Barracks and Brothels

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Peacekeepers and Human Trafficking in the Balkans

The majority of uniformed service members and civilians who support peacekeeping operations do so honorably. They risk their lives to help repair the damage and destruction of war. Tragically, however, international organizations and activists have documented a disturbing correlation with these deployments. Since U.S., NATO, and UN forces have been engaged in peacekeeping operations in Bosnia and Kosovo, human rights groups have reported that in and around these same regions one also sees a dramatic rise in the number of trafficked women and girls. Trafficking--especially the enslavement of women and girls for forced prostitution--follows market demand, and in post-conflict situations, that often means international peacekeepers. This phenomenon is especially striking in the Balkans, the primary focus of this report, where thousands of women and girls have been trafficked in the last several years. Those who serve with honor are being tainted by a minority who commit human rights violations and support criminal networks.

This report examines the links between international peacekeeping operations in Bosnia and Kosovo and the trafficking of women and girls following the deployments of those peacekeepers. The report details and provides evidence that although trafficking in persons negatively shapes the security environment of post-conflict regions, both directly and indirectly, the way in which peacekeepers and those supporting them have perceived trafficking has inhibited their ability to respond to the problem.

Sarah E. Mendelson is a senior fellow with the CSIS Russia and Eurasia Program where her work focuses on the links between human rights and security, with a particular focus on Russia. She received her B.A. from Yale University in history and her Ph.D. from Columbia University in political science. Her previous publications include Changing Course: Ideas, Politics, and the Soviet Withdrawal from Afghanistan (Princeton, 1998) and The Power and Limits of NGOs: Transnational Networks and Post-Communist Societies (Columbia, 2002).

Sarah E. Mendelson