|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-seventh General Assembly
77th Meeting (AM & PM)
Break ‘Vicious Chain that Binds Victims to Criminals’, Secretary-General
Urges High-level Meeting on Human Trafficking
Some 25 Million Harmed by ‘Barbarity’, General Assembly
President Says as Anti-Crime Chief Cites Multi-Billion Dollar Enterprise
Human trafficking was a “vicious chain that binds victims to criminals”, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today during the General Assembly’s high-level meeting on the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons.
“We must break this chain with the force of human solidarity,” he urged. It was crucial, then, to listen to the voices of the victims because traffickers targeted the most defenceless and vulnerable. Earlier this month, he recalled, authorities in Yemen had freed about 500 Ethiopian migrants, mostly women and girls, who had been trapped by traffickers. Deeply disturbed to hear that many of them had been tortured and abused, he said it was even more alarming that millions more experienced similar ordeals at the hands of perpetrators every day.
He also pointed out that human trafficking devastated individuals and undermined national economies, while generating billions of dollars through exploitation and abuse. Those black market funds supported illegal drugs, corruption and other crimes. To challenge that, the United Nations was bringing partners together to protect victims, prosecute traffickers and end the trade in humans. Achieving justice would require a strong foundation in the rule of law, he said. “We will never succeed in preventing trafficking unless we end impunity.”
That demanded an end to the corruption that polluted so many transactions, strengthening judicial systems, and helping Governments earn the trust of their peoples. Living standards must be raised because human trafficking thrived in conditions of poverty, whereby people were lured from their homes by promises of wealth and security.
Vuk Jeremić ( Serbia), President of the General Assembly, said that as many as 25 million persons were victims of the “barbarity” perpetrated by the global criminal enterprise of human trafficking, which generated an estimated $32 billion annually. Virtually every nation across the globe had been exposed to “this atrocious practice — whether as a country of origin, transit, or destination”. Today’s high-level meeting offered an opportunity to examine what progress had been achieved in building up the four pillars of the Global Plan of Action — prevention, protection, prosecution and partnership.
He appealed not only to Member States, but also to philanthropic organizations and the private sector to increase their support for the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, created by the Secretary-General to provide humanitarian, legal and financial aid to those affected by “this modern-day version of slavery”. It was also critical that law enforcement officials, border control personnel, labour inspectors, consular and embassy officials, judges and prosecutors, and peacekeepers all increase their vigilance and be more sensitive to the needs of victims.
Noting that 154 countries had signed up to the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Traffickers in Persons, especially Woman and Children — the first global, legally binding instrument on the critically important issue, he urged those that had not yet done so to ratify the instrument. “Let us stand as one on this issue and purge the globe of this horrendous affront to human dignity.”
Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said human trafficking was a modern form of slavery with millions of victims generating billions of dollars for criminals. “We are dealing with a crime of the twenty-first century: adaptive, cynical, sophisticated; existing in developed and developing countries alike,” he said.
He noted that there had been progress as the number of countries enacting proper anti-trafficking legislation had risen from 60 per cent in 2009 to 83 per cent at present, with the number of such countries in Africa and the Middle East having doubled in the last three years and 25 per cent of all countries having reported a marked increase in convictions. However, challenges persisted, he stressed. In order to reach universal implementation, 39 Member States were still needed to ratify the Protocol, and 16 per cent of countries had never recorded a conviction as rates around the world remained low.
There were also problems of data collection and analysis, he continued, noting that 61 countries had provided no information for UNODC’s 2012 Global Report on human trafficking. Between 2006 and 2009, the number of detectable cases of human trafficking for forced labour had doubled from 18 to 36 per cent, he said, indicating increased law enforcement action. Yet, more was needed. Best practices must be shared and mutual legal assistance increased. More joint operations were needed across borders and national strategies must be linked to regional and international approaches.
Mira Sorvino, United Nations Goodwill Ambassador against Human Trafficking, said she was “stunned to tears” by survivors’ stories of children being thrown off boats, women burned alive, and people branded with hot irons by traffickers. And yet, national reporting of zero or reduced trafficking was not accurate, since it resulted from the failure to accord priority to that crime, as well as from a lack of training in all sectors of law enforcement and civil society.
However, the determination of survivors to fight and end human trafficking was striking, she said, urging delegations to “make this your personal quest” and to become the foot soldiers of the Global Plan of Action. She noted that, globally, 27 per cent of all trafficking incidents involved children, with the majority in Africa, forced into slave labour, exploited in sweatshops, bought and sold for sex or organ harvesting. Regardless of religion or culture, to abandon such children was “a sacrilege”, she said.
Alyse Nelson, President of Vital Voices Global Partnership, said the fight against human trafficking united people across cultures, generations and sectors, but asked why the international community “has not been able to stem the rising tide of this modern slavery”. Today, more people than in any other time in history were enslaved because traffickers were smart and knew how to adapt. Stressing the need to update anti-trafficking tactics, she said that, while trafficking was a global crime, it had local roots and must, therefore, harvest local responses. To truly capitalize on the power of the United Nations, all stakeholders must connect with the survivors in the front line.
Following the opening remarks, delegations took to the floor, with many emphasizing the need to provide critical support to victims of human trafficking. A representative of the United States said his country’s Government was implementing a five-year plan that would make it easier for victims to gain access to better services. That meant tailoring solutions and making resources available to all victims of trafficking, regardless of gender, age, race, religion, nationality and sexual orientation.
Costa Rica’s representative pointed out that human trafficking was ever evolving and increasingly conducted in well-organized structures. Therefore, a similar approach was needed to fight it, and the Global Plan of Action was essential to multilateral efforts to ensure prevention, prosecution of perpetrators and assistance to victims.
Delegates also stressed the need to enhance cooperation between origin and destination countries. Côte d’Ivoire’s representative, speaking on behalf of the African Group, underlined the urgent need to complement supply-side prevention with greater efforts to curb demand.
Meanwhile, Cape Verde’s representative pointed out that her archipelago was located off the West Coast of Africa, geographically positioned directly on the trafficking routes of three continents. Hence, it was a victim not only of drug smuggling, but also of human trafficking.
Mongolia’s representative said that trafficking for sexual exploitation was her country’s most common form of human smuggling, while her counterpart from Brazil emphasized her country’s commitment to increasing protection for vulnerable groups, such as the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Echoing that sentiment, Thailand’s representative said that, whereas women and girls were the most vulnerable victims, the number of male victims had risen significantly. Indeed, he emphasized, it was the level of education, not the gender, which usually indicated a person’s vulnerability, he said.
Also speaking during today’s plenary were representatives of Luxembourg, Armenia, Finland, Austria, Saudi Arabia, Belarus, Egypt, Paraguay, Costa Rica, United Arab Emirates, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Mexico, Sweden, Canada, Portugal and Nicaragua. A representative of the European Union delegation also delivered a statement.
In the afternoon, two related panels discussed different aspects of the issue, the first panel titled “The Global Plan of Action, relevant legal instruments, and effective partnerships to protect and assist victims of human trafficking”, and the second “Sharing Best Practices and Lessons Learned for Prevention and Prosecution in the implementation of the Global Plan of Action, and relevant legal instruments”.
The General Assembly is expected to meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 14 May, to continue the high-level meeting.
The General Assembly convened this morning for a high-level meeting on the appraisal of the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons. Contained in document A/67/L.62 is the text of the organizational arrangements for the meeting.
Adopted by the Assembly in 2010, the Plan of Action focuses on the prevention of trafficking in persons; protection of and assistance to victims of trafficking in persons; prosecution of crimes of trafficking in persons; and strengthening of partnerships against trafficking in persons. It calls for an appraisal of progress made on those fronts in 2013.
JEAN ASSELBORN, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Luxembourg, said that, in spite of sustained commitment on the part of the international community, human trafficking remained a problem of global magnitude. Some 21 million people were held in forced labour around the world, some 2.5 million of them victims of human trafficking. They were mostly women and children, with girls comprising 17 per cent of them and boys 10 per cent. Noting that trafficking affected all countries, he said victims were sexually exploited in some, while others were subjected to forced labour and still others to forced conscription.
It was essential that all countries ratify the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime and the Trafficking in Persons Protocol, he emphasized, pointing out that Luxembourg had completed its own legal framework on trafficking, having ratified all relevant protocols. He also stressed the importance of regional involvement in combating trafficking, as most of it occurred on a regional basis. The European Union had developed its own regional strategy, he added. Underlining the need to help and support victims, he said assistance and reintegration required financial support, pointing out that Luxembourg had been one of the first countries to provide financial support to the Voluntary Trust Fund.
ARMEN GEVORKIAN, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Territorial Administration of Armenia, said his country had supported the Global Plan of Action from the outset and had implemented most of its prescribed actions in its national programmes. The State Council to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings supervised anti-trafficking activities in a structural approach based on establishing collaboration among all agencies and stakeholders involved with the issue, he said, adding that Armenia’s “3 Ps approach”, which focused on prevention, prosecution and protection. The First and Second National Action Plans aimed to create the required legislative framework while implementing preventive activities.
Since 2010, activities had been aimed at enhancing the State’s prevention and assistance efforts, and over the last decade, Armenia had “drastically improved” its national legislation to increase the effectiveness of its efforts to combat all types of trafficking. He noted that the amended Criminal Code, alongside new laws and regulations, allowed for more complete and stricter oversight. The protection of victims was heavily emphasized and their rights would remain at the centre of all anti-trafficking initiatives in a “victim-oriented and victim-centred approach”. Child trafficking and labour trafficking were unacceptable and new challenges for Armenia and efforts were under way to identify and address their root causes and trends, as well as the real scale and extent of the problem.
EERO HEINÄLUOMA, Speaker of Parliament of Finland, associated himself with the European Union. Describing the Global Plan of Action as a “milestone in the fight against trafficking”, he said significant steps had been taken, but the process was ongoing and efforts must continue at all levels. The importance of protecting the victims of trafficking could not be highlighted enough, because their dignity and integrity were violated in the deepest possible sense, resulting in enormous human suffering which left permanent marks. It was difficult to identify victims because of their vulnerable position, he said, noting that they rarely trusted authorities, particularly because the latter often punished the victims while the real perpetrators went free. Every country and Government could do better in that respect, he emphasized.
Noting that his own country’s legislation to protect and assist victims was under review, he said non-governmental organizations proposed improvements, and their “grass roots” experience and “valuable expertise” helped to address the root causes of trafficking. In tackling them, Governments must address poverty and work to improve their respective national human rights situations. Women and girls needed a special focus as they were the most vulnerable, susceptible to multiple forms of discrimination. Preventing trafficking was an objective of Finland’s second National Action Plan on Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security. As human trafficking was often part of organized international crime, closer cooperation between source, transit and destination countries was needed to break trafficking channels and bring perpetrators to justice. In that regard, cooperation among all stakeholders, including non-governmental organizations, was vital.
JOHANNA MIKL-LEITNER, Federal Minister for the Interior of Austria, said human trafficking was not just sexual exploitation, but also forced labour and illegal organ removals. Austria was a transit and target country for human trafficking, with the 2012 figures 15 per cent higher by than those for 2011, and about 17 per cent of those trafficked under the age of 18. It was vital not to look away from any kind of abuse, she emphasized, adding that joint action was required to support and protect victims of exploitation and compensate them for their suffering. Police officers played a crucial role in that regard and Austria was determined to increase training opportunities in order to enhance their knowledge and understanding of the issue.
Noting that her country was a party to the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, she said the latter remained “the cornerstone of all global action against human trafficking” due to its near-universal ratification. While guided by a “3 Ps Approach” to tackling human trafficking, prevention had always been Austria’s particular focus, and it aimed to tackle poverty and increase human security at the same time. Austria had sponsored all relevant resolutions on trafficking in human beings since the creation of the United Nations Human Rights Council, and also supported the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Much work lay ahead, she pointed out, emphasizing the need to translate the political will shown in the meeting into concrete action.
OSMAN MOHAMMED SALEH, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Eritrea, emphasized that his people had been on the frontlines of the struggle for human dignity and self-determination for two generations. They now faced an “additional assault” on their human rights by organized human trafficking, which drained the country’s human resources and undermined its stability. Eritrea’s citizens, especially its young people and women, were being targeted.
He said that, on the national level, Eritrea was strongly committed to the fight against human trafficking, implementing concrete measures in all sectors of society. Among them was a public awareness public campaign to inform people of the many different manifestations of human trafficking. As well, law enforcement agencies were working together to apprehend and prosecute criminals. On the regional and international levels, Eritrea was working closely with Egypt, Sudan and other countries to combat transnational trafficking, he said. However, the phenomenon was enmeshed with an external, political agenda to destabilize the country, with the traffickers using vicious propaganda to target Eritrea in a malicious and unlawful campaign.
BANDAR BIN MOHAMMAD AL-AIBAN, President of the Human Rights Commission of Saudi Arabia, said his Government was building the national capacity necessary to combat human trafficking through measures of prevention, protection, care and punishment. It had recently enacted a law that represented the legal framework for dealing with that sort of crime and for prosecuting perpetrators. It had also established a national commission to secure refuge, protection, as well as medical and legal assistance for victims. Further, Saudi Arabia had issued regulations on the exploitation of workers and children, and most recently one that protected domestic workers.
He said his Government was intent on complying with international standards, in line with the belief that cooperation among States was essential in establishing regional strategies to combat trafficking. Looking forward to further cooperation, Saudi Arabia sought to sign bilateral and multilateral agreements with countries that shared the same goal. Indeed, there was a need to implement the Global Plan of Action, to unify legal terminology and to address the social, economic and political issues that bred human trafficking, he said. Enhancing the ability of officials responsible for implementing laws and ensuring the correct treatment of victims was also essential, he said, announcing his country’s contribution of $100,000 to the Trust Fund for victims.
PAULO ABRÃO PIRES JUNIOR, National Secretary for Justice of Brazil, said it was not only important to address the issue of human trafficking from a law enforcement perspective, but also to take into account its human rights and socioeconomic dimensions. The problem’s multifaceted nature demanded a comprehensive approach in tackling the underlying causes. For instance, immigration policies and the lack of adequate capacity to deal effectively with immigration could compound the effects of human trafficking, he pointed out, adding that public policies should focus not only on enforcement actions, but also on prevention and providing aid to victims.
Brazil was committed to increasing the protection offered to undocumented foreigners and other vulnerable groups, such as the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community who were victims of human trafficking. There was also a need to pay special attention to gender inequality and all forms of discrimination against women, which were important causes of trafficking in persons, in both origin and destination countries. International cooperation, including enhancing the Global Plan of Action, must be based on shared responsibility and better coordination among origin, transit and destination countries, with the aim of protecting victims and prosecuting traffickers and those who benefited from their crimes. A consistent global network to protect and assist victims would discourage demand and prevent re-victimization, he noted.
MARISA HELENA MORAIS, Minister for International Administration of Cape Verde, called human trafficking a common global threat, which “we all must be engaged in fighting”. As an archipelago located off the West Coast of Africa, Cape Verde was geo-strategically positioned directly on the routes to three continents, a “privileged” location which, although providing a large and exclusive economic zone and being a major factor of the island nation’s development, also posed a risk, she said, pointing out that Cape Verde was located on the trafficking route, and had fallen victim not only of drug smuggling, but also of human trafficking.
Recently, dozens of women had been identified as being engaged in prostitution, she said, noting her country’s standing as a tourist destination. Aware of the risk of the problem expanding, the Government had outlined strategies to combat trafficking, in line with strong regional and international accords. Cape Verde was a signatory to various international agreements on human trafficking, having ratified the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. Today’s meeting was an opportunity to review the legal and institutional procedures, as well as the shortcomings of the current system, she said. Criminalizing human trafficking was a priority, as was protecting victims.
VALENTIN RYBAKOV, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belarus, recalled that a proposal by his country’s President, during the 2005 World Summit, had led to the formulation of the Global Plan of Action, realized through the efforts of the Group of Friends United to Combat Human Trafficking in Persons. The Global Plan of Action had five advantages: it was the first international document on the issue; it ensured a comprehensive approach, with due recognition of the importance of prevention, prosecution and protection; it had led to the creation of the Trust Fund, to which Belarus was now making a second contribution — $50,000; it focused on international coordination, whereas previous international efforts had concentrated on harmonizing national legislation; and it had led to an increase in the available information on trafficking because UNODC now issued a biannual report on the matter.
There were no final victories, but rather, the goal was to reduce the challenges to a minimum, he said. That required unswerving dedication by the main players. The next step was to focus on the trafficking of human organs. Quoting Rousseau’s Social Contract in noting that “man is born to be free, but is everywhere in chains”, he said that, although that statement had been made two-and-a-half centuries ago, it remained valid. People now wore the chains of human trafficking. A human contract for today was under construction, and it consisted of international legal documents and associations, forming a global partnership against slavery and human trafficking. Today’s “contract” was being built gradually as the scale of the threat was better understood.
HISHAM BADR, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs for International Organizations of Egypt, said that success in combating human trafficking was closely related to political commitment on the part of the international community, and urged Member States that had not already done so to ratify or accede to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. Secondly, there was a need for continued assessment of existing mechanisms in that field. Thirdly, combating human trafficking required a comprehensive approach, which would involve synchronizing and instituting coordinated action among the relevant United Nations agencies, bodies and mechanisms.
He went on to stress the importance of continuous monitoring and identification of emerging forms of trafficking, expressing his country’s concern about the rising rates of trafficking in children, while noting the pivotal role of entities including like the United Nations Task Force on transnational organized crime and drug trafficking, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), the Human Rights Council, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and others. He further underscored the importance of involving civil society actors and other stakeholders in the fight against human trafficking, saying they had a crucial role to play at the grass-roots level in assisting the implementation of policies, strategies and programmes. The key to success was identifying the problem in all its aspects and working on solutions. Success would come about through political will and commitment, cooperation at the regional and international levels, as well as among origin, transit and destination countries, he said, stressing also the need for partnerships with the various stakeholders. Egypt was keen to play its part by monitoring emerging forms and manifestations of trafficking in persons, he affirmed.
JULIO ARRIOLA, Vice Minister for Administration and Technical Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Paraguay, said his country had incorporated several measures into its Constitution and penal code that addressed all forms of slavery, including sexual and labour exploitation, as well as non-consensual removal of organs, and which strove to protect victims and comprehend criminals. Further, the Government had established an inter-agency bureau that acted as a coordinating body. In addition, the legislature was currently discussing the provision of national funds, among other initiatives, in the fight against human trafficking. Workshops were being developed to train law enforcement officers, judiciary officials, as well as students, teachers and the public. Awareness-raising campaigns targeting women, boys, girls and adolescents had been launched, and joint actions with the private sector were offering new employment alternatives.
Comprehensive care for victims and reintegration programmes for women had been established, alongside regional centres and safe houses in border cities and other targeted areas. International cooperation was critical, he said, noting that, as an origin, transit and destination country, Paraguay had been severely affected by human trafficking due to its poverty. The principle of shared international responsibly meant that all stakeholders, including transit and destination countries, must redouble their efforts in the “solidarity-based fight” against trafficking. Recently, working with regional partners, Paraguay had dismantled 10 human-trafficking networks and accomplished dozens of releases. The Global Plan of Action was both universal and practical, he said, urging support for the Trust Fund in order to facilitate the launch of prevention and information campaigns.
MARCELA CHACÓN, Deputy Minister for the Interior of Costa Rica, said her country had taken on the commitment to combat human trafficking, especially since 2003, when it had become a party to the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. In most cases, human trafficking was conducted in well-organized structures, and therefore, a similar approach was needed to combat it. In that regard, the Global Plan of Action was essential to multilateral efforts to ensure prevention, prosecution of perpetrators and assistance to victims. After all, human trafficking was considered the third most lucrative organized crime after trafficking in drugs and weapons.
Costa Rica had established a commission that promoted national, local and regional policies for prevention and providing help to victims, she said. National guidelines and a strategic plan of action had also been implemented alongside a law against the mistreatment of human beings, approved last year, which provided the authorities with modalities of action and strengthened institutions involved in combating labour exploitation and human trafficking, specifically the smuggling of harvested organs.
Fundamental to that success was the coordination of Government agencies with civil society and the focus on victims. On the regional level, a coalition of Central American countries promoted the coordination of various commissions and advisory boards for the purpose of consolidating mechanisms and enhancing their impact. It also promoted a framework for regional legal action. However, considerable challenges remained in the area of “assisting victims, protecting them and helping them return to a dignified life”, she said. Furthermore, Costa Rica’s geographic position posed some challenges as it was on the north-south human trafficking route.
JIGMIDDASH BAYARTSETSEG, State Secretary, Ministry of Justice, Mongolia, said that trafficking for sexual exploitation was the most common form of human smuggling affecting her country. The Government had passed the Law on Combating Human Trafficking in 2011, and was revising the Programme of Action for the national policy over the next five years. It had established a national council with the aim of implementing and coordinating national efforts. Comprehensive reform of the criminal justice system were focused especially on newly emerging and transnational crimes, and the Government was to establish an independent investigation authority with jurisdiction over such crimes.
Prevention efforts were also of great importance, and the Government was providing information packages and study programmes for students, with the goal of raising awareness, she said. Cooperation with non-governmental organizations was aimed at improving coordination. Victims were offered rehabilitation services, including professional training, and were provided with legal aid and advice, while border security management was being tightened through the issuance of e-Passports to Mongolian citizens. She called for closer international cooperation and partnership, with particular focus on mutual legal assistance agreements on criminal matters such as trafficking. Mongolia had signed the Agreement on Cooperation to Combat Trafficking in Persons, signed with China’s Macao Special Administrative Region, and its efforts under the Global Plan of Action were already bearing fruit, especially with regard to the significant increase in crime detection and prosecution.
ABDULRAHIM YOUSIF AL-AWADI, Assistant Foreign Minister for Legal Affairs of the United Arab Emirates, said that success in combating human trafficking depended mainly on dealing with issues of poverty and vulnerability, which led individuals to fall victim. Capacity-building, the creation of a protective environment, including the empowerment of women and finding ways to protect girls, was also vital. Accordingly, the responsibility to fight human trafficking rested not with destination countries alone, but also, and to a greater extent, with origin countries, he said, stressing that they should prevent the causes that led to the exploitation of victims and ensure that they prevented human trafficking especially of women, under the cover of exporting labour. The United Arab Emirates had made notable progress in its efforts to fight human trafficking since the launch of its National Comprehensive Campaign to Combat Human Trafficking in 2006.
Specifically on prevention, the Government had enacted, in 2006, the first such law in the Middle East, he said, noting that its provisions covered all forms of human trafficking. Further, the Government had taken a number of internal measures to promote awareness of trafficking through the media and at points of entry into the country. As for prosecution and punishment, he said the authorities had enhanced their capabilities and efficiency in detecting trafficking and in prosecuting the perpetrators, in accordance with the law. The Government was keen on closer cooperation with the relevant international and regional organizations, such as the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Human Rights Council and the League of Arab States, in order to enhance regulations covering imported labour. In that regard, it had signed 26 treaties with many Governments and organizations, he said.
ABDULLAHI AHMED YOLA, Solicitor-General, Federal Ministry of Justice, Nigeria, said his country was strongly committed to the Protocol on Trafficking in Persons and had established an effective legal and institutional framework for its implementation. It included the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons, charged with coordinating the national response in preventing human trafficking. He also paid tribute to the role of civil society organizations in various areas of trafficking-related intervention, saying that, in order to the sustainability of programmes intended to address the issue, the Government had established the National Stakeholders Consultative Forum to foster collaboration against trafficking.
Nigerian anti-trafficking legislation adhered to the principle of non-criminalization of victims, he said, pointing to the National Policy on Protection and Assistance to Victims of Trafficking and the Victims of Trafficking Trust Fund. Judicial and law enforcement cooperation were essential, and Nigeria had worked closely with eight European partner countries on an operation that had resulted in the arrests of 66 people, as well as the successful conviction of six traffickers in the Netherlands. Nigeria also provided technical assistance to other countries in West Africa and could point to 190 convictions recorded by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons, as well as the rehabilitation and reintegration of approximately 6,000 trafficking victims. There had also been progress on child labour, including the adoption of three ILO conventions and the validation of the National Policy on Child Labour and the National Action Plan for the Elimination of Child Labour in Nigeria (2013-2017). He called on destination countries to address the demand that made trafficking attractive to criminal networks.
LÍA LIMÓN, Undersecretary for Legal Affairs and Human Rights, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Mexico, said trafficking victims came from 136 countries and 118 States participated in the crime. Mexico’s laws offered restorative justice, as well as strategies to eradicate violence, thus providing the full exercise of human rights and establishing social peace, she said. With the implementation of the General Law on Victims and other recent reforms, Mexico’s legislation clearly set a regime of protection for victims, she said. They included reparations for damage to victims, as well as measures for their protection, investigative procedures in favour of victims where the burden on proof did not fall on them, coordinated action by Government agencies, and standardizing State and federal laws.
She went on to say that innovative regulations included the certification of shelters and vigilance measures to protect victims from harassment by traffickers. They also focused on the role of civil society in combating trafficking. The Government was also implementing training programmes to strengthen prosecutors and law-enforcement officials. However, enormous challenges lay ahead for the international community, she warned, expressing hope that today’s appraisal of progress would bring about more effective strategies to combat human trafficking. It was crucial that victims know they were not alone, and that forums like the high-level meeting were being constructed to combat the crime, as was public policy.
LUIS CDEBACA, Ambassador-at-Large, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Department of State, United States, described human trafficking as a form of modern slavery, a crime that hurt countries, as well as communities, ripped families apart and tore at the fabric of society. On that issue, one thing was clear: the international community spoke with one voice; there was no place for slavery in the twenty-first century. And the goal was also clear: abolition.
President Barack Obama had announced that the United States would adopt the first-ever strategic action plan to coordinate and strengthen services for trafficking victims in the United States, he said. The five-year plan, to go into effect later this year, had four goals: coordinate better at the national, State, local and tribal levels; raise awareness; make it easier to gain access to services; and to improve the quality of services. That meant tailoring solutions and making services available to all victims of human trafficking, regardless of gender, age, race, religion, nationality and sexual orientation.
“Trafficking in the United States looks like trafficking everywhere else in the world,” he continued. Among other things, women and children suffered at the hands of abusive pimps. Therefore, the responsibility to combat trafficking lay with everyone. From college students raising awareness and local communities passing modern anti-slavery laws, to consumers ensuring that the shrimp, cocoa and cotton they bought and consumed were not tainted by abuse. Indeed, on the policy level, it was essential to reject servitude to trafficking and to confront perpetrators so that victims could see their abusers brought to justice, he emphasized, before quoting Abraham Lincoln: “Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves.”
YOUSSOUFOU BAMBA (C ôte d’Ivoire), speaking on behalf of the African Group, condemned human trafficking as a serious threat to human dignity, human rights and development. Regarding the increased activity of criminal organizations profiting from the crime, he recalled that African Heads of State and Government had adopted the 2006 African Union-European Union Ouagadougou Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings, Especially Women and Children, and had initiated a decision to negotiate the Global Plan of Action adopted by the General Assembly in 2010.
There was an urgent need to address social, economic and other factors that made people vulnerable to trafficking, and to institute prevention programmes, he said. Supply-side prevention must be complemented by increased efforts to curb demand. Urging better information sharing, technical capacities, mutual legal assistance, and combating corruption and laundering of gains derived from trafficking, he said victims must also be empowered. Technical expertise and financial resources were needed to promote fair labour practices, as were migration policies promoting equality for all.
He went on to call for effective partnerships and the sharing of best practices and lessons learned in order to prevent, protect and help victims seeking justice. Their voices were crucial to policymaking, law enforcement and advocacy efforts. Indeed, decisions taken without input from victims could leave them more vulnerable, he warned. On regional efforts, he cited the joint Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)-Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) plan of action to combat human trafficking, particularly of women and children, as well as many bilateral efforts.
THOMAS MAYR-HARTING, European Union delegation, stressed the importance of the Palermo Protocol, which had first provided an internationally agreed definition of the human trafficking, and invited all States to ratify it. Worrying trends, such as the increase in the numbers of trafficked persons, and the decrease in convictions of traffickers in Europe, were reflected globally in the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) 2012 Global Report, he said, describing that document as one of the most practical outcomes of the Global Plan of Action. It provided the international community with data collection and biennial reporting on trafficking flows and patterns at the global, regional and national levels, he noted.
The European Union, he continued, had developed a dynamic and comprehensive legal policy framework, the European Union Strategy towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings 2012-2016. It favoured an integrated, multidisciplinary approach to human trafficking on the basis of five key priorities: identifying, protecting and assisting victims; stepping up prevention; increased prosecution of traffickers; enhanced coordination and cooperation among key actors and policy coherence; and increased knowledge of and effective response to emerging concerns relating to all forms of human trafficking. Underscoring the need to identify, assist, support, protect and compensate victims while also reducing demand as a form of prevention, he said the European Commission had published “The EU rights of victims of trafficking in human beings” as a model for Member States to develop clear, user-friendly information on the labour and social rights available to victims and migrants in the European Union.
HANS LUNDBORG, Ambassador-at-Large, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sweden, said the human trafficking was not only a violation of human rights, particularly those of women and children, but also a growing business. The money earned would fund other forms of criminal activity and should be of concern to every nation. A Swedish Government study had found some success, on the project level, in combating international human trafficking, but multilateral efforts were fragmented, and there was a fundamental need for better coordination, he emphasized. He then outlined some of the study’s findings on how to overcome that fragmentation.
He said the first issue was resources, noting that current allocations through the multilateral system were insufficient to combat the $32 billion business. Much greater funding was needed to successfully implement the Global Plan of Action. Secondly, Member States must give clear directives to the relevant organizations that anti-trafficking activities must be part of their mission and must produce results. Further synergies should be created throughout the United Nations system, including with agencies not directly involved in anti-trafficking activities. Finally, he stressed the importance of collecting sound data, pointing out that an effective monitoring and impact-evaluation system should be a priority.
TREVOR BHUPSINGH, Director General, Law Enforcement and Border Strategies Directorate, Canada, said his country had launched the National Plan to Combat Human Trafficking in June 2012, consolidating efforts and introducing new initiatives based on the four pillars of the trafficking Protocol. It had made significant progress in implementing the Global Plan of Action and in developing new tools to support the identification of at-risk populations, created education and awareness initiatives, and improved services for victims.
As well, civil society groups were crucial partners in combating trafficking and as advocates for victims, often were their first point of contact. They possessed the necessary skills and expertise to meet the needs of victims, to educate communities and to support research, he said. Turning to the international level, he said that since 2008, Canada had provided, approximately, assistance amounting to $30 million in the Americas, South—East Asia and Eastern Europe, working in partnership with UNODC, UNICEF, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Institute for the Development of Women in El Salvador. In conclusion, he called for “the widest possible implementation” of the anti-trafficking Protocol as the key international instrument guiding the fight against the crime.
RARINTHIP SIRORAT, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, Thailand, emphasized the relevance of the Global Plan of Action in the fight against human trafficking, noting however, that implementation gaps remained in domestic, regional and international cooperation. As long as economic disparities and poverty persisted, people would continue to travel in search of a better life, he said. Whereas women and girls were the most vulnerable victims, the number of male victims had risen significantly, as well. Indeed, it was education level, rather than gender, that usually indicated a person’s vulnerability.
He said Thailand had undertaken fresh efforts at the national level to combat trafficking, such as intensifying inspections of labour recruitment and employment, and cooperating on the development of an Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons. Moreover, a central database had been initiated to link up information collected by relevant agencies and to facilitate case monitoring. On prevention, awareness-raising and training for law enforcement officers had resulted in nationwide recognition of the issue’s importance. In addition, Thailand continued to work on prevention by addressing root causes, including through free education and local income generation. He also touched on measures undertaken in the areas of prosecution and protection, such as the creation of a special anti-human trafficking department and basic necessities, such as a 24-hour medical care, legal aid and non-formal education.
ÁLVARO MENDONÇA E MOURA, (Portugal), associating himself with the European Union delegation, said that human trafficking was not only a transnational crime, but an attack on the dignity of the individual, and that, rather than decreasing, it was on the rise. The Global Plan of Action was an effective tool to reinforce the political will of Member States in combating the crime, and concerted mobilization was needed to raise awareness, improve international cooperation and coordination, provide aid to victims, and “in a word, prevent and combat trafficking”.
Emphasizing that the Global Plan of Action had been framed by existing legal instruments, he said it was never designed to duplicate or replace them. Furthermore, it was not intended to undermine legally binding international treaties, but to reinforce them by promoting their universal ratification and effective implementation. Additionally, because tackling human trafficking required a multi-sector approach, the human rights perspective had been included in the Global Plan of Action. In that regard, it was crucial to offer victims support through the Trust Fund.
On the national level, he said all victims, both foreign and domestic, were entitled to the same assistance and services, including medical and psychological help, legal aid and the right to a basic standard of living. Portugal had two comprehensive national plans against human trafficking as a means to implement an effective global and integrated approach to its efforts. He stressed the importance of the 2012 UNODC report, saying that it not only offered data, but also best practices and lessons learned from regional initiatives.
Martin Sajdik ( Austria) moderated the first panel, on “The appraisal on the Global Plan of Action, relevant legal instruments, and effective partnerships to protect and assist victims of human trafficking”. Panellists were Rani Hong, Founder, Tronie Foundation and a trafficking survivor; Jim Clancy, Anchor, CNN International; Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children; Saisuree Chutikul, Member, Board of Trustees for the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking; and Kay Buck, Executive Director, Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking.
Mr. SAJDIK said in opening remarks that diplomats, in screening and investigating the intentions of visitors to their countries, realized first hand that human trafficking was a reality that could not be ignored. Although a “Sisyphusian” task, combating the crime required partnership, with civil society, media and survivors working with victims. Introducing the first panellist, he said she had been stolen from her family at the age of seven and forced into slavery. Near death at the age of eight and of no use to her owner, she had been sold into legal adoption and sent to the United States, where she had found stability and safety.
Ms. HONG said there were millions of children “like the little girl I was”, but with love and proper care, they could heal as she had done. Now married to another survivor, their foundation’s mission was to “deliver the humanity of human trafficking”. Through effective partnership, the acronym “HELP” guided their work. It stood for: Halt; Educating consumers about trafficking; Labelling products made by former slaves and taking measures to adopt a global label; and Protecting and assisting slaves.
Mr. CLANCY, speaking as a representative of both CNN and the news media, said coverage of trafficking had not been perfect overall. “We have been the best of it and the worst of it,” he added, noting that media advertised the cheaper projects and hailed the greater profits. However, across the board and around the world, awareness of human trafficking had not always been there, he said, adding that the result was often finger pointing while ignoring one’s own backyard. It was possible that a victim of human trafficking could be working in shops just a few blocks from the United Nations that participants might have frequented. However, the success of CNN’s Freedom Project was notable for having brought awareness of the crime to the foreground, he said, describing the project which, initially intended to last a year, was now heading into its third year.
Ms. EZEILO said the emphasis on cross-cutting partnerships meant that all global stakeholders could work together, placing joint efforts at the core of all anti-trafficking activities. She also emphasized that victims rarely received reparations, due mostly to a lack of information and assistance. They were often deported before being properly identified as victims. It was important to identify and address conditions such as poverty, violence and lack of opportunity, among others, that rendered people vulnerable to trafficking, she said. Furthermore, victims must be included in the development of methods and actions addressing their situation, otherwise, advocacy action would not be sustainable. In that regard, non-governmental organizations working at the grass roots needed funding and other support, she said.
Ms. CHUTIKUL said that, in its first three-year cycle, the Trust Fund had funded programmes and activities that helped victims directly through comprehensive and inclusive services, in compliance with the Global Plan of Action and other international standards. However, out of 193 Member States, only 12 had actually contributed to the Fund, and of those 12, Austria and Luxembourg had contributed twice. The total actual amount received was only $549,000, which was only 57.7 per cent of what had been pledged. Two countries had not given their pledges at all and one had contributed only 20 per cent. The Fund also received private donations and funding from the private sector, which comprised 23 per cent of the Fund’s income. However, that funding had supported 11 projects so far. She concluded by pointing out that every day seemed to bring new forms of human trafficking, including a “weird” one whereby young women were forced to become pregnant so that their babies could be sold. The name of that business was “Baby 101”.
Ms. BUCK said her organization had designed an innovative legal clinic that provided comprehensive services for victims while also developing capacity-building for participating law firms. In the past year, 193 adult and children survivors had been assisted, alongside 150 family members from around the world. The programme offered a holistic, trauma-informed and rights-based approach, she said, adding that advocacy and assistance with law enforcement addressed immigration solutions for survivors, discrimination in housing and advocacy for victim-witnesses in court, among other things. Their advocacy network included 30 law firms working pro bono, she said, noting that, through legal advocacy, the lives of survivors would be profoundly affected. Once they received legal protection, they were able to obtain legal work and become self-sufficient. “Being liberated in any country is just the very first step to freedom.”
In the ensuing interactive dialogue, participants raised concerns about the nature of partnerships, with the representative of Equality Now, a global advocacy network for women and girls, questioning how survivor-focus input could be included in policymaking, especially given that none of her organization’s 86 partners working directly with survivors had been consulted in recent reports of the Global Commission on HIV, the LAW Report, or Sex Work and the Law in Asia and the Pacific. That undermined the spirit and intent of the trafficking Protocol, she said.
Ms. EZEILO urged non-governmental organization to continue to raise their voices, emphasizing that the United Nations was where they were included and valued.
Other participants highlighted the role of gender, a major element of trafficking, with the representative of Brazil urging expanded methodology at borders and airports to help identify women and children victims.
The issue of inadequate funding of the Trust Fund was brought to the fore by several delegates and participants, as the representative of Sweden announced that he had just received confirmation that his country would be contributing $100,000, although that was “peanuts” compared to what was needed.
Mr. CLANCY said that, compared to the profits from trafficking, it was appalling how little monies were given to victims when funds were clearly crucial for taking action.
Ms. CHUTIKUL, thanking Sweden’s representative for the generous contribution, asked how participation and partnership could be encouraged. Of the 12 contributing countries, only four were in Asia, one in Latin America, two in the Middle East and none in North America. She also emphasized that the definition of trafficking in domestic legislation was not an issue of polemics, saying that national laws that were harmonized with neighbouring States could provide protective measures to victims.
Ms. HONG emphasized that the international community must be accountable by ensuring compliance with the Global Plan of Action. “Remember, you are making a difference and we, as survivors, are counting on you.”
Antonio Pedro Monteiro Lima ( Cape Verde) moderated the final panel on “Sharing best practices and lessons learned for prevention and prosecution in the implementation of the Global Plan of Action, and relevant legal instruments”. The panellists were: Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol of Thailand; Hans Lundborg, Ambassador-at-Large on Human Trafficking, Sweden; Lakshmi Puri, Assistant Secretary-General and Acting Executive Director, UN-Women; and Jean Baderschneider, President, End Human Trafficking Now and Chair, National Leadership Council, Polaris Project.
Mr. MONTEIRO LIMA said in opening remarks that the nature of trafficking was changing. Children of five years and younger were victims, and people were being trafficked for their organs, tissues and cells. Human trafficking shook the foundation of society, impacting everyone because it could be “our own children” affected by the denial of fundamental social values. If that were allowed to happen, societal values would “rot from within”, he warned.
Princess BAJRAKITIYABHA said that effective prosecution of traffickers would show that the crime was no longer a low-risk, high-profit business. To that end, the Protocol against Human Trafficking and other human rights conventions must be implemented fully. A major challenge was the lack of victim collaboration for fear of reprisals from their traffickers, which perpetuated the cycle by allowing traffickers to be released on bail. She also raised the problem of law enforcement responses to trafficking, including the failure to make a record of victims or to inform their home countries. The definition of human trafficking in national legislation should reflect the internationally accepted one, she stressed.
Mr. LUNDBORG said that, since 1999, Sweden had prohibited the purchase of all sexual services through a unique law that punished the buyer rather than the seller, the latter being the weaker party exploited by the former, who was stronger. Punishing sellers made it more difficult to rehabilitate them, while targeting the buyer was meant to keep both men and women from buying sex, he added. While the legislation had deterred buyers, that alone was not enough, but according to police and social workers, Sweden was now seen as a poor market for sexual services. The law had had a normative effect on society, with more than 70 per cent of the population now approving of it. Criminal groups that sold people for sexual services relied on buyers to create demand, so the legislation was useful. Even more critical, however, was giving a higher priority to human trafficking by providing the necessary financial resources. Without that, the multi-billion-dollar human trafficking business would continue, he warned.
Ms. PURI said that, in most developing countries, the supply for traffickers arose from the lack of economic opportunity and decent work, as well as other development-related factors, including climate change and environmental degradation. Awareness must be raised among potential target groups and their families. Further, the response must be holistic and multisectoral, addressing labour and migration, among other issues. She called on Governments to criminalize all forms of trafficking, including by holding accountable all those along the trafficking chain. Stressing the importance of support services for women and girl victims, she said that it was essential to integrate the perspectives and experiences of survivors into policy. The gap between commitment and action must be bridged, she said, underlining the need to invest in a holistic, rights-based approach.
Ms. BADERSCHNEIDER said the business sector must be engaged to create change. Since they bought materials and used labour, they should have one mission — to ensure that their supply chains were free of trafficking. Emphasizing that ways must be found to prevent forced labour, she said companies must rigorously establish compliance with laws against forced labour and be accountable. Contracts must use explicit language against forced labour and regular audits should be conducted to ensure that workers received the pay due to them, among other things. Providing local jobs and long-term microfinancing could address the supply side of trafficking.
In the ensuing interactive dialogue, the representative of Nigeria referred to Sweden’s criminalizing the purchase of sexual services, saying that his own country had stepped up its legislation and awareness campaigns, but had found that if there were no real effort to address the demand side, nothing more could be done.
The representative of Eritrea said there had been a failure to prosecute human traffickers in destination countries and to protect victims upon arrival, citing the example of three Eritrean community centres set on fire in Stockholm.
The representative of Costa Rica said that trafficking organizations operated as efficiently as transnational corporations and were able to change their methods quickly. Governments alone could not combat them, and efforts must be directed not only towards sanctioning criminals, but to the victims and their needs. In order to eradicate the illness, curing the sick was insufficient, she said, stressing the importance of prevention.
The representative of Argentina said early warning was important in reducing the number of victims, and encouraged States to work in a way that would not affect the rights of victims in early-warning situations. There should be free and anonymous channels for reporting, as people often did not trust police or public prosecutors.
The representative of Jamaica noted that work was carried out when the highest levels of Government were engaged.
A representative of Vital Voices Global Partnership asked how Member States could translate commitment into a “trickle down” to local implementation.
Ms. PURI, responding to comments from the floor, reiterated the four “Ps” — prevention, protection, prosecution and provision of services.
Princess BAJRAKITIYABHA stressed the importance of prevention through strengthening education, the need to empower women and the importance of collecting data from law enforcement and the judiciary in forming policy.
Mr. LUNDBORG emphasized the importance of looking at underlying causes, such as poverty and others mentioned, but also corruption, noting that countries seemed hesitant to establish good mechanisms to fight it. Failing to do so opened the door to trafficking, he warned.
Ms. BADERSCHNEIDER, agreeing that corruption was a huge problem, said that something akin to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act should be established in respect of the private sector and trafficking. There was also a need to calculate the costs of forced labour, she said, adding that businesses must be at the table discussing trafficking, and should be compelled to do so if it was unwilling.
Also participating were representatives of Armenia and the United Arab Emirates.
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