2004, a major requirement was for the victims to cooperate with the authorities.

            In coming up with measures aimed at tackling trafficking in persons, the EU put into consideration the policies that have already been put in place by the UN such as the Convention on Transnational Organized Crime and the Palermo Protocol (Council of Europe, 2005). This is a step in the right direction because it brings the international community closer to full-fledged cooperation. It is just as well that the EU, in launching its framework decision and directive on trafficking in persons, acknowledged the need to improve the level of protection that is afforded under various UN Conventions and Protocols. At the same time, the efforts by the EU are to a great extent a reflection of the drift of argument in mainstream international legal instruments that advocate for action against those who traffic in human beings.

The Root Socio-Economic Causes of Human Trafficking

            The problem of human trafficking has led to a situation where many people find themselves living in other countries as illegal immigrants. Poverty is a major root cause of human trafficking. Many poor people in developing countries are easily lured into human trafficking by the promise of lucrative jobs (Zimmerman et al., 2006). These people are recruited and transported to various locations for purposes of exploitation. Human traffickers use diverse strategies to control their victims, including abducting, coercing, threatening, and deceiving them. Once they gain total psychological control over the victims, they begin exploiting them through forced labor, slavery, prostitution, servitude, or removal of organs.

            According to OSCE (2010), countries that are fighting trafficking in persons must focus on three things: the act, the means, and the exploitative purpose. The act of human trafficking involves recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring, and receiving persons. The means include using threat, force, abduction, threats, and abuse of power or the victims’ vulnerable position. The illegal trade thrives because many people are willing to pay for the services being provided by the victims of trafficking. The exploitative purposes range from slavery and forced labor to sexual exploitation and the removal of body organs.

            Human trafficking continues to thrive because of the world of full of potential victims, a situation that arises from the lack of economic opportunities in origin countries. Many countries lack social support systems, meaning that most young adults are expected to offer financial support to both their children and their parents. At the same time, employment opportunities in those countries are limited. This situation leads to poverty, disillusionment, and fantasies about prospects of a better life in far-off countries that are famous for their high standards of living and human development indexes such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany. Since most poor countries provide very legal migration possibilities, the multitude of aspiring emigrants ends up falling into the hands of traffickers and smugglers.

            The risk of trafficking increases with an increase in abject poverty, relative poverty, underemployment, unemployment, the desire to improve one’s living standards, low level of education, economic uncertainty, family crises, domestic violence, civil unrest, and gender inequality (OSCE, 2010). Unfortunately, all these problems are very common in developing countries. In fact, they are the primary indicators of the conditions of underdevelopment in which the people of developing countries live. The situation could be bearable if governments in these countries had put in place strong institutions that can deal with human trafficking. Again, institutional weakness is a major characteristic of developing countries. These countries are underdeveloped because their governments operate based on inefficient institutions that fail to address economic problems in a holistic manner.

            The fact that many people in developing countries are potential victims of human trafficking and that governments in those countries are hardly doing anything creates an ideal environment for obtaining persons for smuggling and establishing transit routes for human trafficking cartels. Since legal action is hardly taken against suspected traffickers, the very legal-political environment in poor countries creates an incentive for traffickers to redouble their efforts to recruit new victims. In some cases, the cartels may target newly repatriated victims with the aim of re-trafficking them. The lack of psychological, legal, and economic support for victims of smuggling and trafficking subjects them to stigma, which they ultimately end up running away from by reentering the underground world of human trafficking. The persistence of this problem is normally compounded by factors such as low education levels, the existence of unregulated unskilled sectors and the absence of legal migration possibilities.

            The issue of unregulated and precarious working conditions in various destination countries has been widely mentioned in existing international legal instruments. Yet the said conditions continue to contribute to the persistence of the problem of human trafficking. I think the international community must go beyond raising awareness to start tackling actual problems affecting victims in both destination and origin countries. Some of the sectors that are not properly regulated in destination countries include prostitution, domestic work, au pair, and construction work. In 2004, Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1663 was passed to address the issue of servitude, domestic slavery, mail-order brides, and au pairs. This recommendation required the Council of Europe to have zero tolerance to domestic slavery. It is against this backdrop that the Parliamentary Assembly has continued to support various conventions developed by the Council of Europe.

            In the Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1663, it was suggested that a charter on domestic servants’ human rights should be elaborated. This was a repeat of a suggestion that had already made earlier, in Recommendation 1523 of 2001. The fact that Recommendation 1663 addressed issues that had already been dispensed with three years earlier means that something is wrong when it comes to the implementation of recommendations on the fight against domestic slavery in Europe. Recommendation 1663 also asserted the importance of recognizing domestic work as “real work”, whereby workers are entitled to social protection, full employment rights, a minimum wage, pension rights, an accreditation system, and maternity leave. Other rights identified in the recommendation include family life, personal and leisure time, health insurance, and immigration status.

Although Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1663 clearly spelled out the need for a system of accreditation for agencies engaging in the placement of domestic workers, such accreditation is yet to be put in place. In the au pair industry, stakeholders have resorted to self-regulation. This is an indication of failure on the part of the European Union. As the number of au pair agencies continues to increase in Europe, the need for accreditation becomes increasingly urgent. In my view, this sense of urgency manifests itself in the fact that many au pairs end up being exploited by being assigned new roles as replacement housekeepers, nannies, and commercial sex workers. Au pair programs ideally serve as platforms of cultural exchange, whereby immigrants, especially teenage girls and young women, get an opportunity to spend a year or two with a foreign family in order to study abroad while learning a foreign language. Since this is an unregulated industry, it remains highly vulnerable to abuse. In my opinion, the potential for abuse will remain high as long as au pair programs are not treated as real jobs.

Article 9 of the UN Palermo Protocol notes that many people, especially women and children, remain vulnerable to trafficking because of a lack of opportunity, poverty, and underdevelopment (UN Palermo Protocol, 2000). The Protocol emphasizes the role of multilateral and bilateral cooperation in efforts to alleviate this vulnerability. I think a good place to start would be to strengthen the legislative frameworks of all countries. Other than legislation, the Palermo protocol stresses the importance of demand-side mitigation such as social-cultural and educational measures that discourage people from buying the services of trafficked individuals and illegal immigrants.


I think it is important for the UN to draft a new protocol that addresses the issue of vulnerability to human trafficking. The new protocol should be drafted in such a way as to be implemented in the context of the Palermo Protocol, just in the same way that the Palermo Protocol is being implemented in the context of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. In this new protocol, the UN should adopt the human security approach. The human security approach is based on the view that the twin dimensions of protection and empowerment are essential in the fight against human trafficking. This is not only because they are mutually-reinforcing but also because they address cross-cutting threats that face both citizens and governments.

The Need for the Human Security Approach

The human security approach emphasizes the establishment of a policy framework in which wide-ranging issues affecting citizens and governments can be addressed. This approach is based on the recognition that human security is faced with threats that span across all countries and regions. It is also founded on the idea that these threats sometimes vary within and across countries. This provides justification for a comprehensive assessment of all people-centered human insecurities in a context-specific manner with a view to preventing them from affecting humankind in a negative.

I think this is precisely what is needed in the current war on human trafficking. Certain cross-cutting issues such as underdevelopment, poverty, and unemployment contribute to this problem across the world. At the same time, certain aspects of these universal problems lead to variations in the way the practice of trafficking in persons manifests itself in different regions. For example, absolute poverty in the Third World creates a large pool of desperate, vulnerable people who can easily be lured into the underground world of human trafficking (UNODC, 2008). On the other hand, relative poverty in developed countries significantly contributes to the growth in demand for the services of illegal immigrants who have been trafficked into those countries. Many people who hire trafficked persons as domestic servants, slaves, commercial sex workers, au pairs, and underground miners do so because of structural weaknesses in the destination countries’ systems of governance (Claude, 2010).

By addressing the problem of absolute poverty in the Third World, the international community would make it increasingly difficult for human traffickers to lay their hands on new victims. Similarly, sealing all legal loopholes in destination countries would cut off the demand side of the human trafficking “business” (Claude, 2010). The convention view is that the main contributors as far as human trafficking is concerned are the people of poor countries, who are always looking for ingenious ways of migrating to the developed world in the search of a better life. On the contrary, I think the demand side is responsible for the contemporary problem of human trafficking. Without any willing buyers of the services that the trafficked persons offer through highly exploitative working arrangements, participants would see no economic sense in engaging in the illegal practice. It is expensive to set up elaborate logistical structures for the transportation of illegal immigrants to a new country. Participants in human trafficking cartels may be unwilling to venture into the crime if the demand for trafficked persons in industries such as prostitution, slavery, and the sale of body organs was diminishing.

According to Tournecuillert (2014), existing legal frameworks have elaborated on the plight of victims, ways of rehabilitating them, and avenues of repatriating them to their countries of origin as well as adopting them into the destination countries. In my view, these issues fall within the realm of protection, which is a reactive approach. The issue of empowerment remains largely unaddressed in the partnerships that are being conceived at the global level as part of the fight against human trafficking.

            To address the issue of empowerment in a holistic manner, a new UN protocol should be drafted. Such a protocol should be designed in such a way as to equip state parties with new insights into the human trafficking problem. For example, they would be able to investigate the economic problems that have led to specific waves of human trafficking in the recent past with a view to designing economic policies that can prevent similar crimes from being committed in the future. This way, the human security approach would have been used to establish global partnerships that amount to proactive efforts by international actors to deal with the crime. I think it would be necessary to start with regions that have already gained notoriety for human trafficking. Once communities in those regions have been empowered and vulnerability to human traffickers has decreased considerably, international actors can copy the same model to address similar issues in other affected regions.

            I think the human security approach offers a unique opportunity humankind to pursue immediate results that the poor people of the developing countries are looking for such as an improvement in the overall human development index. Such results can be achieved if the UN mobilized global partners and stakeholders to come together to address specific vulnerabilities that have been proven to impact the people and governments negatively by creating loopholes that human traffickers exploit with impunity to exert total control over their victims.


            This paper has examined the partnership approach and its effectiveness in fighting human trafficking. The United Nations has been on the forefront in drafting protocols and conventions as well as mobilizing international approach in the war against this heinous crime. These efforts have created a lot of awareness of the need to address global problems. For example, the Palermo Protocol has enabled countries to treat human trafficking not just as a serious crime against humanity but also a gross violation of the victims’ human rights.

            Despite these efforts, many victims of human trafficking continue to suffer in the hands of traffickers and oppressive masters. Worse still, many people continue to be targeted by human trafficking cartels seeking to satisfy the growing demand for the services that the trafficked individuals provide at exploitative wages(Freisendorf, 2009)). Based on this analysis, my view is the partnership approach that has been conceived through UN agencies and other international actors continue to rely on a reactive approach that seeks to protect these victims instead of prioritizing a proactive approach aimed at ensuring that they do not become victims of human trafficking in the first place. The international community tends to stop at offering protection to victims instead of moving to the next step of addressing the circumstances of poverty and vulnerability that may have led them into the hands of human traffickers (Freisendorf, 2009).

            This paper confirms the thesis that the partnership approach can provide an ideal platform for the fight against trafficking in persons; however, this approach may not be successful unless states deal with the underlying problems and vulnerabilities that influence persons to face a high risk of being trafficked. I think the best way to address these underlying problems is to use the human security approach. Through this approach, the UN can establish a new protocol that addresses specific issues such as empowering people and governments in poor countries as well as targeting the demand side of human trafficking. Once people are empowered through economic initiatives, they are less likely to become complicit in human trafficking. Similarly, destroying demand is an excellent way of making human trafficking less economically viable for the organized crime syndicates and transnational cartels involved.


Claude, K 2010, Targeting the Sex Buyer: The Swedish Example: Stopping Prostitution and Trafficking Where It All Begins, Swedish Institute, Stockholm.

Council of Europe, 2005, Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings and its Explanatory Report, Council of Europe, Warsaw.

Freisendorf, C 2009, ‘Improving Counter-Trafficking Efforts through Better Implementation, Networking and Evaluation’, in CorneliusFreisendorf, (ed.), Strategies Against Human Trafficking: The Role of the Security Sector, pp. 477-510, Routledge, London.

Heinrich, K 2010, ‘Ten Years after the Palermo Protocol: Where are Protections for Human Trafficking?’, Human Rights Brief, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 1-4.

OSCE, 2010, Analyzing the Business Model of Trafficking in Human Beings to Better Prevent the Crime. Vienna: Austria, 2010. Print.

Tournecuillert, V 2014, ‘Debate: Strategically Working in Parallel to Traffickers’, Anti-Trafficking Review, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 1-9.

UN Palermo Protocol, 2000, Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking In Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, United Nations, New York.

United Nations, 2000, United Nations Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea, and Air, Supplementing the United Nations Convention against Organized Crime, United Nations, New York. 

UNODC, 2008, An Introduction to Human Trafficking: Vulnerability, Impact and Action, United Nations, New York.

Zimmerman, C, Hossain, M, Yun, K, Roche, B, Morison, L & Watts, C 2006, Stolen Smiles: A summary report on the physical and psychological health consequences of women and adolescents trafficked in Europe, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London.

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