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Cablegate: Vietnam Hosts Six-Country Tip Meeting

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary and Comment: The ambitious three-day Senior
Officials Meeting 3 (SOM 3) of the Coordinated Mekong
Ministerial Initiative Against Trafficking (COMMIT) was held
in Hanoi March 29-31. The purpose of the meeting was to
translate the MOU signed at the previous COMMIT meeting in
Rangoon in October 2004 into an action plan: the COMMIT
Strategic Plan of Action (SPA). The delegates succeeded in
agreeing on a plan, which represents a collection of ongoing
or previously approved projects and programs to combat
trafficking in persons in the COMMIT region. They did not
identify sources of funding for the SPA but donors and NGOs
present at the meeting agreed that the SPA represented a
useful coordination framework on which to base regional and
country-specific funding and program decisions. There was
near-unanimous agreement that the ultimate measure of the
success or failure of the COMMIT process would be found in
the implementation record for the projects identified in the
SPA. Delegates and donors alike were concerned about the
relative preponderance of seminars and conferences among the
projected activities. End Summary and Comment.

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2. (SBU) The SOM was well-attended. Cambodia was
represented by Madame You Ay, the Secretary of State of the
Ministry of Women's Affairs, and China by Huang Taiyun, the
Deputy Director General of the Department of Criminal
Legislation of the Standing Committee of the National
People's Congress. Laos's delegation chief was Khammoun
Souphanthong, Director General of the Social Welfare
Department of the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare.
Burma's team was led by Gen. Winn Myaing, Chief of the
Police General Staff. Thailand was represented by Wanlop
Pholytabtim, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Social
Development and Human Security. General Tran Van Thao, the
Director of the General Department of Police led the Vietnam
delegation. All of the delegations had five or six members,
with the exception of Vietnam, with eight. Thailand also
sent 13 "government observers" from different ministries.
Vietnam had six observers. Twenty-eight UN personnel from
around the region traveled to Hanoi for the meeting, of whom
seventeen were UN Interagency Project staff. They were
joined by three more UNIAP staff from Vietnam, making the
UNIAP presence at the conference an even 20. Third country
diplomats and international organizations in Hanoi filled
the few remaining chairs.


3. (SBU) The main purpose of the three-day meeting was to
endorse the SPA, which is a set of 18 anti-trafficking
activities/projects grouped within 7 broad categories. The
draft SPA was worked up under the guidance of UNIAP, which
also functions as the COMMIT Secretariat. "Following the 7
areas identified in the SPA Framework, the Secretariat
organized seven roundtable discussions plus a final
debriefing meeting with various technical working groups
comprising UN agencies, NGOs and other interested partners
to provide necessary technical input to the SPA framework as
requested by the governments. Some sixteen agencies
participated in the process. National consultations were
also held with COMMIT Task Forces and international agencies
in all six Mekong countries," UNIAP reported proudly.


4. (SBU) The SPA as finalized (forwarded to G/TIP and EAP by
email) has a variety of different projects and activities,
but is heavily weighted towards further meetings. Analysis
of the SPA documents shows that fifty of the proposed
activities are meetings, roundtables, workshops, working
groups or seminars. Over a three-year period, that comes to
one regional or bilateral trafficking meeting every three
weeks. Other popular project categories are assessments and
summaries of existing law or practice and research, which
together represent 29 of the proposed activities. The only
other activities that come up more than once are training
courses (13 times) and information, education and
communication (IEC) campaigns (four times). The relative
lack of concrete activities to directly attack TIP was noted
with some concern by conference attendees. You Ay, the
Cambodian State Secretary for Women's Affairs, expressed her
concern publicly, saying "regional workshop this, regional
workshop that - we had better establish concrete outcomes
from all of this." One observer from a New Zealand donor
organization said in an address to the conference "COMMIT is
important for aligning and integrating national policies
against TIP. The priority should be to achieve tangible
results for TIP victims and against traffickers. The SPA
has lots of seminars and workshops, but the measure will be
concrete achievements."

5. (SBU) Some attendees were more caustic. Responding to an
NGO observer's question (on the margins of one of the main
discussions) about what practical outcomes the UNIAP/COMMIT
process was buying, a UN official present said bitterly
"nothing, they are doing nothing. This is a talk shop with
no value added and no accomplishments of its own." Another
UN official nearby added that although the pledges of
cooperation and obvious high-level commitment to the issue
were impressive, the COMMIT process must be supported with
robust and concrete country-specific programming. The
programming in the SPA, the official said, seemed regional
and not concrete, focused on "expensive and overstaffed
meetings." UNIAP Program Manager Phil Robertson, speaking
to the conference, noted, "UNIAP does not have an
implementation focus. We are not an agency, we are a


6. (SBU) Despite the expressions of concern from the back-of-
the-room observers and the public statements of some
participants, in the formal "approval" session at the end of
the conference all six participating governments declared
their strong support for the SPA. Polled separately, all
the delegations expressed some variation of the Japanese
diplomatic observer's comment that "it is good to have the
security and implementing agencies from six countries in one
venue together. Regional coordination is positive, in
general, and should supplement in-depth bilateral agreements
and solutions between countries."

7. (SBU) There was a great deal of praise for the networking
benefits of the COMMIT process. The Asian Development Bank
(ADB) observer told the conference, "relationships built are
as important as any documents signed. The documents we have
here are a framework to build on and enhance existing
programs." Janet Ashby, from the Asia Regional Cooperation
to Prevent People Trafficking (ARCPPT) in Cambodia, noted
that if COMMIT achieves its goals, it will make the region a
global leader in regional and cross-border cooperation. The
International Organization for Migration (IOM), United
Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations
Children's Fund (UNICEF) also expressed their support and
commitment. IOM's representative said in her statement to
the group "the COMMIT process should strengthen our
commitment and focus our efforts." United Nations
Development Program representative Jordan Ryan praised the
COMMIT process for facilitating "interministerial and
interagency structures working together and subregional
structures working together." Robertson's speech
highlighted UNIAP's vision of COMMIT as a "unified system of
work against trafficking at the subregional level."

8. (SBU) Comment: There was a bit of a disconnect between
the concrete, country-specific programming everyone agreed
privately is necessary and the regional, meeting-based
programming the group agreed on in the SPA, but in all there
seemed to be consensus that the COMMIT process represents
progress, and that the symbolic act of senior officials from
the six countries sitting down with each other and
discussing coordination and communication was itself a
tremendous outcome. The projects in the SPA are those that
have the political support of the COMMIT countries, and it
is anticipated that not all the activities will be funded or
carried out. It is therefore unlikely that there will be
funding to hold another meeting every three weeks for the
next three years. Still, the USG would be wise to consider
carefully any TIP project submitted for funding in
connection with COMMIT or UNIAP and ensure that the
expenditure, in the words of the New Zealand representative,
"achieves tangible results for TIP victims and against the


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