– As delivered –

Statement by H.E. Mr. Miroslav Lajčák, President of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly, at the Closing of High-level event on the appraisal of the UN Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons



Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen

I can’t tell you how upset I am by the experiences of Grizelda Grootboom, Shireen Ibrahim, Rani Hong and many others. And I know you were shocked too.

I would like to thank Ms. Grizelda Grootboom, a survivor and advocate, who bravely shared her experience of being trafficked. Let us not forget Ms. Grootboom’s plea to act. She said, and I quote, “I really hope that the Global Plan will not just take action on paper and pen, but that it will take action in every rule, township and country and city” *end of quote*. She spoke of the hope that the United Nations gives to victims and survivors. The United Nations was created for people, not for governments. We cannot let her down. Nor can we let down the millions of other people trafficked around the world for billions of dollars.

Ms. Mira Sorvino, UNODC Goodwill Ambassador commented that traffickers treat victims as “mercantile goods”. Ms. Rani Hong, a former victim who is now an advocate, recalled being taken from her mother at the tender age of seven and sold. We must support the dignity, human rights and humanity of the people affected by human trafficking. As Ms. Hong said, this is a human issue and it requires survivor-led solutions. We are no doubt all grateful for Grizelda Grootboom, Shireen Ibrahim, women and girls, children, boys and men – they are all people who deserve to live a decent and dignified life without fear of trafficking.

I am grateful to all the advocates who give voice to the voiceless millions subjected to human trafficking.

At the opening segment of this High-Level Appraisal we heard from the Secretary General of the United Nations and the Executive Director of UNODC, who highlighted the importance of holding perpetrators accountable. We also adopted the Political Declaration – a strong renewed commitment for action going forward and reaffirmation of the Global Action Plan. We need to turn it into practical action.

This High Level meeting heard statements from 98 member states, including 10 ministers and 7 vice-ministers as well as 6 observers. As we just heard from the chairs of the two panel discussions, the distinguished Permanent Representatives of Qatar and Belgium, the panel discussions were fruitful. But the true measure of a successful meeting, is whether the action points are implemented after. Our work is far from over.

We essentially asked two questions: First, how far have we come in combatting human trafficking? And , second, how much further do we have to go?

I am grateful to all the advocates who give voice to the voiceless millions subjected to human trafficking.


President of the UN General Assembly

The following points were made during this High-Level Appraisal:

Point number 1: Millions of people are victims of forced labour, sexual servitude and other forms of exploitation. Trafficking in persons affects the weakest and most vulnerable members of society, including women, girls and boys.

Point number 2: A number of member states highlighted the importance of using the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, and other international instruments in our fight against human trafficking. Many member states also shared their national plans and laws to combat human trafficking. They noted that human trafficking is a serious crime and a violation of fundamental rights.

Point number 3: Various member states also called on us to adopt approaches that are victim-focused, survivor-based, human-rights- based, gender-specific and child-sensitive. There was also emphasis on the importance of multi-stakeholder approaches, awareness raising campaigns and bilateral, regional and international cooperation.

Point number 4: The need to address root causes of and contributory factors to trafficking was highlighted. These causes and factors include: poverty, lack of education and opportunities and gender inequality. Many speakers pointed out that the increase in conflicts, insecurity and economic uncertainty forcing millions to leave their homes makes people vulnerable. They called for the Global Compact on Migration to address vulnerability of migrants.

Point number 5: Member states recalled that the Sustainable Development Goals – particularly goals 5, 8 and 16 – call on us to end human trafficking with emphasis on women and children.

Point number 6: There were calls for increased access to justice and emphasis on the need to disrupt trafficking networks, improve prosecution and conviction rates of traffickers.

Point number 7: Many speakers drew attention to the huge profits made from human trafficking and the need to address both “demand” and “supply”.

And finally, point number 8: The need for strengthened support for victims, particularly through the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children was highlighted. I commend those who have pledged contributions and encourage others to do the same.

In conclusion, we have heard from member states the progress made in fighting human trafficking. But, as many have highlighted, we have much more to do across the four pillars of prevention, prosecution, protection and partnership. As we take further action to combat human trafficking, let us remember our fifth P – the reason the UN is here – people.

I thank you.