Legal Capacity Gaps

In November, the PILnet fellows spoke with David Rousseau, Human Rights & Operations Consultant at Winrock International, about how organizations like PILnet can help address trafficking in persons. Rousseau emphasized that lawyers can help civil society take a broader strategic view on the pressing legal issues pertaining to trafficking and build a platform for engagement on these key issues with other relevant stakeholders.

Civil society organizations working on anti-human trafficking issues are underfunded and some are only focused on direct assistance to victims. But what is needed, Rousseau argues, are significant changes to law enforcement and judicial systems as well as stronger legal capacity of grassroots NGOs in this sector. To achieve this, lawyers can give specific legal assistance concerning current laws and potential remedies; provide legal training for NGOs, government officials, private corporations, and migrants; and share successful tools and resources from other regions.

Additionally, the fellows considered other innovative ways the law can be used, such as through contracts, transactions, and making supply chains more transparent. For instance, legal advocates can serve in helping the private sector adopt more ethical recruitment practices and ensure compliance with international labor standards In fighting trafficking, lawyers should be proactive in empowering civil society instead of reacting to issues as they arise.