Human Trafficking: The Unintended Effects of United Nations Intervention


Smith, Heather, and Charles Anthony Smith.  2011. "Human Trafficking: The Unintended Effects of United Nations Intervention." International Political Science Review 32 (2): 125-45.

Authors: Heather Smith, Charles Anthony Smith


International relations literature is replete with work on the effects of United Nations intervention on global crises, generally concluding that UN intervention either intensifies or ameliorates the crisis. Yet, the global human rights community has attempted to expose the more subtle and unintended effects of UN intervention, namely, substantial increases in the human sex trafficking trade into crisis areas. In this paper we attempt to bridge these two literatures. We evaluate increases in human trafficking in light of UN involvement in Kosovo, Haiti, and Sierra Leone. We argue that UN involvement has the unfortunate and unintended effect of increasing the rates of human trafficking in these crisis areas. We consider Nepal, where the UN did not intervene, as a control case. Our work concludes that the UN should proceed with caution into crisis areas and have plans in place to avoid the potentially devastating externalities of otherwise well-intentioned efforts.

Keywords: United Nations, military sexual assault, intervention, human rights, human trafficking

Topics: Economies, Humanitarian Assistance, International Organizations, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, Peacekeeping, Rights, Human Rights, Trafficking, Human Trafficking, Sex Trafficking Regions: Africa, West Africa, Americas, Caribbean countries, Asia, South Asia, Europe, Balkans, Eastern Europe Countries: Haiti, Kosovo, Nepal, Sierra Leone

Year: 2011

© 2023 CONSORTIUM ON GENDER, SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTSLEGAL STATEMENT All photographs used on this site, and any materials posted on it, are the property of their respective owners, and are used by permission. Photographs: The images used on the site may not be downloaded, used, or reproduced in any way without the permission of the owner of the image. Materials: Visitors to the site are welcome to peruse the materials posted for their own research or for educational purposes. These materials, whether the property of the Consortium or of another, may only be reproduced with the permission of the owner of the material. This website contains copyrighted materials. The Consortium believes that any use of copyrighted material on this site is both permissive and in accordance with the Fair Use doctrine of 17 U.S.C. § 107. If, however, you believe that your intellectual property rights have been violated, please contact the Consortium at