New Tool Available to Assess Human Rights Impact of Anti-Trafficking Measures

Marjan Wijers

The Right

Marjan Wijers a human rights consultant and researcher who helped create this tool as part of a collaboration.

The RighT guide, as we called it,was made in response to increasing concerns of anti-trafficking, sex workers rights and migrant workers rights activists and organisations that many anti-trafficking measures not only fail to protect the rights of trafficked persons, but actually do harm by undermining or negatively affecting the human rights of the people affected by those policies.

I am happy to announce that the tool is ready for use now! You can download The RighT guideat the Human Rights Resource Centre: you can also find the short movie we made about the tool with the help of Carol Leigh, who filmed the meeting last year in Prague, in which we discussed the draft tool. To get a hard copy of the tool, please send an email to: The RighT guide is available in English and French.

The tool presents a step-by-step method that helps NGOs and other civil society groups to assess the intended and unintended effects of anti-trafficking policies on the rights of the groups affected by those policies. The policy and its impact are measured against the human rights obligations of a State. NGOs can then use the evidence-based outcomes to advocate law or policy reforms that respect human rights of all persons. The tool includes a set of factsheets about human rights and the human rights system that can be used independently by anyone who wants to learn more about human rights.

If you are interested in using the tool to make an assessment, please let us know. We would also like to publish online any reports that are made with the help of the tool. An example is the report produced by X:talk (UK), which was of one of the organisations that tested the tool. You can find the report of X:talk ‘Human rights, sex work and the challenge of trafficking. A human rights impact assessment of anti-trafficking laws in the UK’, at

How do we want to move on?

The process of making the tool created a network of organisations and individuals, who share their advocacy for anti-trafficking policies that respect the human rights of those affected by these policies, including trafficked persons, sex workers and migrant workers. We hope that many groups will use the tool and that we can continue to expand and strengthen this network, for example by organising a meeting at the end of this year between all organisations that used the tool to exchange experiences,explore cooperation on advocacy for rights based policies, strengthen networks and get feedback to improve the tool, the website and the training workshops.

Support in using the tool

The tool can be used independently, but working with a human rights framework is rather new to many NGOs. To help get you started, we can provide an introductory workshop on human rights and the use of The RighT guide. We can also give support to users during an assessment. For information, please contact me or:

Rights 4 Change

Aim for human rights, the organisation that coordinated The RighT guide project, is closing end of February 2011. Its work on human rights impact assessments, including The RighT guide and the website, will be continued by a new organisation we set up: Rights 4 Change (R4C). At the moment, we are still in the process of fundraising. Advice or ideas on shared fundraising for use of the tool are very welcome.

What is a Human Rights Impact Assessment?

A Human Rights Impact Assessment exposes the gap between human rights in the books and human rights in practice by linking what actually happens in daily life with what should happen according to the State’s human rights obligations. The outcomes provide NGOs with evidence based information to advocate policy reforms, communicate their concerns to a broad audience, enter into a dialogue with the government, or hold a State accountable for not fulfilling its human rights obligations. At the same time, the process of conducting the assessment will increase their  knowledge about human rights and help to build their capacity to use a human rights framework.

How does it work?

The tool consists of a step-by-step process,in which you define the problem, analyse the related policies, collect information about the effects on the human rights of the groups affected by these policies, link these effects with the human rights obligations of your State and draw up an action plan based on your findings. Each step consists of a set of questions to guide data collection and analysis. Explanations, examples, checklists and factsheets on human rights and the human rights system, facilitate the answering of the questions and the collection of information.  The analysis results in a concrete set of recommendations and an action plan.

The toolkit is built on a number of key principles:

·         State accountability: most States have undertaken binding human rights commitments by ratifying human rights treaties. Governments can be held accountable for living up their human rights commitments.

·         Knowledge/evidence based action: the tool aims to go beyond ideological debates. It requires rigorous data-collection as a basis for analysing and understanding the actual impact of anti-trafficking efforts on the human rights of those affected by these laws and policies.

·         Participation: the tool requires the participation of groups affected by anti-trafficking policies. This is a fundamental human rights principle and an essential element in the process of collecting evidence and understanding the impact of a policy.

·         Bridging movements and building alliances: in many countries, anti-trafficking organisations, groups working to defend the rights of (undocumented) migrants and sex workers, labour rights and human rights organisations do not work together. The tool facilitates the bridging of these divisions by presenting human rights as applying to all these different groups and movements in specific, yet universal, ways.

The two latter principles also guided the development process of the tool, which has been a joint effort of anti-trafficking, sex workers rights and migrants’ rights organisations, supported by human rights and labour rights experts. The draft tool was tested by X:talk (UK), La Strada Czech (Czech Republic), Solidaritas Perempuan (Indonesia) and COSWAS (Taiwan).