4 November 2010 The plight of human trafficking victims received a major boost today with the launch of the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons, just two months after the United Nations General Assembly adopted a wide-ranging plan to fight the global scourge.
The United Nations has estimated that more than 2.4 million people are currently being exploited as victims of human trafficking. The Fund is one of the most important elements of the new UN Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, adopted by the General Assembly in July 2010. It will provide humanitarian, legal and financial aid to victims of human trafficking through established channels of assistance, such as governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations.
Speaking at a press conference ahead of the launch, the UN’s top crime official, the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Yury Fedotov, emphasized the global nature of the problem.
“We need to realize no continent, no country, is immune; we must act as a good global team to meet this global challenge,” said Mr. Fedotov. “We cannot tolerate that the worst people in the world – human traffickers – continue to destroy the lives of millions of women, children and men across the world; they need to support, they need our solidarity.”
The launch at UN Headquarters in New York drew a range of supporters. These included, in addition to UNODC’s Fedotov, the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon; the President of the 65th session of the General Assembly, Joseph Deiss; humanitarians and actors Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, and New York Times Pulitzer Prize winning author and journalist Nicholas Kristof, among others.
Also in attendance were civil society leaders who have championed victims' rights as well as experts from academia and law enforcement, private sector supporters of the cause, and survivors of modern-day slavery.
Speaking at the launch, the Secretary-General told the audience that the efforts made today will identify more victims, particularly women and children, who can get the help and care they so desperately need to reintegrate into society and help ensure they never again become a victim – while stressing that the financial support of Member States will be pivotal to the Fund’s success.
“I call on Member States, the private sector and philanthropists to contribute generously to the Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons – to put it bluntly: I know this initiative has your trust, now we need your funds,” Ban said, adding, “Your generosity will give victims of human trafficking a fresh start.”
Speaking at the pre-launch press conference, Ms. Moore said that one out of every 100 human trafficking victims is rescued yet they are often criminalized and denied the rehabilitation they need. She also noted the vast, illicit profits involved.
“The average age of a child sold into sex slavery is 13 and while children are incredibly resilient, adaptable and incredible survivors, I don’t think that any child can successfully fight an underground industry where the average pimp makes $200,000 from just one girl,” Ms. Moore said.
Ms. Moore and Mr. Kutcher have created “DNA,” the Demi and Ashton Foundation, which aims to raise awareness about child sex slavery worldwide, change the cultural stereotypes about the issue and rehabilitate victims.
UNODC says that human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar a year business, with profits second only to drug and arms trafficking, and most of its victims are women and children. Human trafficking takes many guises: forced or bonded labour; domestic servitude and forced marriage; organ removal; and the exploitation of children in begging, the sex trade and warfare.
The Trust Fund was established following the adoption by the General Assembly in July 2010 of the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, in which Governments are urged to take coordinated, comprehensive and consistent steps to combat such trafficking and to adopt a human rights-based approach. UNODC has been designated to administer the Fund, with the advice of a Board of Trustees appointed by the Secretary-General.
So far, 141 Member States have become party to the United Nations Protocol against Human Trafficking and many countries have adopted anti-human trafficking legislation and established anti-human trafficking police units.
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