13 May 2009
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

press conference by permanent representatives of belarus, egypt


ON GLOBAL PLAN of action to prevent trafficking in persons


A draft global plan of action to prevent trafficking in persons was not a panacea, but a “practical tool to further efforts in a focused way to achieve results”, Andrei Dapkiunas, Permanent Representative of Belarus to the United Nations, said today as he shed light on efforts to create a comprehensive United Nation strategy to address human trafficking.

“We won’t be reinventing the wheel”, he said at a Headquarters press conference, adding that various existing instruments to combat human trafficking provided a workable structure and laid out specified goals.  However, the most important aspect of the draft plan of action would be its practical recommendations on what States, international organizations and civil society should do to enhance their contribution to the process.  Governments were motivated by a “very clear sense of the need to act”, and efforts to find financing were under way.  The global financial crisis had made human trafficking more acute by critically lowering living standards in developing countries, which compounded pressure on the most vulnerable.

Joining Mr. Dapkiunas was Maged Abdelaziz, Permanent Representative of Egypt, who explained that the Governments of Egypt, Belarus, Bahrain, Nicaragua, Philippines, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates had asked the President of the General Assembly to convene a thematic debate -– being held today -- that specifically addressed a global plan of action.

In those efforts, he said Egypt was acting on behalf of the African Group, in part because a resolution adopted last year at Sharm el-Sheikh had asked Governments to draft and adopt a global action plan.  More generally, Africa viewed the prospects for an action plan as particularly important, as its people had suffered the injustices of slavery and today were victims of trafficking.

Asked about the elements and mechanisms of the draft action plan, he said the drafting should be left to the General Assembly, recalling that the resolution directed Member States to begin negotiations under the Assembly President’s auspices.  In those efforts, the 2006 Ouagadougou Action Plan was being taken into account, particularly because it had “an element of agreement” with that of the European Union.

He said he also hoped to incorporate a wider perspective by including elements of other plans to combat trafficking, notably by the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).  The Non-Aligned Movement also had adopted a paragraph supporting the draft plan of action at its last ministerial meeting.

Asked why the initiative was important to his country, Mr. Dapkiunas said Belarus was affected by trafficking and understood that the scourge had no place in the twenty-first century.  “We empathize with people in trouble.”  The Government had examined the issue in 2005 and believed something could be done about finding like-minded partners.  Proposals had been made by various delegations and a critical mass of opinion had formed in the General Assembly to begin work on the draft plan of action.

As for how the draft plan would address the needs of women too terrified to speak out, he said “what is being done is not enough”.  The goal was to involve a spectrum of actors -– from the media to civil society organizations, which had the most contact with victims -– and incorporate a human rights character.

Mr. Abdelaziz added that the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) was studying the causes of human trafficking, the reintegration of victims and the responsibilities of States.

Asked for figures on human trafficking in Africa, Mr. Abdelaziz said the data could be found in the UNODC report.  Combating trafficking was a cooperative effort involving UNODC, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), International Organization Migration (IOM), International Labour Organization (ILO), and other United Nations agencies.  The draft plan would encompass all such agencies, as well as the private sector, non-governmental and civil society organizations.

In response to a comment about the need for intelligence to break trafficking rings, Mr. Dapkiunas said that INTERPOL was a critical partner in the process.  “We are looking for clever ideas, wherever they come from.  We have to be open to everybody”, including citizens.

Asked how long it would take to implement an action plan, Mr. Abdelaziz expressed hope that negotiations could be done during the Assembly’s sixty-third session, but cautioned that it was a consensus process and, as such, would take time.  “We want it sooner rather than later.”

Mr. Dapkiunas clarified that the votes were, indeed, there, notably from the African Union and the Non-Aligned Movement, but leaving even one participant out of the process would undermine the chances for success.

As for the cultural aspects of the problem, such as child abuse, he urged coordinating with the General Assembly in order to paint a full picture of the phenomenon.  “We have to understand this beast in all its unsightly complexity.”

Regarding a definition for trafficking in humans, Mr. Abdelaziz said there was no definition, but there were resolutions, and they should address the phenomenon in all its aspects.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record