Tackling demand key to combating global human trafficking, UN rights expert stresses

Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children. UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

31 May 2013 – The global scourge of human trafficking is being fuelled by demand for sexual exploitation, cheap labour, human organs, illegal adoption and forced marriages, says a new report by an independent United Nations human rights expert.

“However, the demand side should not be understood merely as the demand for [the] services of victims of trafficking, but rather more broadly, as an act that fosters any form of exploitation that, in turn, leads to trafficking,” UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, said in her report to the UN Human Rights Council.

“Measures taken by States to discourage demand have often focused exclusively on demand for commercial sexual exploitation, particularly of women and girls, and neglected other forms of demand, such as demand for exploitative labour and sale of organs,” Ms. Ngozi Ezeilo noted.

Human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar industry that has trapped millions of people into forced labour and domestic servitude, sexual work and child soldiering, among other ills.

The UN has a Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons. Adopted in 2010, the Plan calls for integrating the fight against human trafficking into the UN’s broader programmes to boost development and strengthen security around the world. It focuses on four pillars – preventing trafficking, prosecuting offenders, protecting victims and forming partnerships to fight trafficking.

In her report, Ms. Ngozi Ezeilo urges Governments worldwide to broaden their perception of the problem, stressing that the demand side of trafficking generally refers to the nature and extent of the exploitation of the trafficked persons after their arrival at the point of destination, as well as the social, cultural, political, economic, legal and developmental factors that shape the demand and facilitate the trafficking process.

“States have a responsibility to protect against human rights abuses, including trafficking in persons and exploitation of persons by third parties, including business enterprises and criminal associations, through appropriate policies, regulation and adjudication,” she said.

“Businesses must be seen as an important partner in the fight against trafficking in persons,” she underscored, adding that in a majority of trafficking cases that have been brought to her attention, private actors are often implicated – particularly in the context of labour exploitation.

Ms. Ngozi Ezeilo noted that human trafficking is a risk in a wide range of industries and sectors integrated into global markets, including agriculture and horticulture, construction, garments and textile, hospitality and catering, mining, food processing and packaging.

She also stressed the importance of ensuring that anti-trafficking measures do not adversely affect the human rights and dignity of persons, especially those who have been trafficked.

Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Geneva-based Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.


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