“A tree stands strong not by its fruits or branches, but by the depth of its roots” Anthony Liccione

Principles of Practice (PoP) can be compared to the roots of a tree; rules, values and beliefs grounding and informing one’s programs and services. When the principles developed are well thought out, it translates into services that incorporate important values that protect the most vulnerable.

Safe Horizon, an American NGO, hosted the Global Learning Collaborative (GLC) bringing together 10 organisations from nine countries with the aim of exploring best practices for working with survivors of Human Trafficking. Through the GLC, 14 Principles of practice were developed that all participants could implement regardless of the availability of resources.

In July 2018, 41 organizations from the East and Horn of Africa civil society working in counter trafficking followed suit working together with the aim of developing a list of principles to root their practices in assisting victims of trafficking.

It can be argued that these principles are the most important element in developing protection services. Often, individuals are in the field because they recognise the need for victims to be protected and supported in moving past their experience. However, the mere intention of helping is not enough to protect victims. People working in the field need to uphold the principle of ‘Do No Harm’, ensuring that while working with the intention of doing good, the practices and services moving forward do not cause further harm to the people that they are trying to protect.

The principles of practice outline the values and set the tone for what is important for the organisation as well as the individuals within the organisation.
Equipped with PoPs, organisations are able to align themselves with other organisations with similar values so as to strengthen the protection services available to victims of trafficking.
The principles within organisations create a common purpose and understanding which go on to benefit the victims directly and indirectly.

The principles agreed on by the regional players in the field of counter trafficking were as follows;

  1. A commitment to a human-rights based approach
  2. A commitment to offer a victim- centred approach to care
  3. A commitment to offer trauma- informed care
  4. A commitment to inclusive practice
  5. A commitment to utilise evidence- based practice
  6. A commitment to ensure active participation of survivors’ voices
  7. A commitment to care and well-being for the team
  8. A commitment to adapt and speak common language
  9. A commitment to work towards reducing vulnerability to trafficking
  10. A commitment to confidentiality and the right to privacy and self-determination
  11. A commitment to collaboration and cross-sector partnership

Through the explicit commitment by more than 30 organizations who signed to the above practices, the regional players have created a foundation from which all programs can be built on. Additionally, the principles serve as a checklist to monitor the programs offered to victims in each organisation thus increasing accountability within the organisation, the regional counter trafficking space and most importantly by the survivors who receive services. Through this document, survivors can be empowered and assured to only receive services that have incorporated these principles and be able to complain when the services do not.

As it stands today, no country in the region has a minimum standards document from which it is able to work from and guarantee a certain minimum level of service for all survivors. It is the hope that through the development of the PoPs and further collaboration, minimum standards can be developed in the region and survivors can receive the highest standard of protection services across the board.

By Yasmin Manji