‘Moral courage’ needed to combat human trafficking – Assembly President

Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann, President of the 63rd session of the General Assembly

3 March 2009 – Human trafficking has no place in the 21st century, the General Assembly President said today, calling for commitment and change exceeding political will to eradicate the scourge.

The industry of trafficking in humans is the third most profitable crime worldwide, after drugs and arms dealing, Miguel D’Escoto said at the end of a two-day conference in Manama, Bahrain.

“Although the General Assembly has pledged its commitment to fighting this crime in several important resolutions, change — real, credible and sustained change — takes more than simple political will,” he said.

“It is time to tap into the reserves of moral courage that lay within each of us as individuals and of all of us as nations to carry out the changes needed to ensure freedom for all men and women.”

Mr. D’Escoto pointed out that many countries’ justice systems do not acknowledge the seriousness of the crime, citing a report by the UN Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released last month that noted that two out of every five countries have yet to convict a single offender.

“I fear the problem will become exacerbated by the deepening economic crisis which could increase both the supply of vulnerable potential victims and the demand for cheap labour,” he said at the conference focusing on the theme, “Human Trafficking at the Crossroads.”

The President called for stepped up efforts to implement last December’s Assembly resolution demanding enhanced coordination in combating trafficking and protecting its victims.

In spite of international treaties and other instruments committing nations to tackling the scourge, “we are still lacking a blueprint for global action on the ground, one that brings together the punitive and restorative measures, and joins the development, justice and security dimensions into a common endeavour,” he stressed.

The UN International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that two million people become enslaved annually, and last month’s UNODC report said that only one victim out of every 100 trafficking cases is rescued.

“Are we making progress?” said Antonio Maria Costa, UNODC Executive Director, said at the report’s launch in New York. “My answer is: I wish we were.”

Nearly 80 per cent of trafficking comprises sexual exploitation, but he warned that that is illusory, since it is the most commonly reported since it is more visible compared to other forms of the offence, such as sweatshops and child exploitation.

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