Human Trafficking, Human Security, and the Balkans

  • Published

Human Trafficking, Human Security, and the Balkans edited by H. Richard Friman and Simon Reich. University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007, 224 pp.

Human Trafficking, Human Security, and the Balkans, edited by H. Richard Friman and Simon Reich, is the fruit and expansion of a small, interdisciplinary workshop conducted jointly by the Ford Institute for Human Security at the University of Pittsburgh and the Institute for Transnational Justice at Marquette University in May 2005 Academicians, governmental officials, and representatives from nongovernmental organizations met there to discuss human trafficking in the western Balkans. An unforeseen consequence of the collapse of the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union between 1989 and 1991 was the surge in human trafficking, particularly the trafficking of women for sexual purposes, in the countries of the former Communist bloc. In terms of global illegal activity by volume, human trafficking ranks behind only drugs and weapons (p. 119). Human trafficking became especially acute in the western Balkans, where, in addition to the profound political and economic changes occurring in the transition away from communism, many inhabitants found themselves caught in the middle of a brutal civil war.

Friman and Reich, professors at Marquette University and the University of Pittsburgh, respectively, assemble an impressive collection of articles from academics and specialists in the field, who examine and critique the ongoing efforts to alleviate human trafficking in the western Balkans. Lynellyn D. Long, an independent consultant, former nongovernment organization representative and adjunct faculty member at Johns Hopkins University, provides a detailed analysis of the socio-economics of human trafficking in Bosnia, Herzegovina, and Serbia. Julie Mertus, a professor at American University, and Andrea Bertone, director of humantrafficking.org, explore the effectiveness of international efforts to combat human trafficking in the Balkans. Nicole Lindstrom, a professor at Central Europe University in Budapest, Hungary, investigates the political aspects of previous and current anti-trafficking measures. Martina E. Vandenberg, an attorney with the Washington, DC, firm Jenner & Block and former Europe researcher for Human Rights Watch’s Women’s Rights Division, discusses the involvement of the United Nations in tackling the problem. Vasilika Hysi, professor at the University of Tirana, in Albania, presents a detailed case study of the problem in Albania. Finally, Gabriella Konveska, the Macedonian deputy prime minister in charge of European integration, provides an overview of all policy measures and actors involved in anti-trafficking measures in the Balkans.

Despite the diversity of the contributors and their individual contributions, the underlying argument of the volume quickly becomes clear: although there has been some limited success at combating the trafficking problem, overall efforts are failing and will continue to fail unless there is a reorientation of policy and focus. The authors place anti-trafficking policy into four categories or approaches: viewing human trafficking as a migration problem that attempts to rescue and return the victims to their place of origin; a law enforcement dilemma, making it necessary to suppress and punish the activities of traffickers and their activities; a human rights issue that needs an expansion of legal, social, and economic rights for women in the Balkans; and as an economic problem that requires resolving poverty and the lack of economic opportunities (p. 148).

To date, most attempts to deal with the problem have fallen into the first two categories. This places these efforts within a traditional conception of state security that aims at strengthening border controls, increasing police involvement, and punishing traffickers. As the various case studies in the book show, however, trying to stop the trafficking of human beings by favoring policies and measures undertaken within a state security model will never stamp out the root causes of the supply and demand that generates incentives to both traffic and be trafficked. The contributors present much evidence to show not only have these policies not worked to stem trafficking in the region but that in many areas, policies have actually exacerbated the abuses.

Instead of continuing these efforts, the contributors call for prioritization and support, both political and financial, for policies and measures in the region that are based within a framework of human security, as opposed to state security. Broadly defined by the editors as providing freedom from want, freedom from fear, and the rule of law (p. 136), the volume contends that only a fully committed human security approach will eliminate human trafficking in the Balkans. Although many women are coerced into the illicit sex industry at the core of trafficking, the evidence provided here suggests that many others enter into it willingly because no other social or economic alternatives exist for them at home. Ironically, the contributors note that policy initiatives based on a human security approach being offered in this volume are not new. In fact, many existing Union Nations and European Union policies and protocols identify the need to bring more attention to the fundamental issues causing the problem. Unfortunately, however, these issues receive scant attention on the ground. Only by confronting the concerns at the core of the human security approach will trafficking be reduced or stopped and not simply driven underground.

This volume is not for readers with a casual interest in the topic. It is a detailed and informative treatment of human trafficking that is intended primarily for political scientists, criminologists, and other social scientists. There is, however, another group that would benefit from reading this volume. The most resounding theme throughout the book concerns Western peacekeeping soldiers and their civilian counterparts who contribute to the demand for trafficked women in the western Balkans by patronizing establishments involved in the trade. Paying in hard currency, typically well above local levels of income, these soldiers and their habits have been one of the driving forces behind the trade. This reviewer, while living in Budapest between April 1999 and March 2001, heard firsthand the stories and boasts about brothels and nightclubs from men returning from Kosovo and Bosnia. This book is also for future peacekeepers and civilian contractors, who, versed in the darker side of the industry, might pause when searching for adult entertainment.

Christopher Gunn

Florida State University

"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."