Secretary-General calls for ‘bold action’ to end human trafficking

Grace Akallo (left), a former child soldier from Sudan addressing the Security Council on 29 April, 2009

13 May 2009 – If an unarmed nun can force rebel militia in Uganda to free over 100 abducted children, it must be within the capacity of United Nations Member States to take “bold and decisive action” against the global threat of human trafficking, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.

Addressing the General Assembly’s thematic debate on human trafficking, Mr. Ban spoke of Grace Akallo, a young high school student who dreamed of being the first person from her village to go to university until she was forcibly taken by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) along with 138 other girls.

Mr. Ban said that when Grace told her story to the Security Council last month, he listened with “the heaviest of hearts. ‘My spirit died,’ she said, recounting how she was forced to kill and was repeatedly raped.”

The girls were followed into the bush by the school’s headmistress, Sister Rachele, who confronted the rebels, Mr. Ban continued.

Instead of leaving after the LRA threatened to kill her in front of the girls, she “faced them down, risking her own safety” and rescued more than 100 girls.

“If this seemingly powerless educator from Uganda could face down armed rebels, surely we in this room can stand up to this threat with bold and decisive action.”

Mr. Ban noted that trafficking in weapons, drugs and blood diamonds has long been on the UN agenda, but “now we must add people to that list.”

Trafficking is not restricted to Africa, “examples could be drawn from any of a number of countries from Asia, across the Americas, to Europe,” stressed Mr. Ban. “Millions are bought and sold like chattel, most of them women and children.”

Highlighting the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where the UN peacekeeping mission (MONUC) has released nearly two dozen children from the integrated armed forces and more 1,300 children have been liberated since January, Mr. Ban said it was possible to stop human trafficking.

He underscored the need for collective action to criminalize human trafficking, prevent victimization by teaching people about their rights, reduce demand, end impunity and protect the victims.

“We will achieve nothing without uniting and speaking out. We will achieve nothing by offering fine rhetoric not matched by deeds. Moral outrage is all-too-easy. Real action takes real commitment.”

Speaking at a star-studded event at UN Headquarters last night to mark the naming of American artist Ross Bleckner as a UN Goodwill Ambassador to Combat Human Trafficking, Mr. Ban urged the Security Council to take action against perpetrators he has “named and shamed” for recruiting children to fight in conflicts and abducting girls as sex slaves.


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