Press Conference on Human Trafficking by Executive Director of United Nations Office on Drugs And Crime

13 May 2009

Press Conference on Human Trafficking by Executive Director of United Nations Office on Drugs And Crime

13 May 2009
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York




Stressing that only 1 to 2 per cent of the millions of human trafficking victims were rescued every year, Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), implored Member States this afternoon to do a better job of combating the scourge.

“We keep saying, we keep claiming it’s a tragedy found in all countries,” he said at a Headquarters press conference, noting that one third of the Organization’s Member States had not ratified the United Nations Protocol against the Trafficking in Persons, known as the Palermo Protocol, and half had never convicted anyone of the crime.  Many countries lacked domestic anti-trafficking laws.  “Obviously, this points to a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done.”

He said UNODC had developed a toolkit to help law enforcement spot warning signs, identify victims and bring perpetrators to justice.  It had also published a Model Law and a handbook for parliamentarians on the subject.  “All of that shows that the preconditions for effectiveness in our common endeavours are there, but we’re still far from attaining results.”

Earlier in the day, Mr. Costa had addressed the General Assembly’s day-long interactive thematic dialogue titled “Taking collective action to end human trafficking”, saying Member States must look at the root causes of human trafficking -- such as poverty, violence against women, ignorance, cultural practices and demand for cheaper goods and services -– in charting a course for worldwide action.  The Assembly was debating whether to draft a comprehensive global action plan on human trafficking -- which had already received support from the African Union and the Non-Aligned Movement -– and preparing for the next meeting of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.  (See Press Release GA/10827)

Also addressing the press conference was Nestor Arbito Chica, Minister for Justice and Human Rights of Ecuador, who said States must adapt better to the changing dynamics of human trafficking through better coordination.  In 2005, Ecuador had made human trafficking a national crime, subsequently developing a national plan that included strong legal penalties for perpetrators, a broadening of the definition of the crime and educational programmes to make citizens better aware of it.

Saisuree Chutikul, a member of the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, said that, in Asia, ratifying the Palermo Protocol and other international laws was often a long legislative process.  In the interim, many countries had incorporated the Protocol’s provisions into domestic legislation.

Asked whether the anti-trafficking measures of several Gulf States participating in today’s debate were tough enough, Mr. Costa said they had been good partners of UNODC in the fight against narcotics trafficking in the region.  In the last few years, they had also taken myriad steps to guide camel racing towards the use of electronically guided jockeys in place of young children, who were often trafficked to work as jockeys in the popular regional sport.  That was a good example of using new technologies to address some aspects of human trafficking.

In response to a question as to why China, Saudi Arabia and Iran were not covered in UNODC’s Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, he said the survey had some disturbing gaps because some countries had not replied to the agency’s questionnaire seeking information on human trafficking, despite repeated requests.  Fully 155 countries had replied, however.

As for whether the United States had signed the relevant human trafficking conventions, Mr. Costa said it had ratified them all except the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition.

Ms. Chutikul added that, while the United States had not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it had ratified its Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.

Asked about Stockholm International Peace Research Institute report claiming that 90 per cent of air cargo companies identified in United Nations reports as transporting illegal arms had also been used by the Organization’s agencies for peacekeeping missions, Mr. Costa said he did not detect “a real partner or specific foul play” in the world body’s use of companies it deemed appropriate.  However, UNODC was aware that, in West Africa, several airplanes carrying narcotics had illegally used United Nations logos as a cover for their operations.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.