RSO 2023 Constructive Dialogue sets out key themes around cross-border relationships, leadership and culture, tech and private sector collaboration and victim-centric policy design
Last week's RSO 2023 Constructive Dialogue brought together some 120 senior officials and representatives across 28 Bali Process Member States and Organisations, 11 Observer States and Organisations and 13 regional partner organisations representing expert views and experience from NGOs, CSOs, and the private sector membership - to discuss effective responses to countering human trafficking and people smuggling - underlined by compassion and common commitment to solutions.
An opening keynote from Kasit Piromya, Former Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand, shared reflections from his extensive career on how we can more effectively work together, and reminded delegates of what is possible if we have compassion and a common commitment to solutions, especially as it relates to refugees.
Bali Process Senior Official Co-Chairs Lynn Bell, Australia’s Ambassador to Counter Modern Slavery, People Smuggling and Human Trafficking and Tri Tharyat, Indonesian Director-General for Multilateral Cooperation, set out progress made since the 2023 Adelaide Strategy for Cooperation, and their objectives and vision for the Bali Process.
Some 16 interventions were given over the two days from Australia, Bangladesh, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), International Labour Organization (ILO), International Organization for Migration (IOM), Iran, Malaysia, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, Solomon Islands, Turkey, United Kingdom, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), USA and Viet Nam, reflecting strong engagement from Member States.
The design of the Constructive Dialogue provided ample opportunities for Member States to engage in bilateral and multilateral dialogue, with both formal and informal opportunities to support joint working and cooperation, through the establishment of enduring small groups, a variety of panelists and speakers that could be engaged with directly, collaboration space and an evening networking reception. Attendees were able to identify international counterparts and have bilateral or multilateral discussions on the side, with many reporting that they had established relationships they didn’t have previously, but more importantly, relationships that they wanted to establish.
Over the two days, and building on the 2023 Adelaide Strategy for Cooperation and priorities set at the Bali Process 20th Anniversary Constructive Dialogue held in 2022, key themes to emerge at the RSO 2023 Constructive Dialogue included:
- the need for renewed concerted action and engagement, especially as we continue to see an upward trend in smuggling and trafficking victims across the region.
- the need for strengthened cross-border relationships, and the ongoing need to continue to push the boundaries to move beyond informal and ad hoc sharing, to clearer more institutionalised relationships.
- the need to create cultures of sharing ‘from the top down’, that will help to mitigate both internal, inter-agency and cross-border blockages related to information sharing
- the need to ensure we are not duplicating our work and deconflicting as much as possible.
- The need to include migrants, victims, and persons with lived experience in programme and policy design.
- The need to engage more deeply with tech actors and the private sector, if we are to remain responsive and effective.
Member State updates and expert inputs
Thematic sessions over the two days showcased progress and achievements across Member States and allowed exposure to a diverse set of regional actors adding significantly to the value and quality of the information presented.
The first thematic session of day 1 was a panel discussion on the disruption of people smuggler’s business models through public information campaigns and enhanced information collection and sharing, with a powerful case study from Sri Lanka National Police, shared by Tuan Meedin, Assistant Superintendent of Police and Secondee to the RSO, and inputs from Brett Zehnder, First Secretary Sri Lanka & Maldives, Australian Border Force, Shreya Bhat, Regional Research Specialist, Mixed Migration Centr and Kristina Amerhauser, Programme Manager, Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime. The session highlighted real-life impacts of smuggling, and the coercive tactics used by smuggling networks to trick and influence people into using smuggling services, and delegates were invited to discuss priority concerns and strategies through small group sessions.
Delegates heard about progress made to counter trafficking in persons in the Philippines from Nicholas Felix L. Ty, Undersecretary, Department of Justice, and regional updates from Jacob Sims, Regional Director, Advocacy and Partnerships, International Justice Mission and Diep Vuong, President and Co-founder, Pacific Links Foundation. The speakers discussed challenges and best practice in cross-border cooperation when addressing trafficking in persons – and in particular how Member States can improve law enforcement cooperation, address illicit financial flows and ensure stronger protection for victims.
Ade Harianto, Senior Superintendent, Indonesian National Police, Pol. Maj. Manavee Potranan, Inspector of Academic Sub-Division of Immigration Training Center, Thai Immigration Bureau and Paul Buckley, Policy Dialogue and Partnerships Director, ASEAN-Australia Counter Trafficking shared updates across their capacity building efforts and how these can be further expanded and strengthened. The session set out to demonstrate good practice around efforts to ensure knowledge is embedded in organisations and actively employed to guide ways of working, and provided delegates with an opportunity to discuss their own good practice, gaps and needs through small group sessions.
On day 2, attendees witnessed firsthand the lived experience of someone who was trafficked into forced criminality through a performance developed by the RSO, anti-trafficking NGO A21, and sand artist Kongkiat Kongchandee.
A panel discussion on civil registration and vital statistics asked delegates to consider responses to large scale irregular migration, and how Member States can prepare to ensure that the pressures borne by host countries and communities are manageable, and that adequate protection and understanding is afforded to those who migrate. Speakers included Dr Muhammad Asif who outlined progress in civil registration made by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Dr Sriprapha Petcharamesree, Chulalongkorn University, Tatcee Macabuag, Migrant Forum in Asia, Matthias Reuss, Senior Statelessness Officer, The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and Saskia Kok, Head of Protection Unit, Asia Regional Migration Program, IOM.
Accessing and sharing information across borders is one of the eight areas of cooperation Ministers from Bali Process Member States committed to in the 2023 Adelaide Strategy for Cooperation, and is a topic Member States consistently raise with the RSO in bilateral, national and regional discussions. The RSO introduced and sought feedback on proposals for the RSO Regional Information, Liaison and Outreach Network Initiative (RILON Initiative), which aims to support ongoing knowledge and information sharing around key regional challenges.
Anchana Chailert and Napol Woraprateep, Special Case Officers, Child Sexual Exploitation Crime Center (CSECC), Department of Special Investigation, Royal Thai Government shared a case study showcasing collaboration between Thailand and Australia, and wider regional partners and CSOs in countering child sexual exploitation, which helped to clearly demonstrate the benefits and complexities of working collaboratively across borders, and helped to frame the discussions in the following small group sessions.
A final session brought together experts from across private sector, technology companies and government to discuss the intersection between technology and transnational crime, and in particular how governments and their agencies can link up more effectively with the private sector to progress solutions – whether that is on large scale advocacy efforts to raise awareness of trafficking risks, developing apps to help share and track information, ensuring effective moderation of social media platforms, or understanding the movement of cryptocurrencies.
At the RSO, we remain available and responsive to engage across the Bali Process membership on the ways we can best support and work collaboratively – and to ensure that the RSO provides the best support for Bali Process Members when working to address these complex and constantly evolving issues.
We will be sharing an Outcome Statement and Outline of Collective Efforts in the coming weeks, to guide our work over the next period and contributing to the joint objectives set out in the 2023 Adelaide Strategy for Cooperation.
Thank you again to everyone who attended - we look forward to next steps together.