Prevention, Protection, Prosecution Stressed as Security Council Holds Open Debate on Human Trafficking, Modern Slavery, Forced Labour in Conflict Situations

SC/12751
15 March 2017
7898th Meeting (AM)

Prevention, Protection, Prosecution Stressed as Security Council Holds Open Debate on Human Trafficking, Modern Slavery, Forced Labour in Conflict Situations

Some Delegates Question Whether Topic Falls under 15-Member Organ’s Purview

With conflict driving the desperation and disorder that enabled human traffickers to thrive, the Security Council should pursue cooperation on cross-border prevention, protection and prosecution in fighting the widespread impunity they enjoyed amid the mass displacement of vulnerable millions, speakers said today.

As the Council considered trafficking in persons, forced labour, slavery and other similar conflict-situation practices, Secretary-General António Guterres said 21 million people around the world faced forced labour and extreme exploitation, while the perpetrators reaped annual profits estimated at $150 billion.  Beyond numbers was the human toll of lives cut short and families and societies torn apart amid gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian.

In many cases, he continued, people smugglers coerced individuals for profit yet impunity prevailed, with hardly any convictions for trafficking-related crimes, either in conflict situations or elsewhere.  Emphasizing that much more could be done to prevent or punish the crime, he said that, since trafficking did not respect borders, Member States must strengthen cooperation on law enforcement, investigations and intelligence-sharing.  Meanwhile, underlying vulnerabilities must be addressed by empowering girls through education, ensuring respect for the rights of minorities and establishing safe and legal migration channels.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development could help to break the chains of exploitation, he said, noting that three of the Agenda’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals explicitly addressed human trafficking.  The United Nations would remain committed to supporting victims and incorporating their views and voices when developing and implementing anti-trafficking interventions, the Secretary-General stressed.  “At a time of divisions in so many areas, this should be an issue that can unite us.”

Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), delivered a briefing by video link from Vienna, explaining that criminals saw a clear, low-risk, high-reward business opportunity as conflict displaced countless people and the rule of law broke down.  They used human trafficking to exploit instability and vulnerability, thriving where the rule of law was weak.  Armed groups preyed on children while organized crime networks exploited many thousands of people on the move.  There was a clear need to make the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol against Trafficking in Persons more effective, he emphasized.

Member States must devote greater resources to identifying and helping victims, he continued.  The international community must continue to build the capacities to improve criminal-justice actions such as detecting, investigating and successfully prosecuting human trafficking cases.  UNODC, for its part remained engaged in helping Member States improve responses, helping to identify and protect victims, as well as in building capacities to disrupt organized crime and terrorist groups, he said.  “The best way we can swiftly improve action against trafficking and protect the vulnerable is to fully implement and make use of the frameworks we have worked so hard to build and more effectively deploy the tools we have painstakingly crafted to confront human trafficking in all its forms.”

Ilwad Elman of the Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre in Mogadishu spoke by video link from Somalia, describing the scale of human trafficking in her country as overwhelming.  She said she had helped those living in squalor during the 2011 famine, particularly those in refugee camps, and shared stories about people who had travelled for days just to reach safety.  Yet, upon reaching the camp for the internally displaced in Mogadishu, they had found rampant sexual exploitation, she said.  Forced marriage was another major issue in the camps, she said, recounting the story of a young woman forced to marry a man who had then charged other men to have sex with her.  She urged the Council to denounce human trafficking in conflict situations and to counter narratives intended to normalize it, while underlining the need to strengthen civil society organizations working to combat the crime.

In the ensuing discussion, Member States emphasized the need to stamp out criminal networks and terrorist groups involved in human trafficking, whether it was Boko Haram, Al-Qaida in the Maghreb or Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh).

Ethiopia’s Minister for Women and Children’s Affairs said kidnapping was a typical means of extortion, and that criminal and terrorist groups were adept at using mobile money-transfer systems to collect ransom.  There must be enhanced cooperation among origin, transit and destination countries, she emphasized.

Luxembourg’s Minister for Equal Opportunities said her country was working with its regional partners to disrupt and dismantle the economic model of traffickers in the Mediterranean area.  Stronger cooperation with neighbouring countries had brought together actors on the ground, including non-governmental organizations.

Spain’s Minister for Health, Social Services and Equality described human trafficking as the commercialization of bodies and the reincarnation of slavery.  Victims must be placed at the centre of efforts to find a solution, she said, adding that the next five years would provide a historic opportunity to place the fight against modern slavery at the heart of United Nations efforts to that end.

With delegates noting that women and girls were disproportionately vulnerable to human trafficking and sexual exploitation, Senegal’s representative said gender violence was simply compounded in conflict situations, and the resurgence of human trafficking had led to the enslavement and sexual exploitation of millions of women and girls.

Bolivia’s representative said that oppression, capitalism and conflict had taken away the rights of many and left them extremely vulnerable to organized crime.  Some countries had not only promoted human trafficking through their policies, they now also promoted xenophobia and racism as they closed borders and built walls.  Universal citizenship would allow all people to move freely and thereby dismantle human trafficking networks, he said.

Meanwhile, several speakers questioned whether trafficking matters fell under the Council’s purview, with the Deputy Foreign Minister of Belarus underlining that the General Assembly would be the most appropriate forum for developing and coordinating efforts to combat the smuggling of people.  The Russian Federation’s representative, while recognizing the heinous nature of human trafficking, urged the Council to consider the topic as it reviewed conflict situations and questions of international peace and security.

Thailand’s representative emphasized that United Nations peacekeeping and all other personnel deployed in conflict and post-conflict areas must be properly trained to identify victims as well as those vulnerable to trafficking.

Also participating today were speakers representing the United Kingdom, France, Sweden, United States, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, China, Japan, Italy, Egypt, Uruguay, United Kingdom, Argentina, Australia (on behalf of Canada and New Zealand), Indonesia, Romania, Czech Republic, Turkey, Norway, Colombia, Portugal, Brazil, Liechtenstein, Iran, Estonia, Hungary, Pakistan, Germany, Austria, Peru, Bangladesh, Poland, Belgium, Cambodia, South Africa, Albania, Namibia, Bulgaria, Georgia, Morocco, Venezuela, Slovakia, Panama, Iraq, Syria, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Ireland, Republic of Korea, Djibouti, Philippines, Greece, Myanmar, Israel, Malaysia, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Azerbaijan, Uganda, Netherlands, Holy See, African Union, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Union.

Also speaking was participants representing the United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) and the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 5:10 p.m.

Opening Remarks

ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said trafficking networks had gone global, with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reporting victims in 106 countries and International Labour Organization (ILO) reports showing that 21 million people around the world faced forced labour and extreme exploitation, while the perpetrators reaped annual profits estimated at $150 billion.  Beyond numbers was the human toll of lives cut short and families and societies torn apart amid gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, he pointed out.  Spotlighting a range of trafficking targets, from women and girls to human organs, he said exploitation was also fuelling the global supply chain, transforming many lives for the better through clothes, smartphones, jewellery and other goods, but the real cost was not considered.  Gleaming new skyscrapers could owe some of their shine to the sweat of bonded labourers, he emphasized.

Flourishing where the rule law was weak and in situations of armed conflict, trafficking was thriving in Syria, where Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) had organized slave markets, he said, adding that Boko Haram considered slavery legal in areas under its sway.  In many cases, smugglers coerced individuals for profit yet impunity prevailed in all cases, with hardly any convictions for trafficking-related crimes, either in conflict situations or elsewhere.  Much more could be done to punish and prevent the crime, he stressed, noting that a solid legal and normative framework was in place, including the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing and Trafficking in Firearm.  Other instruments included the ILO conventions and the Global Plan of Action on Human Trafficking, which were built on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

He went on to underline that United Nations military and civilian personnel must also be held accountable.  Since trafficking did not respect borders, Member States must strengthen cooperation on law enforcement, investigations and intelligence-sharing.  Meanwhile, underlying vulnerabilities must be addressed by empowering girls through education, ensuring respect for the rights of minorities and establishing safe and legal migration channels.  Outlining further ways to advance progress, he said the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development could also help to break the chains of exploitation, noting that three of the Goals explicitly addressed human trafficking.

The Secretary-General also underscored the importance of exercising greater responsibility when engaging with the private sector as a key partner in sourcing from conflict areas in pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals, adding that better data and funding would also be crucial.  The United Nations was committed to supporting victims and incorporating their voices and views when developing and implementing anti-trafficking interventions, he said.  “At a time of divisions in so many areas, this should be an issue that can unite us,” he added.  “Let us come together around the key issues of prosecution, protection and prevention, and thereby build a future without human trafficking.”

YURY FEDOTOV, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), spoke via videoconference, saying that criminals and terrorists used human trafficking to exploit instability and vulnerability, thriving where the rule of law was weak.  Armed groups preyed on children while organized crime networks exploited many thousands of people on the move, he said, adding that, as conflict displaced countless people and the rule of law broke down, criminals saw a clear, low-risk, high-reward business opportunity.  States could do more, he added, emphasizing the clear need to make the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol against Trafficking in Persons more effective.

Some national laws applying to the actions of citizens abroad could be used to bring perpetrators to justice, he continued, stressing that anti-trafficking laws should not only criminalize trafficking, but also provide protection and support for victims.  Countries must devote greater resources to identifying and helping victims, and the international community must continue to build the capacities to improve criminal-justice actions to detect, investigate and successfully prosecute human trafficking cases.  In October, he said, Member States would appraise the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, while discussing and advancing anti-trafficking efforts in conflict situations.

He went on to express hope for a much higher level of direct assistance through the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, a facility established under the Global Plan of Action.  For its part, UNODC remained engaged in helping Member States improve responses, assisting in the identification and protection of victims and helping to build capacities to disrupt organized crime and terrorist groups.  It was also working with partners within the United Nations system, including the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, to mainstream responses to conflict cycles.  “The best way we can swiftly improve action against trafficking and protect the vulnerable is to fully implement and make use of the frameworks we have worked so hard to build and more effectively deploy the tools we have painstakingly crafted to confront human trafficking in all its forms,” he emphasized.

ILWAD ELMAN, Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre, spoke by video link from Somalia, describing the scale of human trafficking in her country as overwhelming.  Many Somali were also facing starvation, she said, warning that a repeat of the 2011 famine was highly probable.  “Here we are again,” she added, emphasizing that people could no longer afford to ignore the link connecting the looming famine with conflict and instability.  Recalling that the Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre had focused on helping those living in squalor during the 2011 famine, particularly those in refugee camps, she shared stories about people who had travelled for days just to reach safety.  Yet, upon reaching the camp for the internally displaced in Mogadishu, they had found rampant sexual exploitation, she said.  Women were often forced into transactional sex, either for food or for safety.  Forced marriage in the camps was another major issue, she said, recounting the story of a young woman forced to marry a man who had then charged other men to have sex with her.

That illustrated the fact that conflict and post-conflict environments severely exacerbated sexual exploitation and prostitution, as well as human trafficking, she continued, describing also the plight of children recruited as soldiers by Al-Shabaab.  All parties to the conflict in Somalia were guilty of forced labour in some way, she added, describing in particular the plight of women and girls, who were often raped by militants.  Sometimes they would fall pregnant and face abandonment, with no way to fend for themselves.  Conflict bred the desperation and disorder in which organized traffickers thrived, she said, noting that although traffickers made promises of a better life in Europe, their victims were more often than not sold into forced labour.  Urging the Security Council to denounce human trafficking in conflict situations and to counter narratives intended to normalize it, she also underlined the need to strengthen civil society organizations working to combat the crime.

KEVIN HYLAND, Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, United Kingdom, said that as that country’s first appointed Commissioner, his role was to spearhead national efforts to tackle modern slavery, both domestically and internationally.  Noting that terrorist organizations openly advocated slavery as a tactic of war, he noted that Da’esh was targeting minority groups and establishing slave markets.  Conflict also created environments in which modern slavery could flourish, he said, adding that erosion of the rule of law enabled transnational trafficking networks to act with impunity.

Noting that conflict caused the displacement of vulnerable people, he emphasized that war in Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia was alone responsible for more than half of the world’s refugees.  The number of displaced people had risen to 65 million, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) had reported that more than 70 per cent of all migrants moving from North Africa to Europe had experienced exploitation and human trafficking, mainly in Libya, he said, explaining that militia fighters in that country were subjecting migrants to forced labour and sexual exploitation in detention centres until they paid a ransom allowing them passage to Europe.

Long-established transnational organized crime groups were exploiting power vacuums resulting from conflict to expand their trafficking operations, he stated, adding that criminals were also taking advantage of conflict and instability in the Lake Chad Basin.  Urging international organizations and Member States to prioritize increased cross-border collaboration in the investigation and dismantling of human trafficking networks, he stressed that it was vital to “get smarter” at debriefing victims and sensitively sharing that information with law-enforcement and victim-support entities.  Efforts to tackle the traffickers and protect the vulnerable would only succeed by use of all the levers at the international community’s disposal, he stressed.

Statements

LAURENCE ROSSIGNOL, Minister for Families, Children’s and Women’s Rights of France, associated herself with the statement by the European Union delegation, saying the actions of Da’esh in the Middle East and Al-Shabaab in Africa illustrated the common thread between trafficking and conflict.  The list of atrocities committed in conflict and insecure environments — including sexual exploitation, kidnapping and rape — was very long, and the international community had invested heavily in tackling the crime, but extra efforts were now needed.  Women and children comprised some 80 per cent of trafficking victims, she said, expressing concern that far too few prosecutions moved ahead.  Human trafficking victims lacked protection, and the Security Council had a particular responsibility to authorize a robust international legal response, she said, calling also for more to be done in combating violence against women in conflict and post-conflict situations.

DEMITU HAMBISSA, Minister for Women and Children’s Affairs of Ethiopia, endorsed the statement to be delivered on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, emphasizing that criminal networks and terrorist groups were involved in human trafficking, whether it was Boko Haram, Al-Qaida in the Maghreb or Da’esh in Iraq and Syria.  African women and children escaping persecution or seeking a better life in Europe and the Middle East were falling victim.  Kidnapping was a typical means of extortion, he said, adding that criminal and terrorist groups were adept at using mobile money-transfer systems to collect ransoms.  It was imperative to put the right national policies, as well as legislative and institutional frameworks, in place, he said, noting that Ethiopia had ratified the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.  He also urged enhanced cooperation among origin, transit and destination countries in identifying, assisting and protecting victims, as well as in their repatriation and reintegration.  Increased humanitarian and development support should be provided to refugee-hosting countries, as well as transit and origin countries.

JAN KICKERT (Austria) said the smuggling of migrants was increasingly intertwined with trafficking in persons.  Well-managed regular migration while addressing the root causes of irregular migration was imperative to prevent smuggling and trafficking in persons.  Being a transit and destination country of increased migration movements, Austria had scaled up training for immigration and asylum officers of reception centres to identify victims of trafficking.  Further, a Joint Operational Office in Vienna had been established as a regional platform and contact point for investigators from countries of origin, transit and destination of migration.  In armed conflicts, trafficking in persons was used as a strategy to target ethnic and religious minorities.  Austria advocated for a victim-centred approach with a focus on preventing such phenomena and protecting the victims.  It was also clear that States had the primary responsibility to bring perpetrators to justice and end the climate of impunity.  In post-conflict settings, accountability and transitional justice mechanism were key to sustainable peace.

ÅSA REGNÉR, Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality of Sweden, associated herself with the European Union, saying her county was committed to eradicating human trafficking, an abuse that flourished due to conflict and massive civilian displacement.  The most effective way to end human trafficking was to address demand.  “Should there be no men buying sexual services, there would be no trafficking for sexual exploitation,” she said, emphasizing also the importance of preventing conflict and displacement and investing in sustainable development.  The Council had an important prevention role to play through the sustaining peace agenda, she said.  Since the effects of trafficking for sexual exploitation differed from the harm caused by trafficking for other forms of exploitation, all actions against such abuse should have a gender-specific approach, she emphasized, warning against the creation of legal markets for human traffickers.  Prostitution could never be regarded as a job, she stressed, urging Member States to consider legislation targeting people who purchased sex.

NIKKI HALEY (United States), recounting the story of a young Syrian woman forced into prostitution in Lebanon, noted that more than 21 million people were trapped in modern slavery and the problem was only becoming more difficult to resolve, with online predators luring people into trafficking rings.  Standing up to modern slavery and forced labour was an element of United States foreign policy and efforts to advance human dignity, she said, recalling President Donald Trump’s recent announcement that he would work to end human trafficking and devote more resources to that end.  A new programme created to finance transformational projects intended to end modern slavery aimed to raise funds from public and private sources, she said, adding that an advisory council was helping the Federal Government address human trafficking.

SERGIY KYSLYTSYA, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, said a recent evolution in trafficking methods amid ongoing conflicts had been reported and had led to a rise in the exploitation of civilians by terrorist groups.  That transnational threat required a transnational response, with the international community building on the momentum gained from the Council’s 2015 presidential statement on human trafficking and its adoption of resolution 2331 (2016).  Yet, widespread impunity persisted, he said, urging the international community to combat all forms of human rights abuses and violations in conflict.  Providing a snapshot of the situation in Ukraine, he recalled that IOM had launched a counter-trafficking programme in 1998, with a view to supporting governmental and civil-society efforts, and to ensure victims had access to assistance and justice.

He went on to state that Ukraine now had a national referral mechanism to identify, assist and protect victims, adding that his Government had ratified key international instruments.  However, no such instrument could be properly implemented in areas of Ukraine not under the Government’s control, he emphasized.  Three years of aggression by the Russian Federation had led to numerous cases of human trafficking and forced labour, many of which remained unaddressed.  International presences in Ukraine must cover activities in non-Government-controlled areas, he stressed.  The Russian Federation lacked effective mechanisms to address such crimes, according to the Council of Europe’s Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.  Pointing out that only the Russian Federation, among all Council of Europe member States, had not joined that Convention, he said a long-term resolution of the situation in Ukraine could only emerge from consistent political commitment and joint action to eradicate trafficking, promote justice and accountability, and protect victims.

MADINA ABYLKASSYMOVA, Vice-Minister for National Economy of Kazakhstan, urged greater coordination of the Interagency Coordination Group and improved management of the Voluntary Trust Fund.  All countries must ratify, universalize and reaffirm their commitment to the Global Plan of Action against Trafficking in Persons and the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.  At the same time, while criminal justice responses were essential, they could not be sufficient to prevent and address human trafficking in conflict-affected areas.  It was unfortunate that terrorist groups treated slavery and human trafficking as means for generating free labour, services and profits, as well as a method for degrading and displacing civilians.  Urging States to mobilize a stronger and more vigilant global response, she emphasized:  “We need to break the sources of income and financial flows of terrorist groups coming from human trafficking.”

GORGUI CISS (Senegal) said it was critically important to eradicate human trafficking, forced labour and slavery in conflict and post-conflict situations because they all undermined development and the rule of law.  Sadly, armed conflict represented an opportunity for traffickers, and the breakdown of law allowed them to operate in total impunity.  He described the plight of migrants and other victims of traffickers, saying they were compelled by conflict to uproot their lives and forced to make themselves ever more vulnerable.  Noting that gender-based violence and discrimination was compounded in conflict situations, he said the resurgence of human trafficking in armed conflict had led to the enslavement and sexual exploitation of women and girls.  He described human trafficking as inhuman and barbaric, emphasizing that extreme groups exploited it as a strategy of war in order to further their goals and ideology, consolidate power and bolster sources of financing.  It was vital to focus on the links between terrorism and organized crime, he stressed.

LIU JIEYI (China) said it was vital to step up efforts to combat human trafficking, emphasizing that the international community must vigorously support national law-enforcement and border–control efforts.  Resources must be tailored to investigating and dismantling trafficking networks, he said, noting that terrorist organizations obtained funding through trafficking.  Emphasizing the need to target terrorism through an integrated approach focused on stemming its financial flows, he said it was critical to take robust and effective measures to dismantle their incitement and recruitment tools.  In the meantime, it was important to ensure that victims and survivors of such crimes received the assistance and support they needed.  A renewed sense of urgency was important, he said, calling for greater attention to sustainable development and to rooting out the conditions and drivers of human trafficking.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) said the neoliberal system had led to mass migration, but war and conflict arising from efforts to effect regime change had exacerbated the problem.  Terrorism and armed conflict remained linked to mass migration, and armed groups and militias used human trafficking to finance their terrorist activities.  Oppression, capitalism and conflict had taken away the rights of so many, yet some countries — as they closed borders and built walls — had not only promoted human trafficking through their policies, they now also promoted xenophobia and racism, he said, emphasizing that such policies fuelled the narratives of terrorist organizations.  The economic benefits resulting from human trafficking were part of the financial system used by organized crime to optimize profits, he noted, stressing the importance of examining tax havens.  Pointing out that the Latin America and Caribbean region was no stranger to the evils of human trafficking, particularly sexual exploitation and forced labour, he said Bolivia was providing the necessary resources to combat trafficking.  It was also promoting the concept of universal citizenship that would allow all people to move freely and thereby disrupt and dismantle human trafficking.

KORO BESSHO (Japan) said Da’esh’s use of sexual exploitation and human trafficking as funding and recruitment mechanisms was totally unacceptable, emphasizing that the Council must proactively address such abhorrent practices.  Japan attached great importance to the assistance provided by UNODC, he said, adding that his country’s contribution to that Office was aimed at bolstering support for law enforcement.  Among many vulnerable groups in the world, displaced populations were being increasingly targeted, and it was, therefore, critical to protect those victims and provide them with assistance.  Such efforts would help in combating the root causes of human trafficking, he said, underlining the crucial importance of cooperation among development, humanitarian and human rights actors.  Human trafficking should be addressed in various forums, inside and outside the Security Council, to assess commitments, gaps and challenges, he emphasized.

SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy), associating himself with the European Union, urged the Council to follow up the adoption of resolution 2331 (2016) by systematizing the actions of its subsidiary bodies on terrorism and sanctions, as well as the specialized agencies and the special rapporteurs on sexual violence in conflict and on children in armed conflict.  There was need for a concerted global response based on full implementation of international rules and encompassing prevention, law enforcement and accountability.  Emphasizing that national jurisdictions bore primary responsibility to ensure the accountability of culprits, he urged States to ratify the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol on human trafficking.  Since women and girls accounted for more than 70 per cent of all trafficking victims, it was essential to focus on their protection, he said, stressing that legal means to ensure the safe movement of people fleeing conflict was paramount.

EVGENY T. ZAGAYNOV (Russian Federation) said the root causes of terrorist groups’ exploitation of vulnerable populations to use trafficking as a source of financing must be tackled, including by adopting a comprehensive approach entailing prevention, protection of victims and prosecution of perpetrators.  Such an approach would involve law enforcement and non-governmental organizations as well as members of the victim’s family, another important institution that could minimize the risk of trafficking.  Governments must partner with the business community, a subject that would be the focus of a conference to be held in Moscow later in 2017, he said, emphasizing that States must independently define policies for eradicating human trafficking.  The international community had mechanisms including the Group of Friends United against Human Trafficking.  While recognizing the heinous nature of human trafficking, he urged the Council to consider it only in conjunction with conflict situations and issues of international peace and security, since it was already addressing such cross-cutting issues as women, peace and security, and should respect its purview.  Turning to accusations against his country, he said the rights of the people of Ukraine’s Donbas region were being infringed, and expressed hope that the Ukrainian authorities would address those issues, and not by merely blaming everything on the Russian Federation.

AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) said trafficking was becoming more complex in terms of tactics as well as information and communications technology.  With billions of dollars in profits, trafficking was evolving in international transnational organized crime networks and posing a constant threat to global peace and security, he said, emphasizing that the international community must redouble its efforts to stop the funding of all terrorist groups.  Trafficking, in particular with regard to women and girls, should not be linked to religion, he said, underlining that religious leaders must speak out against terrorist groups that reasoned that way, he said, adding that Egypt looked forward to the General Assembly’s robust review of the Global Plan of Action in October.

ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) highlighted the need to bolster efforts to end modern slavery.  The Council must address the structural causes that had led to conflict, including poverty, lack of access to education and scant political participation.  Describing the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (the Palermo Protocol) as an important recognition of victims, he called on all States that had not yet done so to sign it, saying no country was exempt from responsibility for prosecuting perpetrators.  Victims must be helped to recover and reintegrate into society, he said, stressing that their rights must, indeed, be at the heart of all efforts to combat trafficking.

MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom), Council President for March, spoke in his national capacity, saying that the unwavering message of victims to the international community should be that “we have not done enough”.  The root causes — poverty, instability — were known and groups exploited the situations in which they existed, he said, emphasizing the need for a unified approach.  The Council had a duty to end the instability in which modern slavery flourished, but individual Member States must also live up to their responsibility to strengthen national systems for identifying and prosecuting perpetrators.

FABIANA TUÑEZ, President, National Council of Women, Argentina, said her country had created an executive committee to address trafficking in 2013, and, in 2016, convened a federal council on combating trafficking, of which she was a member focused on the goal of eradicating the trafficking of women and girls.  Argentina supported efforts to address forced labour, including in relation to child labour, she said, adding that her country’s efforts in that regard included hosting a conference on eradicating child and forced labour, and sponsorship of United Nations resolutions targeting the elimination of those practices.

MICHAELIA CASH, Minister for Women, Employment and Public Service of Australia, speaking also for Canada and New Zealand, emphasized the international community’s shared responsibility to disrupt the modern slave trade and sexual violence, and to address their root causes.  No State or organization could do that alone, she emphasized, noting that while individual efforts were important, regional and global cooperation would be the key to success.  She said she had recently established the Migrant Worker Taskforce, which would develop strategies and make improvements aimed at stamping out the exploitation of vulnerable workers.  The Government had launched an inquiry into whether Australia should follow the United Kingdom’s lead and adopt legislation to combat modern slavery, she said.

Canada, for its own part, had taken a strong stance on the prevention of all forms of exploitation and violence against women and girls in conflict situations, she said, noting that it would welcome approximately 1,200 vulnerable Yazidi women and children.  New Zealand had secured a landmark trafficking conviction that had resulted in a substantial sentence and an order to pay reparations.  Citing 21 million people who were subject to forced labour, she said Australia and New Zealand were working with countries in the Asia-Pacific region to banish those barbaric and criminal practices.  Their efforts included addressing transnational crime and corruption as well as strengthening governance frameworks and criminal-justice systems.  A key element was the Bali Declaration, she continued, pointing out that it recognized the critical need to engage with the private sector, including by promoting and implementing humane, non-abusive labour practices.  She also emphasized the need for a global anti-trafficking strategy and better coordination of data and funding.  Australia encouraged United Nations efforts to develop more strategic and coherent international responses, she said.

LYDIA MUTSCH, Minister for Equal Opportunities of Luxembourg, associating herself with the European Union, said migrants and refugees were particularly vulnerable to human trafficking.  Luxembourg was working with its partners at the European level to dismantle the economic model of smugglers and traffickers in the Mediterranean.  It was also participating in the struggle against human trafficking by strengthening cooperation and bringing together actors on the ground, including non-governmental organizations.  Luxembourg’s national strategy aimed to regulate prostitution by strengthening legislative frameworks, she said, adding that a campaign to raise awareness focused on better ways to detect and fight human trafficking.  The International Criminal Court and its founding Rome Statute had a major role to play, particularly in preventing systematic attacks on women and children.

DOLORS MONTSERRAT, Minister for Health, Social Services and Equality of Spain, said human trafficking represented the commercialization of bodies and the reincarnation of slavery.  Warning that national judicial systems could break down in conflict situations, she said a counter-narrative was therefore critical in fighting armed groups using human trafficking as a funding source.  While women and girls made up the majority of those trafficked, it was important to remember that boys and men were also victims.  While emphasizing the importance of today’s meeting in addressing such an important theme, she said more information and coordination to identify conflict hotspots could serve as a road map of policies that must be adopted.  National plans were needed to enable police, other law-enforcement entities and national judicial systems to combat human trafficking, she said, stressing that the fight required placing victims at the centre and preserving evidence.  The next five years would provide an historic opportunity to place the fight against modern slavery at the heart of the work of the United Nations, she said.

YOHANA SUSANA YEMBISE, Minister for Women Empowerment and Child Protection of Indonesia, said there was an immediate obligation to provide safety to victims of human trafficking.  Describing trafficking as a cross-border problem requiring a cross-border solution, she outlined ways in which the Asia-Pacific region was handling human trafficking through coordination and cooperation.  Law enforcement and cooperation on extradition would help in fighting human smugglers, she added.  It was also vital to taking into account the nexus between preventing conflict and sustaining peace.  Peacekeeping efforts must be geared towards building trust and confidence among all parties, she said, underlining that recognizing and responding to human trafficking should be part of the training for humanitarian personnel and peacekeepers.

LIA OLGUTA VASILESCU, Minister for Labour and Social Justice of Romania, associating herself with the European Union, said it was important to put all existing mechanisms to full use in combating the financing of terrorists and freezing their assets.  The reaction against human trafficking must be robust.  Human trafficking in situations of conflict undermined the rule of law and led to other organized crime, further increasing regional insecurity.  It was vital that the international response to human trafficking adapt available tools and mechanisms, she said, adding that there was also a need for cross-border cooperation on prevention.  Romania was confronting the many networks of terrorist and transnational organized crime groups while also helping the victims of traffickers to recover and resume a normal life, she said.

JAN CHVOJKA, Minister for Human Rights, Equal Opportunities and Legislation of the Czech Republic, said that, according to the annual report on trafficking in human beings, 50 victims identified in his country had been mainly from Ukraine, Nigeria, Romania and Hungary.  In 2016, the Government had adopted a new national strategy to combat trafficking in human beings, prosecute those responsible and provide assistance to victims, he recalled, emphasizing that its priority was to prevent forced labour and trafficking in children.  Assistance had been provided through the Government’s Programme on Support and Protection of Victims of Trafficking in Human Beings, he said, noting that more than 50 victims received support annually.  The programme represented “a very effective tool”, increasing the chances for the successful prosecution of perpetrators, he said.  To keep the programme functional, it was important to apply a wider perspective and undertake educational measures.

FATMA BETUL SAYAN KAYA, Minister for Family and Social Policies of Turkey, said that due to its geographical location, her country had been adversely affected by rising trends in human trafficking.  Criminal and terrorist networks operating in the region were perpetrating gender-based violence and forcibly recruiting adults as well as children to fund and sustain their operations.  Turkey had introduced administrative and legal measures to combat trafficking through prevention, protection, prosecution and cooperation, she said, adding that its efforts were focused on strengthening legislation and improving implementation of its obligations.  National plans had been drawn up for implementation of international standards in the fight against human trafficking, and the Government had established a specific department to regulate protection of human-trafficking victims, tasking it with carrying out initiatives that helped victims, she added.

VALENTIN RYBAKOV, Deputy Foreign Minister of Belarus, pointed out that trafficking fell outside the Security Council’s purview, and the General Assembly was the most appropriate forum for developing and coordinating efforts to combat that crime.  Belarus called on all States to prepare seriously and constructively to discuss the October review of the Global Plan of Action in the General Assembly.  The main problem of trafficking today was how to define it, he said, noting that the United Nations had, indeed, been worrying about the most accurate term to use for human trafficking.  Underlining that the efforts of destination, origin and transit countries affected by trafficking must be approached through proactive dialogue, he nevertheless reiterated that the Council was not the correct forum.

LAILA BOKHARI, State Secretary and Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Norway, also speaking for Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden, said billions of dollars were generated each year fuelling conflict and terrorism and hampering development.  Women and children were particularly exposed to trafficking, often in the form of sexual slavery, forced labour or as child soldiers.  For terrorist groups like ISIL, Boko Haram and Al-Qaida, trafficking and slavery created lasting harm to individuals, and they were used to humiliate and terrorize populations and to raise money for their operations.

International organizations and instruments, such as the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, must be utilized better to ensure effective international cooperation across borders and regions.  As armed conflicts and trafficking in persons were converging and becoming global security challenges, the international community must improve cooperation through data sharing and monitoring between countries and across the United Nations entities.  Also necessary was better gender disaggregated data and documentation in order to develop effective responses and services for the victims of sexual exploitation.

MARIA EMMA MEJÍA VÉLEZ (Colombia) described human trafficking as modern slavery and emphasized the need to stamp the practice out.  The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development addressed the crime and provided ways in which States could combat it.  There was a need to address the largest displacement of people since the Second World War, she emphasized, saying her country had taken steps to combat and eradicate trafficking.  Global efforts must strengthen the capacity of countries to tackle problems together.  The Government of Colombia had provided trafficking victims with assistance and services, she said, adding that it had also addressed the issue of irregular migrants, mostly those from countries in the north.

CATARINA MARCELINO, Secretary of State for Citizenship and Equality of Portugal, said trafficking in human beings was often exacerbated in situations of conflict and humanitarian crisis, and aggravated by such factors as poverty, gender inequality, unemployment, weak rule of law and poor governance.  Noting with concern the increasing trend of human trafficking, particularly of women and girls, she said it was unfortunate the phenomenon was used as a tactic of war by violent extremist groups.  Any intervention deemed effective must be based on common and well-coordinated efforts, she said, emphasizing the critical importance of comprehensive bilateral, regional and international cooperation among origin, transit and destination in addressing human trafficking resulting from conflict.  Pointing out that the crime of human trafficking was generally unrecorded and underreported, she stressed the need to fight the culture of impunity.  “The responsible must be rendered accountable and submitted to justice,” she declared.  Portugal had made significant efforts to prevent and combat trafficking in human beings by implementing several national plans, developed with private-sector and civil-society involvement.

CARLOS SERGIO SOBRAL DUARTE (Brazil) said human trafficking victims were often subjected to organ harvesting, sexual exploitation, forced labour or forced marriage.  Long-term solutions to the problem could only be found through multilateral approaches addressing the underlying causes of conflict and prioritizing both dialogue and mediation.  Noting that scant regard or resources had been devoted to sustaining peace in crisis or post-conflict situations, he said closer cooperation among States and international agencies could help rescue victims and bring traffickers to justice.  Additionally, advancing the universality of the International Criminal Court’s founding Rome Statute would help to ensure accountability on the part of perpetrators when crimes were committed during armed conflict.  Emphasizing that the interrelationship between terrorism and transnational organized crime should not be deemed universal in any way, he said terrorism should be addressed by the Council, while organized crime — which was largely a domestic security issue — required coordinated international action, pursuant to the framework established by the Palermo Convention.  That topic would be more appropriately addressed as a matter of enhanced international cooperation than of collective security, he added.  Although human trafficking and slavery occurred in scenarios plagued by armed conflict, “there are no intrinsic or automatic linkages between these two phenomena,” he stressed, cautioning against confusion over criminalizing human trafficking with the criminalization of migration itself.

TÉTÉ ANTONIO, Permanent Observer of the African Union, said it was disappointing that slavery persisted two centuries after the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.  International Labour Organization data showed that more than 21 million people lived in modern slavery, of whom 3.7 million were in Africa, he said, adding that the data should serve as a wake-up call for the international community to eradicate that practice.  It was important to acknowledge that the scope and severity of the problem had been exacerbated by the migrant crisis, with criminal networks forcing people into bonded labour.

He went on to say that the devastating effects on refugees and migrants could not be overemphasized, advocating action at the national, regional and international levels.  The African Union had adopted a range of policies to prevent and combat human trafficking, including the Ouagadougou Action Plan and the African Union Commission Initiative against Trafficking, which had mobilized action in a number of countries, he said.  Thanks to those efforts, more traffickers had been convicted and more victims had been both rescued and protected.  The continent must step up efforts to work with the international community for the eradication of all forms of human exploitation, he stressed.

URMILA BHOOLA, United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences, said she had undertaken numerous country visits to assess the prevalence of slavery, encourage Member States to comply strictly with the Slavery Convention and bring violators to justice.  It was unfortunate that slavery continued on an unprecedented scale, affecting millions of people, she said.  Particularly concerning was the use of such practices by various terrorist groups, which sold women and men over the Internet.  Boys were forced to carry arms while girls in camps continued to have babies as a result of forced marriage.  The Security Council must lead a multifaceted international response, she emphasized, adding that regional and global partnerships to eradicate child labour and improve humanitarian responses were equally important, as were laws prohibiting and criminalizing slavery.

MADINA JARBUSSYNOVA, Special Representative and Coordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said her office had compiled a survey to improve its understanding of trafficking developments and challenges.  Although the data showed considerable progress across the areas of prevention, prosecution and protection, they also revealed that considerable work remained to be done.  As immigration policies tightened, migration routes became longer and more hazardous, she said, noting that people on the move, especially women and children, were at particular risk of falling into the hands of scrupulous human traffickers.  “What often begins as a humanitarian crisis swiftly grows into a security crisis,” she added.

“The tasks facing us are formidable,” she declared, noting that more than 90 per cent of irregular migrants who had surged into Europe in 2015 had used services provided by criminal networks.  Since 2014, more than 1.7 million internally displaced persons in Ukraine had been forced to leave their homes.  In addressing the magnitude of those challenges meaningfully, diverse actors and first responders must join efforts and share best practices to ensure effective investigations, timely prosecutions and prompt identification of victims, she said, adding that her team had striven to counter the accompanying exploitation of human life by traffickers.  She explained that she had piloted the OSCE project on combating human trafficking along migration routes, training more than 200 law-enforcement officials, prosecutors, labour inspectors, financial investigators and civil society representatives.

JOANNE ADAMSON, European Union delegation, said the bloc’s new Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy recognized the need to counter the conflict-driven insecurity spilling over from trafficking and smuggling into terrorism.  Reiterating the European Union’s support for the commitments contained in the New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants on combating human trafficking, she called for strengthening multilateral cooperation and engaging more women and young people in peacebuilding, and efforts to end trafficking.  The bloc’s most recent data showed that trafficking for purposes of sexual exploitation was the most widespread form of such abuse, while trafficking for purposes of labour exploitation affected mainly men and boys.  As such, the European Union called for a gender-specific approach in all anti-trafficking actions, as well as a focus on both prevention and accountability.  There was also a need to invigorate efforts to implement existing legal architecture.  The European Union had built a gender-specific, child-sensitive and comprehensive legal and policy framework that incorporated anti-trafficking actions into its external policies and funding, she said.  The bloc’s priorities included counter-terrorism and understanding the links between terrorist groups and organized crime networks.  There was need to investigate, prosecute and convict those who trafficked in human merchandise, and to ensure that victims were treated as rights holders, she said.

CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said States were obliged to criminalize, investigate, prosecute and punish slavery where it occurred.  Yet, an estimated 46 million people had fallen victim to modern slavery and trafficking, with convictions for those crimes amounting to a mere fraction of the total number of perpetrators.  “The impunity gap is glaring”, he said.  A workshop organized by Liechtenstein and the United Kingdom on how the Security Council could tackle human trafficking during conflict identified 10 ideas for action.  Among them was recognition that national criminal justice responses might need to be supported by other forms of Council leverage — normative, financial and technological.  As forced labour generated an estimated $150 billion in annual profits, an obvious approach would involve financial institutions in detecting and disrupting financial flows associated with human trafficking.  While the Council underscored that acts associated with human trafficking in conflict might constitute war crimes, it failed to acknowledge that they also might amount to crimes against humanity.

GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran), endorsing the statement by the Non-Aligned Movement, said occupation, war, political instability, terrorism, genocide, ethnic cleansing and foreign aggression created conditions that forced millions to become displaced in their own countries or seek refuge overseas, becoming vulnerable to human trafficking.  Conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa had led to the formation of armed groups, terrorists and transnational crime networks — leading to an upsurge in trafficking.  Civilians were viewed by armed groups as a resource or commodity.  The targeting and killing of ethnic and religious minorities, abduction of women and children for forced marriage to fighters or wealthy foreigners, as was the case with Da’esh could emerge as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.  He advocated respect for Article IV of the United Nations Charter to address underlying causes, Government responsibility to protect the rights of refugees and migrants, and reinforcing existing laws against all illegal acts, especially racially motivated crimes against migrants.

SVEN JÜRGENSON (Estonia), endorsing the statement by the European Union, said the international community must focus on prevention, protection and prosecution in order to address human trafficking.  Preventing conflict was the best guarantee to avert such abuse and Estonia supported the Secretary-General’s emphasis on shifting from reaction to prevention.  Scaled-up protection efforts to ensure that those impacted by conflict, especially women and girls, were not vulnerable to traffickers were needed.  “There must be no room for impunity,” he said, stressing the need for States to train immigration authorities, police forces, prosecutors and judges. Indeed, States and the international community must prevent the culture of impunity from spreading and victims must have access to assistance, support and remedies.

KATALIN ANNAMÁRIA BOGYAY (Hungary) said that conflict and post-conflict situations, the level of insecurity and the breakdown in family and community structures raised the exposure of women, men, girls and boys to diverse forms of exploitation.  It was particularly disturbing that Da’esh, Boko Haram, Al-Nusrah and other terrorist groups used sexual exploitation and forced marriage as a tactic of terror and openly promoted the enslavement and trade of women and girls, often targeting religious and ethnic minorities.  “Modern slavery is a crime of the twenty-first century:  adaptive, cynical, sophisticated, extremely complex and highly variegated,” she said, noting that it could be fought only by applying modern, innovative, adaptable approaches that utilized the findings of new research and the latest technology.  However, given the diverse and complex nature of the problem, there was no single magical solution and no single organizations could tackle the phenomenon alone.  To fight that global threat, it was critical for States to ratify the Palermo Protocol, comply with international humanitarian law, ensure accountability and bring perpetrators to justice.

MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) said that Security Council resolution 2331 (2016) was significant as it was an unequivocal affirmation by the international community to confront trafficking in persons and a call for immediate action to prevent and criminalize those engaged in such menace.  While the eradication of contemporary forms of slavery was an end in itself, interdiction of trafficking-based financial flows to terrorist groups must also be addressed.  As a party to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, Pakistan had taken a number of legislative and administrative steps to address such phenomena.  Pointing to the increasing human displacement, she emphasized that as the international community sought to develop cohesive and coordinated strategies to manage those movements, the interest and well-being of the most vulnerable remained paramount in policy responses.  Also important was to ensure that victims, in their quest to find safety and protection beyond their borders, did not become fresh prey to trafficking and abuse.

BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, expressed concern for ancient Christian communities, as well as Yezidis and other religious and ethnic minorities in Mesopotamia, who had been enslaved, sold, killed and subjected to extreme humiliation.  The lack of serious efforts to bring perpetrators to justice of such acts of genocide and massive human rights violations left many wondering how many more atrocities could be tolerated before victims obtained rescue, protection and justice.  Condemning the ease with which arms fell into the hands of terrorists and armed groups, he said “as long as wars and conflicts rage, trafficking in persons for sexual exploitation, forced labour and similar crimes will continue to flourish.”  He appealed to States not to supply arms to groups or regimes that would likely use them against their own people, to implement arms-related treaties and to use the force of the law in fighting arms trafficking.  He urged the Council to take a greater role in fighting human trafficking.

Mr. SCHULZ (Germany), associating himself with the European Union, said States must aim for universal ratification of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its protocols, notably the Smuggling of Migrants Protocol, and develop a comprehensive data collection system.  He advocated creating more synergies among United Nations agencies and developing a response that included Special Representatives of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict and on Children and Armed Conflict.  For its part, the Council should be apprised of the link between human trafficking and human rights violations.  The upcoming review of the Global Plan of Action on Trafficking and its high-level meeting should be used to define responses to current challenges.  Germany had adopted new legal measures to provide trafficking victims with residence permits, he said, citing a programme through which more than 1,000 Yazidi refugees had reached the country.  It also passed legislation to enhance protection for women and children and adopted new criminal law provisions.

JAN KICKERT (Austria) said the smuggling of migrants was increasingly intertwined with trafficking in persons.  Well-managed regular migration while addressing the root causes of irregular migration was imperative to prevent smuggling and trafficking in persons.  Being a transit and destination country of increased migration movements, Austria had scaled up training for immigration and asylum officers of reception centres to identify victims of trafficking.  Further, a Joint Operational Office in Vienna had been established as a regional platform and contact point for investigators from countries of origin, transit and destination of migration.  In armed conflicts, trafficking in persons was used as a strategy to target ethnic and religious minorities.  Austria advocated for a victim-centred approach with a focus on preventing such phenomena and protecting the victims.  It was also clear that States had the primary responsibility to bring perpetrators to justice and end the climate of impunity.  In post-conflict settings, accountability and transitional justice mechanism were key to sustainable peace.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru), condemning trafficking in persons, called upon the international community to provide assistance to the victims of forced labour, slavery and similar practices.  Combating that scourge must be a national and global priority, he said, noting that the Government of Peru had adopted a bill to penalize perpetrators of sexual exploitation and slavery with 10 to 15 years in prison.  There should be a holistic approach in addressing transnational crime and supporting victims, he said, urging Member States to ratify the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its protocols.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh) said that through Security Council resolution 2331 (2016), the body had unequivocally condemned human trafficking.  For its successful implementation, the Secretary-General must designate a high-level focal point to monitor actions taken at the organizational level.  Also important was the complementarity work of subsidiary bodies, he said, adding that the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons must be provided with sustainable resources.  Expressing concern about the low prosecution rate, he emphasized that United Nations support could be instrumental in gathering timely evidence in a systematic manner.

BOGUSŁAW WINID (Poland) said his country remained determined to fight human trafficking and forced labour and was involved in combating that phenomenon at the national, regional and international levels.  Polish criminal code defined and criminalized slavery and human trafficking, while at the regional level, his country implemented anti-trafficking policies.  Furthermore, it had ratified all major ILO Conventions related to forced labour, had contributed to the open debate on trafficking in persons, and supported the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery.  To fight trafficking, it was crucial to raise awareness and enhance prevention, identify and investigate crimes, and protect and support victims.

EMMANNUEL ROUX, Special Representative of the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) to the United Nations, described work related to the humanitarian and criminal aspects of human trafficking.  Noting that the subdivision for vulnerable communities focused on human trafficking, he said cooperation also involved protection, prevention and partnership.  Each of the seven regional offices had a specialized officer to assist States in tactical deployments for dismantling trafficking networks.  INTERPOL would soon cooperate with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on trafficking in migrants.  Further, the expert group on trafficking had been expanded to include 50 States.  Its next meeting would be held in Lisbon and financed by the United States Department of State.  Noting that INTERPOL had a database of personal information, he said it also offered technological solutions to connect law enforcement agencies and coordination operations, notably to strengthen borders.  It took an integrated approach to tackling human trafficking, child slavery, slavery networks and forced labour, he said, emphasizing that when States did not use all tools available, criminals benefitted.

MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium), associating himself with the European Union, said his country’s action plan against human trafficking was addressing the vulnerabilities of women, girls, children and displaced persons by taking a gender dimension into account.  It provided a “train the trainers” seminar for defence personnel on trafficking, and others for personnel of the Federal Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers.  The Government also trained asylum officials and informed asylum seekers about the rights of workers in Belgium to prevent them from being exploited.  The plan also sought to protect women and girls from violence, and contained such actions on human trafficking as cooperation with bilateral partners to embed experts into the national police and justice systems.  A multilateral treaty for mutual legal assistance and extradition for domestic prosecution of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes would help facilitate better cooperation among States in investigating and prosecuting trafficking.

RY TUY (Cambodia) said that the protection of vulnerable persons, particularly disabled populations and refugees, was of central importance to the success of global efforts in combating human trafficking, forced labour and modern slavery by non-State actors.  In that fight, the full implementation of the Palermo Protocol and the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants played a crucial role in comprehensively addressing such phenomena.  Also important was to ensure the provision of medical and psychological services to victims of sexual abuse and forced labour, and to provide economic support to victims through training and job placement programmes.  Equally important was to avoid stigmatization of such victims as they reintegrated into society.

JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa) said human trafficking appeared to be worsening by sustained conflict at the national and regional levels, requiring united, concerted, sustained and cooperative support by all actors.  To make progress, the international community must address conflicts’ root causes and implement the Sustainable Development Goals.  Pointing to the regional efforts, he said that Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights acknowledged every individual’s right to the respect of the dignity, and prohibited all forms of exploitation and degradation of man, particularly slavery, slave trade, torture, and cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatment.

BESIANA KADARE (Albania) said that despite international awareness and outrage, there was still an incomplete understanding of trafficking, with inadequate capacities to prosecute offenders and assist victims alongside fragmented United Nations efforts.  Instead of dissipating, the scourge was evolving and, combined with terrorism, had led to a new barbarism unprecedented in scope and violence.  Resolution 2331 (2016) had identified the complex nexus between tracking, organized crime, conflict and terrorism.  Now, international coordinated action was urgently needed, with the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime providing a legal framework to strengthen engagement and cooperation at regional and global levels.  Civil society, the private sector and the media should be major partners, especially with regard to prevention and the protection of victims, she said, encouraging the Secretary-General to strengthen synergies between United Nations agencies and ensure effective efforts.

NEVILLE MELVIN GERTZE (Namibia) said his country had worked to ensure that trafficking was stopped in its tracks.  Good governance, peacebuilding and conflict prevention were essential to deterring trafficking or slavery in any form.  Good governance required good coordination among neighbouring countries and regions, especially among justice systems and executive branches.  In conflict and post-conflict situations, trust must be restored in law enforcement.  The systems that ensured respect for human rights were linked to the birth registration, children’s access to education and systems that ensured identity documents.  Another aspect of good governance was ensuring that young people and women could access education and employment.  Namibia’s Constitution contained safeguards for the independence of the judiciary and legislative bodies, he said, stressing that trafficking victims depended on the Council to act decisively on such matters, as they were often threatened into silence.

GEORGI VELIKOV PANAYOTOV (Bulgaria) said no country alone could disentangle existing webs of traffickers and better cooperation should be established among countries or origin, transit and destination on information sharing and victim identification, support and reintegration.  Bulgaria had enhanced its law enforcement cooperation with countries and other partners on irregular migration, migrant smuggling and human trafficking.  Among its priorities was the early identification of victims in mixed migration flows.  Bulgaria also had one of Europe’s most comprehensive institutional frameworks to combat human trafficking, being a pioneer in adopting specialized legislation in 2003.  Considering that women and children were most affected, trafficking prevention campaigns were held annually at schools and Government-funded centres and shelters provided assistance to female victims.

MARIAM JASHI (Georgia), endorsing the statement by the European Union, said the United Nations had a crucial role to play in confronting human trafficking, especially in addressing the needs of refugees and internally displaced persons in emergency and post-emergency settings.  The Council’s engagement would further promote such efforts.  The Global Slavery Index, the 2016 report of the United States Department of State and the second evaluation report of the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) all had documented Georgia’s progress.  His country ranked seventeenth among 167 States in taking the most effective actions to end human trafficking.  Political commitment and evolving legislative frameworks had been vital to its success, as had a multisectoral, multi-stakeholder approach.  A focus should be placed on proactive investigations, he said, noting that Georgia had almost doubled such inquiries in the last four years.  He also advocated awareness raising on trafficking as a prevention measure.

OMAR HILALE (Morocco) said the link between human trafficking and conflict was obvious.  Trafficking was not just affected by man-made or natural disasters; it was a direct consequence of them.  Conflicts were not the only cause of human trafficking.  A lack of democracy and rule of law, as well as political instability, civil unrest, systematic human rights violations, corruption, impunity and imprisonment of political dissidents were all situations that provided breeding grounds for human trafficking.  The Council should bolster its actions through better coordination in responding to crises, including by taking an integrated and humane approach to displacement.  He urged States to strengthen democracy, rule of law, justice and national human rights bodies.  International cooperation should be enhanced to tackle the trans-border nature of human trafficking.  In 2016, Morocco had adopted a law to combat that scourge, which included broad definitions of human trafficking, as well as measures to protect victims and condemn perpetrators, he added.

RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela) condemned human trafficking, sexual exploitation and abuse, and forced labour, all of which had spread in armed conflict situations around the world, notably by terrorists.  Children had become commodities for trafficking networks.  Stressing that the United Nations was the best forum to combat that crime by addressing its root causes, he said:  “We cannot allow human life to be spoils of war.”  Perpetrators must be held accountable.  Further, it was important to recognize that among the causes was the destruction of State capacities, which in turn was caused by intervention by countries aiming to overthrow Governments, as had been the case in Iraq, Libya Syria and in the Sahel, where leaders were fighting to restore peace following armed foreign intervention.  He reiterated the demand to end the supply of financial and logistical support to terrorists.  “Enough with double morals” in assessing and addressing crimes, he said, abuses that must go hand-in-hand with actions to end the activities of those sponsoring conflict for political and economic ends.

RICHARD GALBAVÝ (Slovakia), describing trafficking in persons as a global problem, said women and girls remained the most vulnerable group of exploitation.  For terrorist organizations, that practice had become one of the most profitable areas, he stressed, noting that such phenomena continued to violate human rights.  Recalling the ILO’s report, he said that millions of people were trapped in modern slavery.  To counter that trend, States must criminalize such practice, enact laws and bring perpetrators to justice.

Ms. LEOTEAU (Panama), pointing to the latest statistics, said traffickers primarily targeted women, youth, girls and boys, which constituted 75 per cent of all victims.  To tackle that challenge, the root causes must be addressed, she said, also emphasizing the need to collect data and evidence and share good practices.  For its part, Panama had signed all relevant conventions on the matter, and established a national constitution to provide support for victims.

RAZAQ SALMAN MASHKOOR (Iraq) said that his country had acceded in 2009 to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.  In 2012, it adopted Law 28 to combat human trafficking.  Further, his country’s Constitution banned forced labour, slavery and human trafficking.  Those were practices that financed terrorist groups, such as Da’esh, which particularly exploited Yazidis.  Iraq needed assistance to liberate those victims and he called on States to implement resolutions 2195 (2014) and 2242 (2015), in which the Council stated that sexual violence was part of ideologies put forward by terrorist groups, which profited from them.  The Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict had visited Iraq, during which she had met with President of the Council of Ministers, religious leaders and the heads of institutions to explore legal options.  He urged all countries to step up efforts to identify human trafficking operations.

MOUNZER MOUNZER (Syria) said it was deplorable that the Council had not condemned the recent terrorist bombardment in Damascus, and said that it should do so today.  The Council was obstructed by Western States, sending a message that there were two types of terrorism:  moderate and bad.  Crime networks that exploited immigrants and refugees were supported by Governments, including Turkey, which did so for purposes of political blackmail.  Syria had achieved progress in combating human trafficking, having joined various treaties and promulgated laws that adhered to international standards.  The rights of Syrians were being violated by Da’esh and Al-Nusrah, groups funded and armed by a number of States, whose Takfiri ideology called for killing others.  Recommendations by the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, who had documented ISIL crimes, had not been implemented.  Noting that reports by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and IOM pointed to a rise in organized crime in refugee and displaced person camps, he said that ending human trafficking required implementation of resolution 2331 (2016).  The United Nations should shoulder its legal and ethical responsibility to find a solution to the situation in Syria, he said, adding that countries should close their borders to mercenaries and terrorists and end unilateral economic coercive measures.

ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar) said trafficking in persons, a grave violation of human rights, continued to target vulnerable groups, particularly women and children.  While hundreds of people sought decent living in other countries, terrorist groups benefited from that situation.  For its part, Qatar was fully committed to fighting trafficking, she said, expressing support to the Global Plan of Action on Human Trafficking.  At the national level, the Government had taken various steps, including the penalization of money laundering and trafficking in persons.

AHMED ABDELRAHMAN AHMED ALMAHMOUD (United Arab Emirates) said trafficking in persons was a frontline concern in the Middle East, where war and displacement was rendering a significant portion of the population defenceless.  Da’esh and other extremist and terrorist groups had horrifically subjugated innocent people as forced combatants and labour as sources of revenue.  It was not just monetary gains that such groups were reaping, he said, noting that the exploitation of the vulnerable, particularly women, was fundamentally tied to extremist ideologies that posed an existential threat to the region.  The United Arab Emirates took that form of human rights abuse seriously and was working aggressively to combat such phenomena through law enforcement mechanisms and dedicated institutions, he said, citing the establishment of the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking.

JOE MCHUGH, Minister of State for the Diaspora and Overseas Development Aid of Ireland, endorsed the statement by the European Union, saying sensitization training and capacity-building were at the core of the response to human trafficking, forced labour and modern slavery.  Security officials must understand the signs to look for, while first responders must ensure that victims received medical and psycho-social care, and civil society groups must be empowered to act as watchdogs.  Trafficking would continue unless prevention was prioritized.  Greater focus was needed on the conditions that made people vulnerable to traffickers, making implementation of the 2030 Agenda crucial, as human trafficking was addressed in four of its Sustainable Development Goals.  He also advocated a stronger focus on sustaining peace, and taking a gendered response to human trafficking, forced labour and modern slavery, whose effects on women and girls were particularly harrowing.

CHO TAE-YUL (Republic of Korea) said human trafficking was not only an issue of human rights, but also of peace and security.  Conflicts created an environment conducive to human trafficking and compounded the vulnerability of women, children, refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons.  Given its transnational nature, trafficking could not be effectively addressed by conflict-affected countries alone.  A coordinated approach was essential, particularly with addressing the criminal aspect of human trafficking.  Maximum efforts should be undertaken to protect and support victims and hold the perpetrators accountable.  Campaigns to raise public awareness of the serious consequences of human trafficking must be stepped up through the concerted efforts of the international community.  Women and youth, the most vulnerable groups to human trafficking, must also be high on the protection agenda.

CHULAMANEE CHARTSUWAN (Thailand) said peacekeeping and all personnel deployed in conflict and post-conflict areas must be properly trained to identify victims and those vulnerable to trafficking.  They must have an understanding of the threats and security challenges that arise from transnational organized criminal networks, such as the negative effects that illicit trade in weapons and narcotics could have on society.  Data and trends on trafficking in persons in conflict must be collected, monitored and assessed.  Only then will the international community truly see a comprehensive picture of the problem and then address it in a comprehensive and effective manner.  It was also vital to take a serious look at strengthening interagency coordination within the United Nations system on the issue of trafficking in persons.

MOHAMED SIAD DOUALEH (Djibouti), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the Palermo Protocol and the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons were cornerstone instruments.  Yet, human trafficking had evolved and included sexual violence used as a war tactic.  Boko Haram, Da’esh and Al-Shabaab used human trafficking as a military strategy and source of financing.  As such, the Council must pay particular attention to the links between human trafficking and sexual violence in conflict situations, and terrorist group activities.  Djibouti recognized the United Nations Convention against Transnational Crime and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.  He advocated communicating more effectively, sharing intelligence and mobilizing resources.  Noting that more than 90,000 people transited in Djibouti as voluntary, often undocumented economic migrants on route to Yemen and elsewhere in the Middle East, he said that at the sixth meeting of the Regional Consultative Process on Migration, held in Djibouti in 2015, Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) members decided to redouble efforts to combat trafficking.

IRENE SUSAN BARREIRO NATIVIDAD (Philippines) said her Government had activated a structure called the Gender-based Violence Cluster, composed mainly of law enforcement, social welfare service providers who specialized in gender issues and civil society representatives.  The Cluster developed and implemented programmes for access to protective information, psychosocial and trauma-informed care, protective custody and access to education and economic opportunities.  With an estimated 4 million Filipino migrant workers today, the Government had made it a priority to provide them protection from trafficking and exploitation.  The very nature of human trafficking required cross-border cooperation.  International cooperation must be strengthened on information sharing, law enforcement, border control and judicial systems.  Criminal networks, armed groups and terrorist groups must not be allowed to further thrive in situations of instability and chaos and to prey on the fear and misery caught in conflict, she said.

CATHERINE BOURA (Greece) said that, despite important legislative framework adopted by the international community, human trafficking and exploitation, including in the forms of forced labour and recruitment to armed groups, remained an issue of grave concern and a law enforcement challenge.  Given the volume of human displacement and the increased vulnerability of potential victims in the refugee and migratory flows, Member States and international organizations must focus primarily on prevention.  In that regard, it was critical to design and execute comprehensive awareness-raising campaigns, establish a proactive and inclusive identification regime for victims and strengthen law enforcement.  Equally important was to crack down on the enormous profits generated by traffickers, use all available tools to prosecute perpetrators, and promote multilateral cooperation for the early identification procedures and the establishment of robust referral mechanisms.

HAU DO SUAN (Myanmar) said trafficking wove into other challenges such as conflict, terrorism and migrant smuggling.  National efforts included being a party to relevant instruments, enacting legislation and adopting a five-year plan of action.  Myanmar’s regional participation included making use of mechanisms such as the Cooperating Mekong Ministerial Initiative against Human Trafficking process.  The cessation of conflicts and building peace were the most significant ways to solve the problem of trafficking.  For its part, his country had taken steps to protect people from potential trafficking, slavery and labour exploitation and would continue to make every effort to combat the menace and looked forward to the review of the Global Plan of Action.

DAVID YITSHAK ROET (Israel) said 45 million people lived in some form of modern slavery, deprived of their identity, taken from their families and traded from one hand to another.  That amounted to the entire population of Ukraine, or 70 per cent of that of France.  The key to saving lives was in protecting the most vulnerable, enacting and enforcing laws, and encouraging rehabilitation.  In the 1990s and 2000s, Israel had been infiltrated by criminals who had illegally brought women across the border, subjecting them to rape and depriving them of medical care.  By 2010, Israel had ended such abuse by applying prevention, prosecution and rehabilitation.  It had appointed a national Anti-Trafficking Coordinator to coordinate Government efforts with non-governmental organizations.  It had also increased resources for intelligence and enforcement in order to track trafficking networks, and then prosecuted criminals and enforced tougher sentences.  Finally, it had established services to locate victims, providing them with shelter, legal aid, work permits and medical treatment.

M. SHAHRUL IKRAM YAAKOB (Malaysia) said trafficking in conflict situations was a scourge that needed to be addressed, especially considering the involvement of non-State armed groups.  Calling on States that had not yet done so to sign and ratify relevant instruments to ensure the prosecution of perpetrators, he expressed support efforts that aimed at preventing violations, including sexual violence.  Victims must be supported in attaining and supporting stable lives, including having the funding to help them to do so.  The international community must continue its work in dismantling criminal networks, with cooperation and coordination being essential for efforts to combat the scourge.  For its part, Malaysia had worked within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on regional approaches.  With regard to victims, he supported the continued partnership with civil society to help affected individuals and communities to heal.

ANTHONY BOSAH (Nigeria) said terrorist groups such as Boko Haram and ISIL had used trafficking, forced labour and the sexual exploitation of women as weapons of terror and sources of revenue.  An estimated 60 million people were fleeing conflicts or seeking a better life, with many caught in a human trafficking web.  There was an urgent need to take steps to block financial flows between and among terrorist organizations and Member States must undertake investigations and prosecute cases that had been perpetrated by their nationals.  All perpetrators should be brought to justice and special attention must be paid to victims.  For its part, Nigeria had created a national agency to prohibit trafficking.  Human trafficking and modern slavery were global crimes that must be addressed collectively and comprehensively, including by examining their root causes and drivers.

FEH MOUSSA GONE (Côte d’Ivoire) said sexual slavery, forced labour and recruitment into armed groups were just some of the problems that could be seen in conflict situations.  For its part, Côte d’Ivoire had worked on combatting trafficking through national efforts and with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).  In 2012, Côte d’Ivoire had signed and ratified anti-trafficking instruments and had adopted related laws.  Mobilizing the international community as a whole was required to effectively combat the scourge, using existing instruments to bring perpetrators to justice and dismantle criminal networks.  Because trafficking often occurred in fragile States with a weak rule of law, capacity-building for civilians should be encouraged and a holistic approach to prevent trafficking should include education.

TOFIG MUSAYEV (Azerbaijan) said certain acts in trafficking in persons during times of conflict could amount to war crimes.  Increased violence, terrorist activities and humanitarian crises had triggered a rise in such activities.  Combating trafficking required coordinated responses, including the effective implementation of Security Council resolutions.  Particular attention should be focused on conflicts that were fuelled by foreign occupation.  Priorities must include efforts towards bringing unlawful situations to an end and dismantling related networks.  The best deterrent was to ensure speedy legal action against violations.  International organizations and mediators must ensure that peace and justice worked together with respect for relevant humanitarian mandates.

RICHARD NDUHUURA (Uganda) said trafficking in conflict situations was among the most challenging evils currently confronting the world.  Conflict exacerbated trafficking in his region, making populations more vulnerable to organized criminal networks.  Reports had revealed that women and girls had experienced untold horrors and abuse at the hands of their tormentors.  The international community must adopt concerted efforts to decisively confront trafficking.  The clear link between trafficking, organized crime and terrorism was increasing, as could be seen in Libya, where migrant smuggling and human trafficking provided direct and indirect funding to terrorist groups.  Trafficking was also intertwined with money-laundering, illegal drugs and other transnational organized crimes.  Member States, with the international community’s support, must develop mechanisms to promote a coordinated approach to address the root causes of that phenomenon.  Addressing such root causes and mitigating the adverse effects of trafficking required a holistic approach with the full support of the Council and the entire United Nations system.

KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands) said conflict and the instability stemming from it formed the “business model” of human traffickers, creating supply and demand factors and an economic incentive to sustain and propel conflict.  The Council must address trafficking in conflict situations as it undermined international peace and security, with efforts centred on prevention, protection and the prosecution of perpetrators.  More in-depth analysis and greater information sharing must increase knowledge about trafficking and people smuggling, and joint efforts must be bolstered to combat criminal networks.  Increased vigilance was also needed, he said, noting that the Netherlands had appointed an independent national rapporteur on trafficking and sexual violence against children.  During times of conflict, a sharpened focus must address the protection of vulnerable groups.  One way to do that was to increase the self-reliance of displaced persons and host communities alike, including by providing education and employment.  Proper care systems for victims must be established and the current intolerable impunity for perpetrators must end by strengthening legal frameworks for prosecution.  Going forward, efforts to cooperate on addressing those matters must be redoubled.

Mr. HOMAYOUNPOUR, International Labour Organization, noted several ways it was tackling forced labour, including through strengthening international legal frameworks to protect workers, particularly migrant labourers.  Everyone had a role to play to fight and combat modern slavery and exploitation.  ILO had created several alliances committed to accelerating the fight against forced labour, modern slavery and child labour.  Furthermore, it was working to ensure that slavery did not infiltrate supply chains.

For information media. Not an official record.