AT CONCLUSION OF THEMATIC DEBATE ON HUMAN TRAFFICKING, GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT CALLS FOR MORE ACTION TO HELP VICTIMS, PROSECUTE TRAFFICKERS, BOOST PREVENTION

3 June 2008
GA/10712

AT CONCLUSION OF THEMATIC DEBATE ON HUMAN TRAFFICKING, GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT CALLS FOR MORE ACTION TO HELP VICTIMS, PROSECUTE TRAFFICKERS, BOOST PREVENTION

3 June 2008
General Assembly
GA/10712
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-second General Assembly

Thematic Debate

 on Human Trafficking (AM & PM)

AT CONCLUSION OF THEMATIC DEBATE ON HUMAN TRAFFICKING, GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT

CALLS FOR MORE ACTION TO HELP VICTIMS, PROSECUTE TRAFFICKERS, BOOST PREVENTION

In Keynote Address, Actress Ashley Judd Tells of Far-Flung Encounters with Victims

With millions worldwide estimated to be trapped by the trade in people for profit, General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim today urged United Nations Member countries to do more to ensure that effective mechanisms were available to protect and assist the trafficked, prosecute the traffickers and bolster prevention measures.

“While it is clear that we have worked hard to put in place a normative framework to fight human trafficking, there remains a vast gulf between the letter of the law and the situation on the ground,” President Kerim said, citing a recent International Labour Organization (ILO) report, which suggests that the illicit profits realized annually from trafficked labourers alone now amounted to some $32 billion.

He said trafficking was thriving because it was taking place against the backdrop of increased demand for cheap labour and service -- particularly in the sex industry –- and the easy global communication and transport.  Given the breadth of the problem, it was imperative that each and every country stood firm against trafficking.  However, the ability to tackle human trafficking was “only as strong as the weakest link in the chain that can be exploited by criminals”.

Therefore, he said, eliminating “the modern form of slavery” meant scrupulously addressing the conditions that fed it -- both on the demand and on the supply side.  Trafficking had first been denounced as incompatible with human dignity in the 1949 Convention for the Suppression of the Trafficking in Persons and Exploitation or Prostitution of Others.  In 2000, the adoption of the landmark United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, had laid down the first comprehensive definition of trafficking.

“We have the tools.  We must use them more effectively to stamp out human trafficking forever,” he declared, calling on Member States to put their commitments into practice by squarely addressing the “three Ps” as defined in the Protocol: protection of the vulnerable; prosecution of criminals; and prevention of trafficking.  Those States that were not yet parties to the relevant treaties should adopt the normative frameworks as soon as possible.  To speed up implementation of the Convention and its Protocol, it was important to set up a regular review mechanism to hold States and the United Nations system to account.

The Assembly President’s strong calls for action set the stage for the day’s events, which featured two interactive panel discussions, respectively on “Enhancing multilateral cooperation to prevent trafficking in persons” and “Protecting victims of trafficking and cross-border cooperation in prosecuting traffickers in persons”.  More than 40 delegations took part in the discussions, which brought together Government representatives, activists and experts from civil society in examining issues such as demand for trafficked persons; ways to curb the “rewards” of human trafficking reaped by exploitive employers and procurers for sex workers; the important role of the media in raising awareness; and regional cooperation for the effective prosecution of traffickers and criminal networks, among other subjects.

In her opening remarks, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro said that, though it was difficult to obtain accurate statistics, the available numbers were appalling -- more than 2 million women were trafficked across borders each year.  Traffickers targeted the most vulnerable groups -- those trapped by debt, children living in conflict or on the streets, or people searching for jobs in new lands.  While some victims were treated like “beasts of burden”, others suffered the torment of sexual exploitation or were forced to kill as soldiers.

Echoing the Assembly President’s plea for universal ratification of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, she stressed that the Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (GIFT) had already made a real difference in the lives of victims by issuing a joint call to action that now deserved a response.  The United Nations “Three P” agenda was indeed working, but, she said: “I would add another one, Partnership -- because we can only beat back this deadly illegal trade with a strong and broad coalition.”  Human trafficking was a matter of life and death and the global community should not stop working until all its victims had been freed.

In a passionate and wide-ranging keynote address, American actress and philanthropist Ashley Judd spoke “with the urgency of a life-or-death errand […] for the voiceless, disempowered and exploited”.  Recounting harrowing accounts of her travels as Global Ambassador for YouthAIDS and “Five Alive”, she said that from Cambodia to El Salvador and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, she had seen the insidious connections linking poverty, illness and gender inequality, and how that triad set up the “exquisite pain and degradation that is sex and labour slavery”.

While some might wonder why a rich American actress would dare think she had anything to contribute to the debate, she would argue: “How dare I not?” bear witness to what she had seen.  “I believe the narratives of the unloved, the dispossessed, the hidden and the silenced are keys to peace,” she said, urging delegations to listen to the stories and act decisively to help heal the wounded and exploited subjects, as well as the social systems that had victimized them in the first place.  “Political will must accelerate.  Funding for proven programmes must increase.  And ‘normal’ citizens must be sensitized to care and to act.”

She said that, in Madagascar, where she had asked a woman how she had ended up in a brothel, the woman had gently closed her eyes, waved a dismissive hand and said: “Same ole, same ole.”  Abandoned by her husband, considered “used goods” by society, illiterate and trying to feed six children -- when the pimp came, what other choice did she really have?  She went on to recall meeting an HIV-positive male sex slave in Cambodia who had hidden his scarred face in her lap as he cried.  The scars were the result of abuse at the hands of his first rapist while a dog had mauled his face.  She had also met countless children born in brothels and watched them hide under the very beds where their mothers were subjected to the most degrading life.  “Children are the collateral damage of human trafficking,” she added.

Prevention, protection and prosecution must become the norm in national legislations and policies worldwide, she stressed.  That could only be achieved through a balanced, holistic approach driven by willing cooperation between Governments, non-governmental organizations and, especially, grass-roots organizations, which had unsurpassed community-level knowledge and effectiveness.  But to stay engaged and motivated, the international community must believe that every human life was of estimable worth and that when one of those lives was saved, the whole world was saved.  “May we use our abundance for the good of all beings everywhere.  You are the United Nations […] How dare you not?”

Anwar Mohammed Gargash, Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates, said in his keynote address that until only a few years ago his country had not imagined that human trafficking was a problem it would ever face.  However, it did indeed suffer its share of the global phenomenon.  “There is no shame in admitting that this crime afflicts our society.”  The Government had demonstrated its commitment to prevent and eliminate trafficking by ratifying core human rights treaties and implementing a number of national legislative and policy measures.  “We have had our ups and downs in this fight, yet our commitment is resolute.”

Emphasizing that the national counter-trafficking strategy had resulted in a comprehensive four-pillared action plan based on the United Nations-backed prevention, protection and prosecution approach, he said the first pillar was legislation.  The Government had passed a strong anti-human trafficking law that imposed fines of up to a $250,000 and life imprisonment for those convicted.  The second pillar, enforcement, had led to at least five convictions over a 13-month period in 2006-2007, and the shuttering of two nightclubs involved in exploiting women.

Victim support, the third pillar, was equally important, and the Government had already implemented initiatives that determined the treatment of victims and the support programmes available to them, he said.  The fourth pillar of the strategy, bilateral agreements and international cooperation, concerned addressing the recruitment practices in the traditional Emirate sport of camel racing.  With the support of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Government had stepped in to regulate the sport and returned all 1,077 child camel jockeys to their homes in Asia and Africa.  It had also ratified the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, which included provisions for international cooperation in anti-human trafficking efforts.  “Trafficking involves countries of origin, transit and final destination, and no country or region acting alone can stop it.”

Speaking from the frontlines of the struggle to protect trafficking victims, Ruchira Gupta, Executive Director of the India-based Apne Aap Women Worldwide, said during the afternoon panel discussion that her organization’s 5,000-strong membership of trafficked human beings included women and children who had been trapped into prostitution, kidnapped, sold, coerced, tricked or forced into situations of exploitation.  Some were as young as 7, while others had been locked in small rooms and raped repeatedly.  Most were dead before the age of 35.  “They live in terror and they want States to admit that they are citizens whose rights have been violated […] their first demand is visibility,” she said.

Among other things, she urged exempting victims from prosecution for immigration violations or other offences that were the result of their having been trafficked; actively investigating and prosecuting persons involved in trafficking in both origin and destination countries, with a particular eye to evidence of collaboration by Government officials; taking strong precautions to ensure the physical safety of trafficked persons, including protective measures for those cooperating with law enforcement and asylum opportunities for those fearing retaliation in their home countries; and supporting programmes and policies that promoted equal access to education and employment for women and girls.

Panel I: Enhancing Multilateral Cooperation to Prevent Trafficking

Moderating the first of today’s two thematic panel discussions was ANTONIO MARIA COSTA, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Vienna and Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), who noted the growing global awareness about the severe challenges and consequences of human trafficking, and the need to combat the scourge in a comprehensive and collective manner involving Governments, international organizations, the private sector and, perhaps most importantly, women and women’s civil society groups.

The panellists were Kyung-wha Kang, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights; Mark Lagon, Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons in the United States Department of State; Roger Plant, Head of the Special Action Programme to Combat Forced Labour at the International Labour Organization (ILO); Marilyn Carlson Nelson, Chairman and CEO of The Carlson Companies; and Tom Ehr, Executive Director of the MTV Europe Foundation.

Opening the discussion, Ms. KANG said everyone must face the uncomfortable fact that global efforts to eliminate the trade in people for profit had failed, thus far.  “We have not even managed to stem the tide [and] more people are being trafficked than ever before,” she said, adding that widespread inequality, insecurity of food and livelihoods, discrimination, unemployment and conflict were uprooting people from their homes and thus adding to the already rapidly growing pool of potential victims in every part of the world.  Moreover, increasingly restrictive immigration policies and inadequate labour laws in many wealthy countries were forcing people desperate for work into the arms of unscrupulous traders.

She said profiteers in the sex trade used myriad deceptive and coercive ploys to prey on girls and women made particularly vulnerable by discrimination, which in many countries deprived them of education and employment.  “Traffickers are able to operate with impunity in the face of weak or ineffective law enforcement, which is compounded, in some cases, by official corruption and complicity.”  Human trafficking was an “assault to our shared dignity as human beings”, requiring a global response under basic principles, especially the primacy of human rights.  Indeed, making human right the centre of anti-trafficking work meant, above all, viewing that crime as a clear violation of the most fundamental rights, including the rights to health and freedom of movement, and the right to freedom from violence and abuse, among others.

Stressing that prevention should be a priority, she said Governments were responsible for protecting their citizens and others within their respective jurisdictions from both public and private wrongs.  All States and other parts of the international system should focus on victims as well as perpetrators.  Trafficking should not be reduced to a problem of population movements, public order or transnational crime.  “We must not be so callous and short-sighted as to think that trafficking can be dealt with solely as a problem of law enforcement or organized crime”.  A human-rights approach provided a comprehensive framework within which law enforcement and victim-focused responses cold be developed, implemented and evaluated.  It must also ensure accountability, including protection of victims in the criminal justice response, as well as effective prosecution of traffickers, with serious penalties commensurate with the crime.

Mr. LAGON agreed that combating human trafficking required collective action by all Member States on several key fronts, including prevention, victim protection and prosecution of perpetrators.  The discussion too often ignored a “complex web of other factors”, including the need to curb the demand that turned people into commodities, to support the rule of law and combat criminal networks, and to tackle poverty, which left people desperate to escape their circumstances and thus easy prey for malicious recruitment and exploitation.  “Any successful effort to combat trafficking must confront not only the supply of trafficked humans, but also the demand for commercial sex and labour trafficking which perpetuates it”.

Noting that market demand for commercial sex created a profit incentive for traffickers to ensnare more women and children, he said many consumers would be troubled if they knew their purchases were produced wholly or in part by individuals, including children, subjected to slave-like conditions.  Another key challenge was that military, civilian and Government officials across the globe were directly involved in or complicit with sex trafficking, forced labour, unlawful conscription of child soldiers and trafficking-related bribery and fraud.  With that in mind, it was imperative that Governments respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all persons, including men, women, minorities, citizens and foreigners alike.

He stressed that Governments must have the ability to hold traffickers -– pimps as well as exploitive employers –- to the fullest account, notably in harsh sentencing reflecting the severity of the crimes committed.  Among other things, Governments must also stamp out corruption and establish a close relationship with civil society to help with victim identification and protection.  Multilateral organizations should step up their efforts, including UNODC, which should take the Inter-Agency Cooperation Group against Trafficking in Persons (ICAT) “to the next level” -- from information exchange to developing a coordinated approach among member agencies.  Regional organizations must also do their part, including by partnership with international agencies.

Mr. EHR showed a video on the MTV EXIT campaign, a public information campaign that had educated millions of young people across Europe and Asia on human trafficking.  It was an important initiative for the television network, since its main audience, 15-to-29-year-olds, was also the main target of human traffickers.  The video featured the stories of human-trafficking victims, celebrity endorsements and MTV’s past public-awareness-raising events.

MTV EXIT had established partnerships with a variety of international organizations and more than 100 non-governmental organizations, he said.  Its programming was distributed rights-free to all broadcasters and its printed material was produced and distributed in more than 25 local languages.  MTV was the largest television network in more than 500 million households globally and had donated $20 million in commercial air time to the fight against trafficking.

Mr. PLANT quantified the scope of the problem, explaining that more than 12 million people around the world were involved in forced labour, of which 2.4 million cases were a direct result of trafficking for labour or sexual exploitation.  Females were more often victims then males, and 40 per cent of them were children.  Such forced labour resulted in annual profits of almost $32 billion, half of which was realized in industrial countries.  More than 80 per cent of all forced labour was exacted by private agents, with labour brokers and informal recruiters sometimes working together with recognized recruitment agencies, over which there were inadequate controls.  Indeed, there were signs that even major companies were using unregulated, or poorly regulated, subcontracting agencies.

ILO grounded its technical cooperation on a rich mandate of enforceable international labour conventions in an effort to clean up the world’s labour markets, he continued.  It had now begun more specific guidance and training for target groups such as governmental partners, business organizations, trade unions, labour inspectors, judges and prosecutors.  Each target group had an important role to play: trade unions as monitoring mechanisms, labour inspectors as early warning systems on abusive practices and judges and prosecutors in ensuring that offenders were properly prosecuted.

Emphasizing the need to tackle the underlying causes that created a breeding ground for human trafficking, he said ILO could bring social partners to the table with other actors to ensure that enforcement and criminal justice responses took the social and labour dimension into account.  Many workers from poorer countries understood the demand for their services in wealthier countries and would continue at all costs to seek migration opportunities.  A policy framework should be redefined and developed so that those workers did not incur excessive charges at the hands of unscrupulous recruiters, and did not end up in modern debt bondage.

Ms. NELSON, speaking from the business viewpoint, said The Carlson Companies was currently the first and only large travel and hospitality firm in the United States to sign the ECPAT Code (the code of conduct addressing the tourism industry’s responsibility in combating the sexual exploitation of children).  Signatories were required to establish ethical policies regarding commercial exploitation of children, including contractual clauses stating the common repudiation of commercial sexual exploitation of children, among others.

Though Carlson had implemented a variety of initiatives in line with the ECPAT Code, there were a number of things it and other corporations could not do, she said.  For example, though corporations could be the “eyes and ears” on the lookout for human trafficking, they could not replace local authorities as enforcement agencies.  Additionally, in litigious societies such as the United States, corporations were often hesitant to commit publicly to a code of conduct for fear that, should something happen in a company hotel in another part of the world, legal action would be brought against the company because of its commitment to the fight against trafficking.  Carlson’s General Counsel saw that argument as being without merit since an anti-trafficking policy was a moral issue requiring action.

However, complex areas in the field required greater clarity for corporations, she continued.  For example, different cultures held different opinions regarding the crime of prostitution, depending on the age of the persons involved.  The United Nations could take the lead in establishing and enforcing international standards that would help change perceptions of the trade.  Overall, corporations must help address the root cause of the issue -- poverty -- by financially supporting opportunities and training for young men and women.  Meanwhile, the United Nations should focus on shutting down unethical “job brokers” who used the Internet to lure young men and women with offers of employment.

In the ensuing debate, the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Montenegro said human trafficking was a problem that crossed all borders, and a comprehensive solution to which required United Nations guidance.  Montenegro had become a transit country for human traffickers, and putting an end to that practice could only be fully successful if national efforts received international support.  The representative of Slovenia, on behalf of the European Union, echoing those sentiments, called on Member States to improve their implementation of the United Nations Protocol, as well as the flow of information and best practices between countries so as to ensure a better coordinated response at the national, regional and international levels.

The representative of Egypt said the United Nations needed to do more to turn the support voiced by various Member States into concrete actions to combat human trafficking.  Among the possible solutions, the President of the General Assembly should initiate a series of thematic debates to build on regional successes, as had been done with the issue of counter-terrorism.  The representative of Mexico said a comprehensive response should address supply and demand, the lack of public awareness, support for victims, punishment for offenders and better coordination among the various stakeholders.  The representative of Colombia described some of the ways in which her country had responded to the problem, including the establishment of a central operations hub where various agencies could work together to find solutions.

Panel II: Protecting Victims and Cooperation in Prosecuting Traffickers

Moderating the afternoon panel on protecting victims of trafficking and cross-border cooperation in prosecuting traffickers in persons, MAUD DE BOER-BUQUICCHIO, Deputy Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, said the two elements were intrinsically linked and, in the Council of Europe’s experience, good victim protection inherently led to criminal prosecution of the traffickers.  “What we need is real national political commitment.  Without that, I don’t think we will get anywhere.”

The panellists were Fernando Bustamente, Minister of Government for Internal Issues of Ecuador; Natalia Petkevich, Deputy Head of Administration for the President of Belarus; Ndioro Ndiaye, Deputy Director-General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM): and Ruchira Gupta, Executive Director of Apne Aap Women Worldwide (India).

Opening the discussion, Mr. BUSTAMENTE said human trafficking could only be dealt with through global action, including regional cooperation and collaboration among all societies within countries.  Economic, social and cultural conditions must be examined both in the countries that drove destitute people into the waiting arms of nefarious traffickers, and those that were “consumers” of commercial sex work and exploitative labour, including child labour.

He said his country had long believed in the need for a broad United Nations-backed strategy laying out the responsibilities of all countries and promoting the protection of victims.  It must also incorporate the on-the-ground and community-level expertise of activists and grassroots groups.  Ecuador had taken significant steps to put protective and preventive measures in place with the aim of, among other things, ensuring the protection of children and promoting broad protections for migrants.  The Government had also moved to regularize those who had taken refuge inside Ecuador, and was working with neighbouring countries to expand that effort.  Since regional and transnational criminal networks were generally behind much of the global trade in people, the United Nations should consider establishing a global treaty that specifically addressed that aspect of the illicit practice.

Ms. PETKEVICH, speaking on behalf of Belarus, said her country had promoted initiatives to fight trafficking and eliminate all forms of modern slavery.  Last year, for example, it had stopped 103 trafficking channels, identified 418 victims and stopped the trafficking activities of three international criminal organizations operating within its borders.  Human trafficking was a “dangerous social virus” that was impossible for any country to cope with on its own.  It was necessary to address its root causes, including poverty, inequality and lack of education, as well as the factors that created a demand for its victims.

Counteractive policies should take into account the specific peculiarities of each form of tracking, she continued.  All partners -– including States, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, and mass media -– must work together to find a solution.  The United Nations strategy against human trafficking should be elaborated to ensure the creation of a well-coordinated and comprehensive mechanism that would combat trafficking in the most results-oriented manner.  States had the responsibility to protect victims and provide them with the necessary assistance.  They must also prosecute offenders through strong legislation and law enforcement.  Though views on the substance of particular actions might differ, there was no doubt that some form of action was urgently needed.

Ms. NDIAYE said years of experience had shown that the defining lines between smuggled migrants and migrants who were exploited were “blurry at best”.  However, such distinctions had significant implications in terms of criminal prosecution and issues of protection.  For example, a person defined as a victim of trafficking might be eligible for reflection delays, psychosocial support and other assistance, whereas a migrant -– especially one who was young, male and working illegally -– would not be eligible for such benefits.  Considering the blurred lines between the two definitions, such a situation was not necessarily fair or just and, as such, IOM offices were increasingly focused on identifying and responding to the needs of individual migrants, whether trafficked, exploited or highly vulnerable to exploitation.

IOM had also learned important lessons regarding developing States in the field of protection, she continued, stressing that they should do more to demonstrate true leadership by challenging “trafficking-like practices” that had roots in traditional practices, but had outgrown their origins, such as the forced marriage of children or variations on child labour.  Developed countries had not yet fully developed their strategies to fight human trafficking either.  Though many countries had developed national legislation protecting victims, those initiatives were only tentative first steps on a long and difficult road.  Many developed countries continued their own “trafficking-like practices”, such as the selective application of labour laws to certain industrial sectors like agriculture.  “Let us not confuse the issue by calling it an immigration problem.  This is a primarily a problem of exploitation.”  Migrant victims in developed countries were most likely to be penalized for violations, as opposed to their employers who profited from their work.  The only way fully to eliminate human trafficking would be to free victims from the fear of telling their stories by offering them the necessary protections and addressing the broader issues of exploitation found in all societies.

Ms. GUPTA said her India-based anti-trafficking organization worked on behalf of victims and survivors everywhere.  Apne Aap had a membership of more than 5,000 trafficked human beings who had been trapped into prostitution, kidnapped, sold, coerced, tricked or forced into situations of exploitation.  Some were as young as 7 years old, while others had been kept in small locked rooms and raped repeatedly.  Most were dead before the age of 35.  “They live in terror and they want States to admit that they are citizens whose rights have been violated […] their first demand is visibility.”

The second demand was relief from the violence, trauma and severe exploitation to which they were subjected, she continued.  They wanted both the process of human trafficking to be tackled as well as its outcomes, which included prostitution, domestic servitude, early marriage, child labour, organ trade, cheap labour and pornography.  “In this context, they say that ‘broader management’ is not the answer, but a range of comprehensive interventions, from prevention to protection to prosecution.”  The issue was about human rights, not just being forced or tricked into crossing borders.

Noting that trafficked women were often freed from their employers in police raids only to be denied access to recovery services or mistreated by authorities, she said the third demand of victims and survivors was accountability.  They wanted those responsible for trafficking to be punished, and they wanted interventions to target those who bought trafficked people, such as pimps, johns, brothel owners, plantation and factory owners, money lenders and all those who made a profit from trading in women and girls, boys and men.

She called for exemptions from prosecution for victims in cases of immigration violations or other offences that occurred as a result of being trafficked; active investigation and prosecution of persons involved in trafficking in both origin and destination countries, with a particular eye to evidence of collaboration by Government officials; strong precautions to ensure the physical safety of trafficked persons, including protective measures for those who cooperated with law enforcement and asylum opportunities for those who feared retaliation in their home countries; and support for programmes and policies promoting equal access to education and employment for women and girls.

When the discussions was opened to the floor, representatives of Turkey, Pakistan and Argentina detailed their national strategies for fighting human trafficking, such as the establishment of a national task force in Turkey, a national action plan in Pakistan and the approval of new human-trafficking legislation in Argentina.  The representative of Pakistan added that such national efforts could only reach their full potential if supported by international efforts, including those addressing the root causes of human trafficking.

The representative of the United States said trafficking did not always involve crossing borders, noting that, even in his own country, more must be done to protect victims.  More technical assistance was also needed to allow countries effectively to implement the conventions dealing with human trafficking.  The need to improve national capacity for implementation was echoed by the representative of Syria, who added that lack of implementation was not necessarily a question of political will, but rather a reflection of the lack of necessary resources for implementation that affected many countries.

The representative of Uruguay explained her country’s difficulties as a point of origin for human trafficking and noted the challenges confronting victims in denouncing offenders.  There was a need to provide the necessary human-rights protections to ensure that no victim was “re-victimized” by fear of speaking out.  In the same vein, the representative of the Philippines said too much focus had been placed on the criminal response to trafficking, an approach that had resulted in “double suffering” for victims, added insult to injury and aggravated exploitative situations.  That undermined progress by keeping victims silent about abuses, thus perpetuating a vicious cycle.

The representative of Japan highlighted his country’s efforts to address the root causes of trafficking, specifically through assistance provided to countries where human trafficking originated.  The representative of Algeria said her country had done the same by attacking the source of the problem -– drug trafficking and illegal immigration -- and passing legislative bills that dealt with all aspects of the problem.

The representative of Cuba said that, since industrialized countries were the main destination for human trafficking, and their actions increased the demand for women and child sex workers, a credible United Nations anti-trafficking strategy should advance a more just international economic order that would put a stop to inequalities.  In terms of the work already carried out by United Nations in the field, the representative of Portugal stressed the importance of the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and adherence to its Protocol, a sentiment echoed by the representative of the United Kingdom, among others.

The representatives of Italy and Nicaragua focused much of their comments on the role of international criminal organizations in human trafficking.  For example, Central America had rapidly become a corridor through which organized crime gangs ferried their victims, and ending that practice was now a top priority.

Highlighting the “female face” of human trafficking were the representatives of Kazakhstan, Republic of Korea and FOKUS, a women’s organization in Norway.  In particular, the representative of Kazakhstan applauded legislation that did not punish women for crimes such as prostitution but, instead, punished those who demanded their services.

Speaking about the role of the private sector in combating human trafficking, the representative of Hewlett-Packard said industry had a responsibility to put mechanisms in place to ensure adherence to a proper code of conduct regarding human trafficking.  Though consumers might want “cool and cheap” it was important for companies and the general public to be aware of the possible costs of “cool and cheap” and to ensure that consumer desires did not get in the way of protecting the basic human rights of labourers worldwide.

ALEYA HAMMAD, speaking on behalf of civil society, added to those remarks by explaining that, two years ago, partnerships between the private and public sectors to fight human trafficking had been practically non-existent.  Since then, much had improved, with Governments and business working collaboratively towards a solution.

The representative of Finland asked the panellists how the effectiveness of joint research activities by States and international organizations could be increased.  Ms. PETKEVICH, in response, stressed the need for all stakeholders to unify their efforts, not only in terms of research but also in terms of broader activities.  Ms. GUPTA and Ms. NDIAYE both called for more interagency cooperation and international support to ensure that the necessary resources were made available to implement anti-trafficking initiatives.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.