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State Weakness

The final link in our pathological causal chain is that which identifies failings on the part of the putatively protective state encapsulated in its ideal form so clearly in the story of Ana, Bazil et le Trafiquant. In my interviews with anti-trafficking actors from across the political and institutional spectrum and in myriad institutional documents relating to trafficking, state weakness, non-enforcement, porous borders and the lack of appropriate legislative frameworks are cited as fundamental factors underpinning the prevalence of child trafficking. In the 2005 US TIP report, for example, we read regarding Benin that:

Benin is placed on the Tier 2 Watch List for its failure to show evidence of increasing efforts in combating trafficking since last year. Anti-trafficking legislation, though now under debate in the National Assembly, has not yet been enacted and endemic corruption inhibits the government’s ability to confront traffickers effectively. To increase its anti-trafficking efforts, the government should increase law enforcement efforts, finalize the much needed national strategy to address trafficking, and enact specific antitrafficking legislation. (USDS 2005: 67).

In 2012, though the sought-after law had been passed, criticism remained remarkably similar, with the following ‘Recommendations for Benin’ including:

Finalize and enact draft legislation...; increase efforts to convict and punish trafficking offenders, including using existing statutes to successfully prosecute trafficking crimes.; train law enforcement officials to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations.; and improve efforts to collect law enforcement data on trafficking offenses. (USDS 2012: 88)

Interviews with anti-traffickers echo these recommendations. Antienne, who worked for the EU mission in Benin, captured the perspective of many of his Cotonou-based donor colleagues when he explained that ‘Our first step is always to ensure that there is an appropriate legal and institutional framework, which is crucial in the fight against trafficking.’ Jeremia, who represented his UN agency in Benin, echoed Antienne when explaining that for his employers, the key to Benin’s being able to protect children from trafficking involved (1) improving the legal framework and (2) developing the institutional capacity necessary to ensure that the state is able to implement that framework.

For the anti-child trafficking field, then, the national state is the ultimate point of reference in both causal and remedial terms. What does this mean? It means that, when constructing a causal map of child trafficking, the lack of appropriate legislative, institutional or policy frameworks is bemoaned only at the national level, just as government corruption or intransigence is blamed nationally, but never internationally. As a consequence, and in line with the hegemonic, structuring ideology that is that of the Ideal State, remedial action focuses only on nationally bound political efforts. It is to these that we now turn.

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