Two girls apply makeup.

Every country in the world is affected by human trafficking

Human trafficking is a crime that exploits women, children and men for numerous purposes including forced labour and sex. Since 2003 the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has collected information on about 225,000 victims of trafficking detected worldwide. Globally countries are detecting and reporting more victims and are convicting more traffickers. This can be the result of increased capacity to identify victims and/or an increased number of trafficked victims.

In 2006, responding to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) request for intergovernmental agencies to further cooperate in order to strengthen technical assistance provided to countries in the area of human trafficking, the Government of Japan hosted a coordination meeting of international organizations working to counter trafficking in persons. The participating organizations (ILO, IOM, UNICEF, UN Women, UNHCR and UNODC) decided to continue the effort initiated and proposed the creation of a coordination group. The Inter-Agency Coordination Group Against Human Trafficking (ICAT) was formally established in March 2007.

In 2010, the General Assembly adopted the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, urging Governments worldwide to take coordinated and consistent measures to defeat this scourge. The Plan calls for integrating the fight against human trafficking into the UN’s broader programmes in order to boost development and strengthen security worldwide. One of the crucial provisions in the Plan is the establishment of a UN Voluntary Trust Fund for victims of trafficking, especially women and children.

The Trust Fund facilitates effective, on-the-ground assistance and protection to victims of trafficking, through grants to specialized NGOs. It aims to prioritize victims coming from a context of armed conflict and those identified among large refugee and migration flows.

In 2013, the General Assembly held a high-level meeting to appraise the Global Plan of Action. Member States also adopted resolution A/RES/68/192 and designated July 30 as the World Day against Trafficking in Persons. This resolution declared that such a day was necessary to “raise awareness of the situation of victims of human trafficking and for the promotion and protection of their rights.”

In September 2015, the world adopted the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and embraced goals and targets on trafficking in persons. These goals call for an end to trafficking and violence against children; as well as the need for measures against human trafficking, and they strive for the elimination of all forms of violence against and exploitation of women and girls.

Another important development is the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants, which produced the groundbreaking New York Declaration. Of the nineteen commitments adopted by countries in the Declaration, three are dedicated to concrete action against the crimes of human trafficking and migrant smuggling.

Every country in the world is affected by human trafficking, whether as a country of origin, transit, or destination for victims. Traffickers the world over continue to target women and girls. The vast majority of detected victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation and 35 per cent of those trafficked for forced labour are female. Conflict further exacerbates vulnerabilities, with armed groups exploiting civilians and traffickers targeting forcibly displaced people. Data also shows that trafficking happens all around us as the share of persons trafficked within their own country has doubled in recent years to 58 per cent of all detected victims, according to the 2018 UNODC Global Report on Trafficking in Persons.

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Coordinated action to address trafficking in persons for forced labour

The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating the precarious conditions of trafficked victims and allowing for the creation of new avenues for traffickers to recruit and exploit vulnerable people. In response, the Inter-Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons (ICAT), has released a new Issue Brief, seeking to increase awareness and provide a series of recommendations for policy action, identification and protection of victims, and accountability for perpetrators.