Remarks by H.E. Mr. Abdulla Shahid, President of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly
22 November 2021
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I welcome you to this High-Level Meeting for the appraisal of the Global Plan of Action to combat human trafficking.
I particularly welcome the presence of survivors of human trafficking, whose voices are needed to remind us that this is more than policy, this is human tragedy.
I would like to thank one of those survivors, artist and advocate, Ms. Kendall Alaimo, who has graciously allowed her artwork, entitled ‘Survivors’ Voices Lead the Way’, to feature throughout the event and its associated campaigns.
We will hear more from Ms. Alaimo, this afternoon, about the story behind this painting.
The UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, and its supplementing Trafficking in Persons Protocol, were significant steps to recognize and combat this heinous crime.
And since its adoption by the General Assembly, the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Human Trafficking – with its focus on preventing trafficking, prosecuting offenders, and protecting victims – has remained pivotal in implementing the convention and its supplementing protocol.
Yet, despite progress, trafficking in persons persists.
We must remain vigilant.
Human trafficking deprives millions worldwide of their dignity and freedom. It undermines national security, distorts markets, and enriches transnational criminals and terrorists, and is an affront to our universal values.
Human trafficking is linked to a number of crimes, including illicit money flows, the use of fraudulent travel documents, and cybercrime.
While there are many forms of trafficking, the one consistent aspect is the abuse of the inherent vulnerability of the victims.
We must continue to improve capacities to prevent and respond to human trafficking.
And we must address the root causes that facilitate the trafficking in the first place.
In adopting the Global Plan of Action, Member States recognized that poverty, unemployment, gender-based violence, discrimination, and marginalization, are among contributing factors.
Contributing factors that have all been exacerbated by COVID-19.
The continuing pandemic has left survivors of trafficking with less support and weakened states’ ability to identify and hold perpetrators accountable.
It is imperative that the global community redoubles its efforts to recover better from the pandemic and build resilient communities.
This includes obtaining more research, data, and analysis on how this crime is being carried out, how it is evolving, and who it is targeting and impacting.
This will allow us to make better decisions on preventative measures and responses.
We must prioritize a ‘victim and survivor-centered approach’ to combating trafficking in persons.
One that includes survivors in policy development.
One that considers how existing policies and practices impact trafficking, including those on human rights, gender equality, migration, labor, education, and health.
And one that adopts a whole-of-society approach to combatting trafficking. That strengthens partnerships between governments, civil society, and the private sector, while integrating the perspectives of survivors and recognizing trafficked persons as agents of change.
Through collaboration, we can build up strong legal and policy frameworks, empower human rights defenders, and enhance victims’ access to justice.
I am pleased that stakeholders representing multiple sectors will participate in this meeting, either virtually or in person.
Trafficking is first and foremost, a severe human rights violation, one that thrives off prejudices and systematic inequalities, including gender inequality, discrimination, racism, and xenophobia.
As we develop anti-trafficking frameworks, and devise new methods of identifying and protecting victims, we must consider how the interplay of various prejudices and iniquities render individuals more vulnerable.
We must also recognize the unfortunate truth that migrants are among the most discriminated against and marginalized communities, and therefore among the most vulnerable to human trafficking.
We have a responsibility to implement policies which reduce migrants’ risk of being trafficked, during every stage of their journey.
And we must introduce additional measures to ensure the effective protection of migrant workers within their host societies.
Over the next two days, this meeting will provide us an opportunity to focus our attention on how to improve responses to human trafficking.
Over the course of our discussions and deliberations, let us never forget the human impact of this vile crime: the brutal realities experienced by victims, and the bravery and resilience of survivors.
We will hear from some of those survivors during this High-Level Meeting.
Their mere presence here testifies to the fortitude of the human spirit.
Their courage reminds us of our obligations to do better to protect our communities and provide justice to victims.
Let us do right by them. Let us ensure that others do not endure the tragedies and deprivation that they endured.
Let us empower their work and listen to them as we craft and implement policy.
As President of the General Assembly, during a Presidency of Hope, I will do all that I can to bring together and work with partners to mobilize action against human trafficking.
I look forward to the opportunity over the next two days to engage in constructive dialogue so that we can collectively work together to advance our efforts to address this crime.
I thank you.
Throughout our disarmament efforts, it is my conviction that women and youth can make a meaningful contribution. Let us take special pains to ensure that women and youth, as well as civil society, are more actively engaged in this work going forward.