Opening remarks by Peter Thomson, President of the UN General Assembly, at informal interactive multi-stakeholder hearing in support of the preparatory process towards the High-level plenary meeting to review the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons
23 June 2017
Ambassador de Buytswerve
Ms. Withelma “T” Pettigrew
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to this Informal Interactive Multi-stakeholder Hearing in support of the preparatory process towards the High-level Plenary Meeting to review the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons.
Today’s meeting is an important opportunity for the international community to hear directly from experts working across our world to prevent, address, and respond to trafficking in persons.
With the scourge of human-trafficking an often invisible crime that hides its victims from sight and silences their voices, today’s Hearing is particularly important in ensuring that our discussions on the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons are guided by the experiences of those working on the ground. Let this hearing truly hear the voices.
Today’s discussion aims to help to broaden our understanding of the impacts, gaps and challenges of the Global Plan of Action.
It will help to shape national, regional and international policy responses to trafficking.
And it will serve as a critical contribution to the process leading up to the UN High-Level Meeting on Trafficking in September. This includes as part of the inter-governmental negotiations being led by the Permanent Representatives of Belgium and Qatar, on a political declaration to be adopted at the High-Level Meeting.
Trafficking in Persons has long been recognised as an inhumane crime that devastates victims and survivors, tears apart families and communities, and cause fear and insecurity across nations and regions.
Despite its inherent cruelty it is also disturbingly prevalent.
More than 500 trafficking flows are in operation today, moving people within countries, between neighbouring nations, and across entire continents.
And while the number of people affected cannot be determined with precision, the significant number of victims that have been identified are thought to represent only the tip of the iceberg.
Seventy-nine percent of trafficking victims are women and children, with sexual exploitation and forced labour serving as major drivers of this heinous crime.
At the same time, armed groups are trafficking young girls and boys, forcing them into sexual slavery and to becoming combatants in war.
New drivers of trafficking are emerging each day, such as benefit fraud, and the forcing of indentured people to commit crimes.
And at a time when millions of desperate people are moving across the globe seeking to escape conflict, insecurity, and extreme poverty, a disturbing nexus has emerged between people smugglers and human traffickers, leading to many vulnerable people falling into the wrong hands.
In this environment, it is critical that the international community works cooperatively, efficiently and effectively to end this crime.
The United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons is a vital tool in this effort. It will promote cooperation and coordination among the international community to strengthen prevention and protection efforts.
But at a time when global insecurity and uncertainty is fuelling new forms of trafficking, it is imperative that the international community ensures that its tools are being used most effectively to respond to the scale of the challenge.
Doing so requires that we begin a frank and comprehensive exchange on the current situation – what works, and where further attention is needed.
It requires that we look at key cross-cutting issues to trafficking, including gender equality, the human rights of survivors, and the protection of children.
It requires that we examine how the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, and other relevant international instruments, can be used to support our work.
It requires that we consider how best to leverage global efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to prevent and end this crime.
And it requires us to share our experiences and find new ideas on ways to disrupt criminal networks, sever illicit financial flows, protect victims, and support survivors. To this end, I call on all States to contribute to the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons, and in particular the Women and Children Trust Fund created by the Global Plan of Action.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons is a critical element in our efforts to combat trafficking in persons.
We must ensure that its implementation is targeted, efficient and effective. We must ensure it is able to respond to the changing landscape in which we operate.
I look forward to robust discussions today on how best we can do this, and finally put an end to the scourge of trafficking in persons.
I thank you.