|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fourth General Assembly
General Assembly Launches Global Plan of Action against Trafficking in Persons;
Secretary-General Says Partnership Only Way to End ‘Slavery in the Modern Age’
Assembly President Says ‘Heinous Crime’ Cannot Be Accepted in Today’s World
With thousands of people forced into labour, servitude or the sex trade each year, the General Assembly formally launched the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons today, one month after its adoption as a consensus resolution outlining the terms of the Plan. (See Press Release GA/10968)
“With this Global Action Plan, we have announced our steadfast commitment to stop human trafficking,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in opening remarks to the one-day high-level meeting. Indeed, the Plan was a clarion call. Human trafficking was among the worst human rights violations and constituted “slavery in the modern age”. No country was immune — almost all played a part, either as a source of trafficked people, transit point or destination.
Since the Assembly’s adoption ten years ago of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Governments, international organizations and civil society had taken steps to stop the crime, he said. But to end human trafficking in all its forms, a common approach was needed — coordinated and consistent across the globe. “The Global Plan of Action will help us to achieve exactly that,” he said.
Moreover, it would engage Governments and criminal justice systems, civil society and the private sector, he observed. Under the Plan, the fight against human trafficking would become part of all the United Nations broader development and security policies and programmes.
He added that one of its most important elements was a United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for trafficking victims, especially women and children, which aimed to protect vulnerable people and support physical and psychological recovery. He urged Member States, the private sector and philanthropists to contribute generously to the Fund and increase technical assistance to countries that supported the fight against trafficking, but lacked financial resources.
The Plan also stressed the paramount importance of increased research, data collection and analysis of trafficking. “We must improve our knowledge and understanding of this crime if we are to make good policy decisions and targeted interventions,” he added.
However, the only way to end human trafficking was by working together, in partnerships between States and within regions, within the United Nations and under the Inter-Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons, he said. The biggest challenge was to reduce the numbers of people vulnerable to trafficking. Progress being made to empower women, fight discrimination, reduce poverty and keep children healthy was also helping to do just that. The thousands of people living as slaves needed help, now.
Speaking next, General Assembly President Ali Abdussalam Treki (Libya) said the resolution establishing the Plan of Action against human trafficking had been adopted after a broad and inclusive process, and he thanked all those involved. The Plan was designed to foster action to allow the exercise of the right of all people to be free. Since trafficking was a form of modern slavery, eradicating it should be at the forefront of the modern agenda. By adopting the Plan of Action, Governments had resolved to take concrete action to protect victims, to prosecute traffickers and to abide by existing international instruments that fight trafficking, through a human rights centred approach.
He encouraged Member States to contribute generously to the Trust Fund established along with the Plan of Action, and called on all countries and organizations to work together to implement the resolution. “Abduction, coercion, trafficking across national and international borders, forcing women and children into sexual exploitation and servitude — this must not be accepted in today’s world,” he said. The “heinous crime” of trafficking robbed people of their dignity, destroyed communities and tore families apart. “When the history of this horror calls, we cannot let this period be remembered as one in which the global community knew but did not act,” he said.
Following those remarks, the Assembly heard from three of the world’s leading voices in the fight against human trafficking: Saisuree Chutikul, Chair of the National Subcommittee on Combating Trafficking in Children and Women in Thailand; Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, Special Representative and Coordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE); and Aleya Hammad, Co-founder and Board Member of the Suzanne Mubarak Women’s International Peace Movement.
Ms. Chutikul said that all those who had been fighting the crime of trafficking at all levels and had witnessed the suffering of its victims welcomed the Plan of Action. Now the task was ensuring comprehensive and effective implementation, in connection with the various conventions, protocols and other instruments already in existence. She called for adequate support to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for its part of the efforts, for cooperation between all other actors and for linkages at all levels. She maintained, in addition, that national policy must be clear and deal with problems of stateless persons and others in a position of extreme vulnerability. Behind all those efforts must lie compassion, she said.
“We need to take a step forward,” added Ms. Giammarinaro. Every day, millions of people were deceived, abused and threatened into sexual and labour exploitation, domestic servitude and forced begging. Typically, they were forced to provide services during long hours, often paying back an insurmountable debt in conditions that amounted to slavery. Trafficking showed no signs of abating — it had become an inexhaustible source of profits that were constantly reinvested in other criminal activities. It still was not considered a strategic issue; nor did it raise the same level of concern as issues such as torture. “We can change this situation,” she said. The rights of trafficked persons should be at the centre of all efforts. More effective law enforcement and criminal justice action was needed, while a focus on prevention must take into account the demand for low-skilled workers and the importance of awareness-raising.
For her part, Ms. Hammad conveyed heartfelt congratulations to those who had taken leadership in the adoption and launch of the Plan of Action, which was a breakthrough because it included all necessary elements, including understanding and prevention of human trafficking, and rallied all partners who could help bring about the eradication of trafficking, including the private sector. It was a plan that recognized the important role of everyone. She said that the focus of her movement was making silent voices heard and empowering women to help bring about peace. Its campaign against trafficking came about when her movement addressed violence against women and discovered that businesses could help stop trafficking by exercising zero tolerance, providing alternative employment and other needs, and helping with such services as help lines.
Participating in the interactive discussion that followed were the representatives of Ghana (on behalf of the African Group), Belgium (on behalf of the European Union), Portugal, Cape Verde, Belarus, Japan, Thailand, Russian Federation, United States, Cuba, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Nicaragua, Colombia, Brazil and the Philippines.
In other business, the General Assembly President informed delegates that on 27 August, Chitsaka Chipaziwa (Zimbabwe) and Michel Tommo Monthe (Cameroon) were elected by the General Committee as Chairpersons of the Assembly’s Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) and Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) respectively.
The General Assembly will reconvene at a time and date to be announced.
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