Sea to Sea: Voices from the Canadian Anti-Trafficking Community – Part II

Written by Helen Sworn


This may be an unpopular statement, but the reason that global human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal network is because traffickers are networked. They have a common vision—greed, power and control – and work together to make sure that they can fulfill their goals. They operate effective informal and formal referral mechanisms as well as being able to respond and change effectively to shifting and diverse environments.  

How else are they going to traffic millions of people around the world? They know they cannot function within this process alone, thus work together to achieve their aim. They know who to contact, the competency and influence of each, and the entire system works because they collaborate and cooperate.

It doesn’t matter how effective any one anti-trafficking organization or stakeholder is, how well funded they are, or how many people and projects they have; they will not be able to address this issue alone.


What is required is a competent organised network of broad stakeholders who have an effective and robust response that outweighs that of the problem.


Collaboration has become one of the more politically correct words to use when referring to programming and organizational operations. Donors, governments and civil society have coined the phrase for both their own operational commentary as well as expecting it to be a common element in the language of the counterparts and beneficiaries.

The response to human trafficking has been unprecedented by media, government, NGOs, churches and civil society in recent years. However, the uncoordinated and inexperienced nature of many efforts has shown that good intentions are not enough. Lack of professional standards and accountability, polarised responses; competitiveness over cooperation; project duplication; poor referrals and the ubiquitous ‘hero’ complex now associated with the movement.


Successful collaboration requires a continued and open learning ethos in order to build bridges between unlikely partners as well as having the capacity to understand the big picture issues in order to build a strategic and coordinated response. 


We have learned many lessons along the way, from both our failures and successes.  We have seen standards of care increased for the populations we serve as a result of focused training, access to resources and expertise, encouraging positive peer pressure and replication less duplication and more specialization of services and a greater level of accountability among implementing agencies.


Collaboration is critical if we are to see change on a large scale – not just in our own countries or regions but globally. 

Helen Sworn is the Founder and International Director of Chab Dai. She is currently residing in Cambodia with her family.