Subject: Transformation of the dedicated national body for inter-sectorial cooperation in the area of combating trafficking in human beings (THB)
This Position Brief assesses the concerns with regard the transformation by the Government of the Permanent Secretariat of the National Committee to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings (AT PS).
Recently the Government of the Republic of Moldova adopted the Decision # 915 dtd.24.09.2018 by which 2 Government Decisions (#472/2008 and #657/2009) suffered changes and a new subdivision under the State Chancellery was created called Directorate of permanent secretariats. This new Directorate (7 pers.) was created by merging the three secretariats currently functioningin the framework of the State Chancellery staff:AT PS (3 pers.), Secretariat of the National Council for Child Rights Protection (1 pers.) and Secretariat of the National Commission for Collective Consultations and Negotiations/national body of social partnership system (3 pers.).
The new Directorate of permanent secretariats is responsible, as indicated in the Government Decision, for logistic and informational support, as well as for record-keeping of all meetings of the consultative bodies that currently exist or will be created in future under the aegis of State Chancellery. It means that this Directorate (in addition to 3 consultative bodies mentioned above) shall also ensure operation of the National Council for Participation (Government Decision # 11 dtd.19.01.2010), the National Council on Human Rights (Parliament Decision # 89 dtd.24.05.2018) and others.
The merge of three secretariats disregarded the transparency rule. The authors of the Government Decision did not conduct public consultations with all interested parties from civil society and international community, despite the fact that the AT PS has been created with the direct support of the development partners. All in all, the AT PS, which is currently playing a crucial role in coordination of AT response on national level being considered one of the most important pillar of the national AT system, incl. in international cooperation and cooperation with civil society, by this Decision, was downgraded and transformed in the unit for logistics and record–keeping service.
The AT PS with 4 staff under the aegis of the State Chancellery has been createdin 2011 upon strong recommendation and with financial support of the national AT community partners (US Embassy in Moldova, IOM, OSCE, International Centre “La Strada”, etc.). Prior to its creation, the state function in coordination of AT policy at all levels was in decline and supported mainly by international and civil society AT stakeholders. Therefore, the primary scope was to create Government ownership and responsibility for national AT response, improve inter-sectorial cooperation and coordination of the AT policy planning, implementation and monitoring incl. data collection and reporting to international relevant monitoring mechanisms (US TiP, UNODC Global Report, GRETA and other).
At that time, an informal agreement between development partners and the Government of the RM was reached to ensure sustainability of functioning the AT PSconsisting of at least 4 full time staff. Development partners invested significant financial resources in building human and technical capacities of the AT PS and thus secure its sustainability.
During 7 years (2012-2018) of its function, the AT PS in collaboration with international AT community and civil society organizations achieved the following:
a) developed3 National AT Action Plans (2012-2013, 2014-2016, 2018-2020) and the first National AT Strategy (2018-2023) in a participatory and transparent manner, officially approved by the Government;
b) contributed to developing and improving legal and normative framework in AT field, studies, information exchange and capacity building, especially on local level;
c) organized data collection and monitoring of national AT policy implementation on permanent basis, as well as edited 7 National Reports in the AT area;
d) created and maintained the AT webpage www.antitarfic.gov.md that serves as an important channel of communication with national, local and international AT stakeholders;
e) developed strong relationships with above mentioned AT external monitoring and evaluation mechanisms, with the Network of National AT Coordinators in South-Eastern Europe and others international AT platforms/mechanisms;
f) partnered with various national and international institutions for organization of the AT campaigns (incl. dedicated to the European AT Day, October 18th);
g) facilitated communication between state and international development partners and donors for assessment of needs and conceptualization of relevant projects and programs;
h) coordinated regional projects and facilitated capacity building on local level;
i) contributed to improving communication and cooperation between state and non-state organizations in the area of AT on international, national and local levels.
Throughout the years, this AT PS assumed the responsibilities for management of national AT response and proved to be an effective component of the national AT institutional framework and the national AT system as a whole. Significant progress achieved in the organisation of the national AT response in Moldova in recent years is highly due to the effectiveness of this state body.Besides, it would seem that is the only clear example of successful national cross-sector coordination body in Moldova.
The idea of merging all existing permanentsecretariats currently operating in the framework of the State Chancellery staff per se is good, because it allows to disseminategood practices in development of coordination of national policies and inter-sector cooperation. However, it is unacceptable that important functions of the AT PS will be pushed into the background or lost, as the Government Decision provides for. There is no chance that 7 staff of the new created Directorate of permanent secretariats will be able to efficiently coordinate the state policy in so many areas as is expected, including in the AT field. This jeopardizes the implementation of the recently adopted National Strategy for Preventing and Combating THB 2018-2023 (Government Decision # 461 dtd. 22.05.2018).
In addition, the Government Decision #915/2018 demonstrated the intention to reduce the number of staff person and downgrade the status of the AT PS. Thus, this Decision replaced the notion “Permanent Secretariat” by the notion “Secretary” in the Regulation on function of National Committee to Combat THB, approved by the Government Decision #472/2008. Moreover, the AT PS disappear from the list of entities of the State Chancellery (annex 2 to the Government Decision #657/2009). Gradual downgrading in the AT PS status was already observed during the last 24 months.Thus, while in the years 2012-2016 the AT PS had the status of section of the State Chancellery, as of October 2016 it has been downgraded to the service of the State Chancellery, fact that significantly influences the independence of the AT PS. Currently, it even lost its status as a separate service. There is also the factual gradual reduction of the AT PS staff from 4 to 1 person. This month the chief of the AT PS, who stood at the basis of the AT national response and the PS as such, was dismissed for slight disciplinary violation, committed for the first time since starting her work. As we know, this decision was not coordinated with the Chairman of the National Committee to Combat THB, neither it considered the legal provisions applicable in the first declination.To date, only one staff member secured the work of the AT PS.
In addition, there is an evident tendency of gradual restriction of freedom of decision-making and expression of opinion of the AT PS staff that must have the necessary independence/autonomy to perform effectively its main functions.The Government Decision #915/2018 excluded from the Regulation on organization and function of the State Chancellery the norm about dual subordination of the AT PS (to the Secretary-general of the Government and to the Chairman of the National Committee to Combat THB). In our view, it is done exclusively in order to increase the dependence of the AT PS on the leadership of the State Chancellery, which means, at least, censorship of the operational decisions and actions of the PS, which until these amendments were never subject to doubt with regard to their benefits to the national AT efforts. There is a need to remind that the role of the AT PS differs significantly from the other coordinating bodiesfunctioning under the aegis of the State Chancellery. Considering the complex nature of the THB phenomena (transnational criminal activity, which typically are mobile and adapted rapidly to changes), widely recognized as a global challenge, Republic of Moldova shall provide a comprehensive approach to coordination of national AT response in accordance with international/regional standards and recommendations in the area. Thus, the Council of Europe Convention on Action against THB (art.29, 32, 35) stresses the need of specialized coordination body with some degree of independence for development of international cooperation in the AT area and establishing strategic partnership with civil society.
The Government Decision # 915/2018 is equivalent to returning the country situationthat existed before the AT PS was created. It undermines all previous efforts and nullifies the investments of the AT and development partners in this body. There is high risk that such reform of the AT PSwill immediately result in collapse of AT policy management, international/regional cooperation and cooperation with civil society in Moldova in AT area.
We call all AT stakeholders in Moldova and development partners to strongly support the continuation of the AT PS functioning with keeping all its functions and role, as an effective state body of coordination of national AT policy, partnership and cooperation among all AT stakeholders (state, international and civil society).
It is crucial to demand that the Government of the RM fulfil its previous commitments for ensuring:
a) Sustainability of the AT PS functioning in the framework of the State Chancellery staff with a full bench (3-4 pers.);
b) Double subordination of the AT PS:
- functionally - to the Chairman of the National Committee to Combat THB/Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration and
- administratively - to the Secretary-general of the Government or one authorized person from the State Chancellery staff;
c) Conditions for implementation of decisions of the National Committee and all existing functions of the AT PS:
- multidisciplinary and cross-sector coordination of AT activitiesperformed by state, international and civil society organizations;
- planning, monitoring and evaluation of national AT policy;
- developing and improving legal and normative framework in AT field;
- direct participation in organization of the AT campaigns, capacity building, data collection, researches and other activity in AT area;
- developing partnership with all AT stakeholders (state and non-state) at all levels (national, local and international), incl. strategic partnership with civil society;
- developing strong relationships with external monitoring and evaluation mechanisms;
- representing/promotion interests of country at international/regional forums on AT issue;
d) Mmaintenance of necessary degree of independence of the AT PS for organization of implementation of the decisions of the National Committee to Combat THB, development of international cooperation in the AT area.
The retreating from the progress achieved in developing the AT coordination system in Moldova cannot be permitted. The AT PS must be further maintained and strengthened.