BY WILLIAM H. MOSER OP-ED 2 JULY 2021
Last month, the Kazakh government adopted a new Human Rights Action Plan, at the direction of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. The action plan includes as a key priority ensuring the rights of victims of trafficking in persons.
The U.S. Mission to Kazakhstan welcomes the inclusion of combatting trafficking in persons into the Human Rights Action Plan as the latest example of President Tokayev’s strong stand on ending modern slavery in Kazakhstan. On July 1, Secretary Blinken released the State Department’s Trafficking In Persons (TIP) Report, which recognized the significant efforts Kazakhstan has made toward eliminating trafficking in persons. But despite this important progress, our joint work is not done.
Much of the U.S. Government’s cooperation with Kazakhstan on combatting human trafficking is done in collaboration with Kazakh experts. We have supported training at the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ Trafficking in Persons Training Center, and we have worked with the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) on the identification of victims and prosecution of traffickers.
This collaboration aims to share best practices and expertise with our partners in Kazakhstan. According to recommendations in the State Department’s annual TIP report, one area with room for improvement in Kazakhstan is expanding assistance to foreign victims of trafficking. Making sure foreign citizens who suffered from human trafficking have access to the services they need to get their lives back on track has proven to be a beneficial practice in the United States. I am pleased that Kazakhstan is taking steps to incorporate this assistance to foreign victims in their plans.
Additionally, the U.S. Government works with NGOs and international organizations to support victims of trafficking. One ongoing project is our joint effort with the International Organization for Migration in Kazakhstan (IOM) to develop an assessment and conduct a series of national dialogues on the country’s legal framework and recommendations on combating human trafficking in Kazakhstan. The ongoing national dialogue on trafficking in persons began in May and will continue through the next several months.
The first national dialogue was well attended by experts and practitioners with wide experience and perspectives on countering trafficking in persons, including civil society representatives and government officials from the Interior Ministry add the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection. The dialogue provided some excellent insights from other countries on what works for them, and reviewed the effectiveness of Kazakhstan’s current measures for victim identification, prosecution of traffickers, and assistance for foreign victims. Human Rights Ombudsperson Elvira Azimova is an excellent choice to chair these dialogues and continues to demonstrate her commitment to countering trafficking in persons.
The Government of Kazakhstan is working hard to combat trafficking in persons. Change takes time, but Kazakhstan is making significant efforts and I encourage them to keep up the pace. Continuous improvement is imperative, because human traffickers never stop innovating in how they prey on their victims, and so governments too can never rest. I am encouraged by Kazakhstan’s efforts. President Tokayev has elevated countering trafficking in persons to the highest levels, and Kazakhstan’s new Human Rights Action Plan will give additional impetus to fully implement the government’s important planned improvements in its 2021-2023 TIP National Action Plan, like adopting a legal definition of human trafficking to align with international standards and improving how trafficking victims are identified.
Our common goal is a world without trafficking, where people can pursue their hopes and dreams, make a living, and be fairly compensated for their work. This is not a fight we can win in a day. It will take time and, most importantly, consistent and sustained effort. Ending human trafficking will require extraordinary international cooperation, much like the cooperation I am proud to say we are building between the United States and Kazakhstan.
The author is William H. Moser, the U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan.