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GA/12388
23 November 2021
Seventy-sixth Session, 38th & 39th Meetings (AM & PM)

Coordinated Approach to Human Trafficking Must Feature Cutting-Edge Tools, Outpace Criminals, Delegates Stress as General Assembly Concludes High-Level Meeting

The international community must speed up a stronger, more coordinated response to the scourge of human trafficking — integrating cutting-edge tools to outpace criminals whose online tactics have been increasingly sophisticated — the General Assembly heard today, as delegates concluded their high-level meeting on the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons.

The two-day meeting opened on 22 November, with the 193-member Assembly adopting a Political Declaration aimed at generating further momentum on that critical issue.  (See Press Release GA/12387.)

More than 70 speakers took the floor throughout the day, with many noting that — more than a decade after the adoption of the 2010 United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons — the COVID‑19 pandemic has only expanded the global trafficking industry.  Economically vulnerable people, especially women, girls and migrants, have been ensnared by the online techniques used by criminals.  Greater international cooperation, especially in the areas of prevention, protection, prosecution and partnership, must be wielded to counter the tools traffickers are using to expand the multibillion-dollar human trafficking industry across global borders.

The representative of Slovakia said the Assembly’s adoption of the Political Declaration was a decisive step forward.  Yet, the international community has to tackle the root causes of human trafficking, such as discrimination and social exclusion.  It must also expand communication between aid providers and law enforcement authorities at the national and international levels.  Slovakia stands ready to collaborate with international partners against organized crime, he said.

Croatia’s delegate labelled trafficking in persons a modern form of slavery, a flagrant violation of human rights and a serious crime.  “It is also a symptom of our lack of coordination and solidarity in governing a globally interconnected world,” he stressed.  Rather than blaming each other, members of the international community should use today’s high-level session to identify new threats, exchange experiences and identify best responses.  Noting that the pandemic has left people more vulnerable and more susceptible to the fake promises frequently used by traffickers, he noted that recruitment is increasingly being carried out via social media and online platforms, aimed at children and young adults.

The representative of Sweden agreed that law enforcement officials should be using the Internet to strengthen their global cooperation with Internet providers.  The right laws can also help curb trafficking.  For example, in 1999, Sweden became the first country in the world to criminalize the purchase — but not the sale — of sexual services.  That important tool made Sweden a less attractive market for criminals interested in trafficking people for sexual exploitation, she said.

Israel’s representative noted that her country has been making the prevention of trafficking and the protection of vulnerable people a priority, as it harnesses the same technologies misused by criminals to boost its response.  Approaches that focus on victims and help them overcome trauma are critical, she stressed, adding that Israel has set up a dedicated forfeiture fund for compensation and aid to victims.

The representative of Ghana pointed to the growing link between armed groups — including terrorist groups — and trafficking in persons, especially in West Africa.  Echoing other speakers’ concerns about the use of online platforms to enable the grooming, recruitment and exploitation of vulnerable people, he welcomed the Assembly’s timely adoption of its Political Declaration.  Noting that the Government of Ghana has enacted various laws to prevent and suppress trafficking, he urged the international community to provide technical assistance to developing countries seeking to do the same.

Angola’s delegate agreed that it is critical to improve countries’ capacity to confront trafficking-related activities, which are exacerbated by the criminal use of information and communications technology (ICT).  In that regard, she called for greater information exchange and cooperation, particularly in the criminal justice arena, citing the important role being played by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).  Human trafficking moves some $30 billion around the world, of which more than 75 per cent comes from the sexual exploitation of women and children, she stressed.

The representative of the Maldives said her country has taken an all-of-government approach to combating trafficking, including the creation of a shelter for victims.  It has also launched national social media campaigns to raise awareness and built up the capacity of law enforcement authorities.  Noting that the Assembly’s Political Declaration highlights the need to scale up the resources to match the gravity of the challenge, she said that this includes intensifying international cooperation to strengthen prevention and address the needs of the victims.

Also delivering statements were Government ministers and representatives of Sierra Leone, South Africa, United Kingdom, Chile, Ukraine, Canada, Portugal, Italy, India, Egypt, Guatemala, Australia, United States, France, Venezuela, Romania, Azerbaijan, Syria, Iran, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Mongolia, Namibia, Uzbekistan, Poland, Bahrain, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Ecuador, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, New Zealand, Nepal, Oman, El Salvador, Argentina, Indonesia, Iraq, Bolivia, Turkey, Mexico, Côte d’Ivoire, Spain, Kenya, Germany, Brazil, Albania, Iceland, Georgia, Sri Lanka, Nicaragua, Hungary, Trinidad and Tobago, Zimbabwe, Morocco, Ethiopia, Armenia and the Russian Federation.

Representatives of Holy See and the League of Arab States spoke in their capacity as observers.

Speaking in the exercise of the right of reply were representatives of Greece and Belarus.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 24 November, to take action on two draft resolutions and continue its debates on several outstanding items.

Statements

BAINDU DASSAMA-KAMARA, Minister for Social Welfare of Sierra Leone, said more needs to be done to combat trafficking in persons, bearing in mind that no State is immunized against that entrenched global menace.  Detailing her country’s efforts to enhance its fight against the phenomenon, she highlighted its adoption of a zero-tolerance stance on all forms of trafficking, which is augmented by a range of additional measures.  Those include the Government’s endorsement of an Anti-Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Bill; its ongoing review of a National Action Plan against Trafficking (2021–2023); and the launch of a labour migration policy as the basis for legislation on overseas employment.  In addition, the country is deepening its regional coordination, she said, noting that Sierra Leone recently moved to Tier 2 on the Global Ranking Watch List.

JOHN JEFFERY, Deputy Minister for Justice and Correctional Services of South Africa, noted that his is a country of origin, transit and destination for human trafficking.  It is clear that as poverty increases, so too does vulnerability and desperation.  The COVID‑19 pandemic poses additional challenges and negatively affects anti-trafficking efforts, he said, stressing that effective responses must be based on human rights and focus on victims.  Providing a snapshot of national efforts, he said more reports of the crime are being received and trafficking convictions are on the rise.  At the same time, traffickers are exploiting young people, recruiting victims over social media with a view to abducting them.  More must be done to counter these crimes, he said, encouraging enhanced cooperation with United Nations entities and additional joint efforts.

TARIQ AHMAD, Minister for State for South Asia and the Commonwealth of the United Kingdom, said the forthcoming global report on trafficking will grimly reflect the COVID‑19 pandemic’s impact.  Meanwhile, efforts must be strengthened, and partners must work more closely together, as no one nation can combat the crime alone.  Recalling the United Kingdom’s launch in 2017 of the Call to Action to End Forced Labour, Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking, he said 90 States have joined and have taken a range of steps while collaborating with each other.  The United Kingdom has, among other things, discussed steps to eradicate forced labour, protect victims and improve global supply chain transparency — including at the October meeting of Group of Seven (G-7) trade ministers — and is strengthening its national Modern Slavery Act, including by introducing financial penalties for non-compliance.  Looking ahead, his delegation will work towards responding effectively and review its strategy to combat modern slavery.  Collective efforts must listen carefully to survivors, and States must collaborate regionally and globally to ensure that the present generation of victims is the last.

JUAN FRANCISCO GALLI (Chile) said his Government supports the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons.  Since 2008, Chile has had in place its own plan of action, which coordinates more than 22 government institutions to combat the phenomenon.  The Government also works directly with persons who are especially vulnerable in order to prevent them from becoming victims of trafficking networks or falling prey to exploitation, either as sources of labour or for the purposes of sexual exploitation, he said.

OLGA REVUK, Deputy Minister for Social Policy on European Integration of Ukraine, said the Russian Federation’s ongoing aggression against her country has challenged its ability to combat human trafficking, with mass displacements from the occupied and war-torn regions and competition in the labour market increasing people’s risk of being trafficked.  Ukraine is working to ensure the smooth operation of its social services and institutions that provide support to victims.  In the digital arena, social policies aim to increase children’s knowledge of how to protect themselves from online dangers.  Noting that 200 people, on average, are designated annually as human trafficking victims, she said their legal status is intact regardless of whether they cooperate with law enforcement.  She also pointed to a social programme outlining measures to prevent trafficking, increase the identification of perpetrators and ensure the protection of victims.

ROBERT STEWART (Canada), commending the General Assembly for continuing to prioritize the complex, global issue of trafficking in persons, underscored the importance of a comprehensive, coordinated and multifaceted response approach.  Outlining his country’s efforts to combat human trafficking, he pointed to its National Strategy — backed up by financial support of more than $57 million over five years — which focuses on prevention, protection, prosecutions and partnerships as well as empowerment and support services for victims and survivors.  Internationally, Canada also continues to assist partners, working with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and other organizations to provide technical support and capacity building.  Stressing that trafficking disproportionately affects women and girls, he announced Canada will continue to address the phenomenon through its Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence.

ROSA MONTEIRO, Secretary of State for Citizenship and Equality of Portugal, said her country is fully committed to the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons.  Portugal is proud to have been, along with Cabo Verde, one of the first two countries to adopt a global action plan with protection for all the human rights, in 2010.  Portugal is now preparing its fifth national action plan, which will include an approach focused on victims and children and provide assistance, medical treatment, translation and interpretation services as well as free legal advice.  All Member States have a collective responsibility to combat human trafficking, she stressed, spotlighting the importance of prevention, prosecution and partnerships.  The international community needs to be one step ahead of the criminal networks, she emphasized.

BENEDETTO DELLA VEDOVA, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Italy, associating himself with the European Union, said that what is happening at the border between Poland and Belarus is an example that underlines the weakness of available tools to respond to crises in an effective manner.  States must take action and fully engage in the review mechanism of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, also known as the Palermo Convention, he said, recalling the legal frameworks provided by its protocols.  Trafficking remains a terrible scourge that is ever more difficult to detect as traffickers adopt new approaches and exploit the conditions created by the COVID‑19 pandemic.  For its part, Italy is working with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to prevent trafficking and protect victims.  Yet, moving forward, efforts to identify and address forced labour in various sectors must be strengthened, he said.

AJAY KUMAR MISHRA, Minister of State for Home Affairs of India, noted that his country has made legislative efforts to prevent and counter trafficking in persons, including by amending its criminal laws in 2013 to put in place provisions for the stringent punishment of traffickers.  The Government has also instituted a number of plans focusing on the rescue, rehabilitation and repatriation of victims of trafficking.  He went on to point out that India has initiated a multi-year project to provide training for law enforcement officers on human trafficking in cooperation with UNODC, and launched a national level communication platform in 2020 to facilitate the dissemination of information about significant crimes, including human trafficking cases, across the country, and to enable effective inter‑State policy coordination.

NAELA GABR (Egypt) said her country has been striving since 2007 to eliminate the crime of trafficking in persons by establishing a legislative national framework that aims to punish criminals and protect victims, including providing them with necessary assistance.  Noting that the COVID‑19 pandemic has exacerbated the crime of trafficking, she added that illegal workers have been most vulnerable as they are exposed to risks as a result of their employment status and have been unable to access social and health protection.  The Government has adopted a number of initiatives, including the provision of 100 billion Egyptian pounds to address the consequences of trafficking as part of its “Dignified Lives” initiative.  She went on to underscore the role of the National Coordinating Committee, which has been tasked with combating illegal illicit migration and trafficking of persons by providing victims assistance and access to rehabilitation services.

SANDY GUADALUPE RECINOS CABRERA (Guatemala) said that, as a country of origin, transit and destination for trafficking victims and a country of return for migrants, Guatemala has shown a firm will to effectively address trafficking through its strategies and polices.  She highlighted several successful awareness-raising campaigns, including those known as “Blue Heart” and “I-Connect”, which seek to promote security for boys and girls in cyberspace.  In addition, her country set up an institutional commission against trafficking, which involves 32 State agencies and civil society organizations working in coordination to prevent and combat trafficking as well as to provide support to victims.  At the regional level, Guatemala presides over a regional coalition against trafficking in persons and illegal trafficking of migrants, she said, noting that the greatest challenge is to carry out actions that match the changing global environment and the evolving risks to children and adolescents.

DINA DOMINITZ (Israel) underlined her country’s achievements in the fight against human trafficking, which led to the eradication of the most severe forms of trafficking experienced by women in Israel.  Victim-centred approaches and trauma-informed holistic protection and care frameworks are critical, and in Israel they include a dedicated forfeiture fund for compensation and aid to victims.  Spotlighting the Government’s close engagement with civil society and international partners, she nevertheless cited remaining challenges, including the COVID‑19 pandemic’s disproportionate impact on vulnerable populations such as women and children.  In response, Israel has been strengthening national and international collaboration by prioritizing prevention, intensifying its protection of vulnerable populations and harnessing the technology that is misused by perpetrators.

LUCIENNE MANTON (Australia) reaffirmed her country’s commitment to combating human trafficking, a serious crime with human rights implications that ruins lives and weakens economies and communities.  The COVID-19 pandemic has made it more difficult to reach the people that need help, she said, noting that the Global Plan of Action remains critical, as no country is immune to the challenge and no country can tackle it alone.  Indeed, partnerships are key.  Citing the use of  technology by traffickers as a major hurdle to overcome, she said the international community must develop best practices to tackle it.  Australia is intent on driving partnerships with regional and international partners.  For example, the foreign ministers of Australia and Indonesia are working together to expand their countries’ cooperation and share best practices through the Bali Process Working Group on Trafficking in Persons, which combats trafficking in the Asia-Pacific region.  Cooperation with the private sector and most critically, the organizations that give voice to victims, is also needed.

KARI JOHNSTONE (United States) said the COVID‑19 pandemic has impacted Governments’ ability to prevent and combat human trafficking and assist and protect victims and survivors.  Amid pandemic-related court closures and the suspension of grand jury proceedings, prosecutions and convictions of traffickers has decreased.  Meanwhile, trafficking victims and survivors also have encountered increased obstacles in accessing services and obtaining employment.  Despite those challenges, the United States made progress as it increased the number of human trafficking investigations, and law enforcement officials carried out remote forensic interviews.  In 2020, the Government passed several laws to address human trafficking and related crimes, including allowing compensation for members of the survivor-led Advisory Council on Human Trafficking.  On the international front, the Program to End Modern Slavery — which the United States launched in 2017 — is working to combat human trafficking by combining cutting-edge research with targeted programming.  The country also launched a comprehensive resource guide developed by experts, including survivor leaders, for Government officials and other key stakeholders to establish and improve trauma-informed anti-trafficking measures in the present pandemic environment.

JEAN-CLAUDE BRUNET (France) said the Global Plan of Action presents an opportunity to step up ongoing efforts already prioritized by his country, including combating the alarming trends — exacerbated by the pandemic — of heightened violence, increasingly sophisticated trafficking methods and more frequent Internet use by traffickers to expand their victim pool.  Recalling the interministerial approach adopted by France in 2013, he highlighted other gains, including new legislation to ensure respect for human rights and the safety of individuals.  France is also working in Asia through a European Union co‑financing programme, partnering with Sweden on an anti-trafficking initiative and supporting projects aimed at addressing the needs of children.  International support is needed alongside private sector involvement, with a view towards working together to combat the crime of trafficking, he said.

JOEL ADRIAN MENA SORETT (Venezuela) said the heinous crime of human trafficking violates human dignity and human rights, and its prevention is a duty that cannot be postponed by the international community.  Calling for strict adherence to the United Nations Charter, based also on the principles of non-politization and non-selectivity, he said trafficking is not a matter of security, which is used politically by some States.  Pointing to an increase in trafficking of persons along Venezuela’s borders, he said a number of States use unilateral coercive measures that favour criminal networks and thus promote discrimination, xenophobia and slavery.  Only respectful dialogue, cooperation and the lifting of such measures can lead to positive results in dealing with the crime of trafficking.  The Global Action Plan continues to be an important guide for the international community as it seeks to implement various strategies to strengthen trafficking prevention and controls, he said.

ANNA EKSTEDT (Sweden) said criminal networks have demonstrated their adaptability, during the pandemic and amid new crises, exploiting situations to profit from the vulnerability of people in need.  While such groups misuse technology, the Internet can also be a perfect tool for law enforcement to prevent and combat the crime of trafficking, including by strengthening global cooperation with Internet service providers.  Trafficking exists because someone is paying for it, and the root cause must be addressed, namely the demand.  Noting that Sweden applies a gendered approach to its anti-trafficking measures in line with its feminist foreign policy, she recalled that in 1999, the country became the first in the world to criminalize the purchase — but not the sale — of sexual services.  This important tool counteracts trafficking in persons for the purpose of sexual exploitation, making her country a less attractive market for traffickers.  Sweden will contribute $565,000 to the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons and strongly recommends other Member States do the same.  Turning to the abuse and indifference victims face, she said: “We need to disrupt this business model of exploitation and find efficient mechanisms and cooperation models to do so.”

MADALINA TURZA (Romania) said her country has developed its anti-trafficking system over time, both in terms of legal, institutional and operational frameworks and from the viewpoint of how institutions position themselves, understand the phenomenon and act upon it.  The current system is coherent and aligned with the principle of the “4 Ps”, namely, prevention, prosecution, protection and partnership.  Noting the prevalence of online recruitment and exploitation of vulnerable persons, including children, she said Romania has invested in a state‑of‑the‑art system of cybercrime forensics and is currently developing an Amber Alert for missing children and a national toll‑free telephone number for exploited and abused children and teenagers, and it now has a dedicated section of prosecutors for trafficking cases.  The country is also developing a national plan for adequate medical assistance for victims, she said, calling for a coherent approach to the impunity and deterrence of demand that underlies human trafficking.

SAMIR GARAYEV (Azerbaijan), detailing his country’s efforts to combat the crime of trafficking in persons, highlighted the establishment of the position of national coordinator to oversee an interagency commission which brings together several ministries, police and relevant agencies engaged in joint anti‑trafficking activities.  Noting that his Government has joined relevant United Nations conventions and partnered with international and regional organizations, he noted that it also signed a memorandum of understanding with 50 non‑governmental organizations working in the field of anti‑trafficking.

KIFAH AL-NADDAF (Syria) said human trafficking is an issue with legal ramifications at the international, regional and national levels.  Syria has played a positive role in countering the crime of trafficking and has joined hands with the international community in that regard, working with the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), among other partners.  Since 2010, Syria has had in place a decree, with 22 articles, that lays down a comprehensive strategy to tackle the phenomenon.  “[Human trafficking] is an international scrouge that targets all society in all parts of the world,” he said.  It is necessary to criminalize the practice and punish those who commit those crimes.  Scientific research, data and the collection of facts can help law enforcement authorities prosecute perpetrators who traffic in human beings and organs, he said, proposing the establishment of a central database to assist law enforcement authorities by collecting information on how various countries categorize crimes.

MAJID TAKHT RAVANCHI (Iran), noting that his country approved the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime in 2018, said the instrument is now before the Expediency Council for final approval.  He described statutory regulations and legal tools in place for investigating and prosecuting trafficking in persons, including a draft bill amending the 2004 Countering Human Trafficking Act, which is currently before Parliament for adoption.  It focuses on the definition of trafficking in persons as a notorious crime, while covering aggravating circumstances.  “Such harmony would eventually contribute to international cooperation on the issue,” he said.  Further, a commission within the Ministry of Interior develops related policies, strategies and programmes, while law enforcement continues to fight organized crime groups, despite the lack of resources.  Against that backdrop, he urged the international community to provide tailor‑made, accessible and effective technical assistance.

RABAB FATIMA (Bangladesh) underlined the complex roots of human trafficking as well as the crime’s connection to criminal syndicates.  Addressing the phenomenon will require robust legislative frameworks, multi-stakeholder partnerships and effective international cooperation, she said, noting her country’s achievements in supporting victims and prosecuting traffickers.  Pointing to a range of national initiatives, she cited the establishment of separate anti-trafficking tribunals and the use of a victim-centred and multi-stakeholder approach.  Emphasizing the need for stronger international cooperation to address the root causes of trafficking, she referred to the situation of the Rohingya minority group in Myanmar, noting the impact of human trafficking in the region.  Labour migration also requires closer international and regional cooperation to prevent labour trafficking.  Similarly, the prosecution of traffickers and the impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic on migrant workers should be addressed.

KYAW MOE TUN (Myanmar) said his democratically elected Government has made concerted efforts to strengthen the rule of law, promote justice and human rights, and foster economic development, which are the foundations for addressing vulnerabilities to trafficking in persons.  However, he continued, “the elected Government’s ability to reform criminal justice and security sectors were largely constrained by the unaccountable military”.  To better protect children, the Parliament enacted a Child Rights Law which criminalized all forms of child sex trafficking, while efforts are also being made to replace the 2005 anti‑trafficking law in order to criminalize all forms of trafficking in line with international standards.  However, these developments are in vain because of the illegal military coup in February 2021.  Since then, the military and security forces have been committing widespread and systematic atrocities against the civilian population, having murdered almost 1,300 people, including at least 90 children.  Over 10,000 people have been arbitrarily arrested and more than 234,600 are internally displaced, he said, adding that many of them are at high risk of trafficking.

ENKHBOLD VORSHILOV (Mongolia) said that despite significant progress made, no case of trafficking in persons should be allowed to fade away with impunity.  Attributing human trafficking mainly to socioeconomic challenges and vulnerability, he cited the Global Report which indicated that women and children are still the primary objects of traffickers — especially when children are the victims of sexual exploitation.  Mongolia has made several improvements in its legislation to prevent and combat trafficking in persons, including the most recent National Anti-Trafficking Program, adopted in 2017, which aims to provide technical guidance on trafficking prevention and coordinate interagency efforts to implement relevant legislation.  Pointing out that Mongolia could become a transit country for traffickers, he noted that the Government and the United Nations Office of Counter‑Terrorism signed a Memorandum of Understanding to implement the United Nations flagship Countering Terrorists Travel Programme in October.

NEVILLE GERTZE (Namibia) stressed that human trafficking is a hidden crime that affects every country with thousands of men, women and children falling into the hands of traffickers.  Trafficking leads to a form of modern slavery with vulnerable people subjected to sexual exploitation, forced labour, domestic servitude and other abuses.  The COVID‑19 pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities, he added, resulting in many people becoming more vulnerable to the crime.  The international community should not allow the pandemic to reverse the progress achieved, he said, noting that addressing root causes and risk factors is critical, as is the prosecution of offenders and the protection of victims.  Pointing to the recently observed International Day against Trafficking in Persons, he praised its 2021 theme, “Victims’ Voices Lead the Way”, as a victim‑centred approach as critical.

BAKHTIYOR IBRAGIMOV (Uzbekistan) said since the adoption of the United Nations Global Plan of Action on Combating Trafficking in Persons, his country has made a special effort to identify and protect victims and to support their social reintegration.  Detailing further steps taken by Uzbekistan in this regard, he pointed to the establishment of a reintegration centre that provides assistance and protection to the victims of trafficking in addition to setting up a National Commission on Combating Trafficking in Persons and the Use of Forced Labour, which coordinates efforts by all stakeholders in that arena.  He went on to highlight five humanitarian operations conducted by his Government to repatriate Uzbekistan’s nationals, mostly women and children, from the conflict zones in the Middle East and Afghanistan as well as the creation of a post for a National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons and Forced Labour.

KRZYSZTOF SZCZERSKI (Poland), associating himself with the European Union, delivered a statement on behalf of Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and his own country, saying that preventing and ending trafficking requires comprehensive partnerships with a human rights‑based and victim‑centred approach.  Any response must also address the issues of discrimination and marginalization.  Describing the ever‑evolving phenomenon taking place near the European Union border — orchestrated by Belarus — he urged the international community to condemn the instrumentalization of migration, in which ruses have been employed to lure people from other regions with visas issued by Belarus.  To date, Poland has registered about 17,000 illegal border crossings, he said, calling on Belarus to comply with international law and protect the dignity and safety of people, and to stop using them for their sinister political games.

JAMAL FARES ALROWAIEI (Bahrain) reiterated his country’s commitment to the Global Plan of Action and its willingness to tackle the crime of human trafficking, which remains a challenge for humanity.  Bahrain has prioritized the issue and adopted relevant legislation, including a 2008 law establishing the national electronic registry system.  It also provides counselling for victims to ensure their reintegration and living standards, he said, noting that Bahrain has maintained its standing in the United States Trafficking in Persons Report.  Pointing to various other national initiatives, he added that Bahrain established a centre to build capacity in combating the crime of trafficking.

RÓBERT CHATRNÚCH (Slovakia), describing human trafficking as an unacceptable human rights violation, spotlighted its impact on women and girls and emphasized the need for gender‑sensitive responses.  The adoption of the Assembly’s political declaration is a decisive step forward, he said, recalling that all actions must be coordinated to take into consideration new developments.  He also highlighted the need to consider the four sub‑areas known of prevention, protection, prosecution and partnership, while also addressing the crimes’ root causes —including discrimination and social exclusion.  Communication between aid providers and law enforcement authorities at the national and international levels must be adjusted to deal with the evolving nature of those crimes.  In that vein, he expressed his delegation’s willingness to collaborate with international partners against organized crime.  Referring to the situation in Belarus, he condemned the inhumane instrumentalization of migration by the “Lukashenko regime” and called for its immediate end.

MOHAMMAD AAMIR KHAN (Pakistan), noting that proliferating conflicts, insecurity, and economic deprivation have compelled millions of people to leave their homes to seek safety and economic security, said many of them became victims of criminal groups or have died in detention centres.  The COVID‑19 pandemic has left many people at greater risk of being trafficked, he added, pointing to the partnership between his country and UNODC, which has yielded positive results — including the development of a strategic national action plan, the adoption of standard operating procedures for victim referral mechanisms and the strengthened technical capacity of border management officials.  The adoption of the United Nations Global Compact on Migration marked the beginning of a new era of migration governance, dialogue and international cooperation, he said, noting that despite its many benefits, human mobility — if poorly managed — can generate a tragic loss of life.  To end human trafficking in all its forms, States must take a unified, coordinated, consistent and equitable global approach, he said, voicing confidence that the Global Plan of Action can achieve that objective.

MOHAMMED ABDULAZIZ H. ALATEEK (Saudi Arabia) said his country has established mechanisms to protect human rights, Sharia Law and the principle of equality.  Calling for the creation by all States of national initiatives to combat and eliminate human trafficking crimes, he said his country’s Council of Ministers, for example, has set up a commission to fight trafficking while guaranteeing human rights and bringing together the expertise of various Government agencies.  National mechanisms must also define the essential roles of civil society organizations to raise awareness of the issue.  Noting that Saudi Arabia is also creating a roadmap to combat trafficking, he welcomed the support of international organizations in that regard.

SYED MOHAMAD HASRIN AIDID (Malaysia) said the COVID‑19 pandemic has further exacerbated efforts by countries to address trafficking in persons, and vulnerable populations have become more susceptible to exploitation.  Survivors of human trafficking remain at risk of re-trafficking and re-exploitation.  The pandemic has also impacted the capacity of authorities to tackle crimes related to trafficking, he said, noting that Malaysia has enhanced the capacity of its law enforcement, as well as its inter-agency cooperation and international cooperation, while improving assistance to victims in line with a human-rights-based and victim-centred approach.  At the national level, the country is guided by its Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act of 2007 as well as its National Action Plan on Anti-Trafficking in Persons.

CRISTIAN ESPINOSA CAÑIZARES (Ecuador) said today’s meeting offers an opportunity to lay out a plan for future progress on combating trafficking, which is hobbling the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Ecuador considers personal well‑being a common aspiration and has adopted measures and laws to address pressing challenges, from providing services to victims of violence to economically empowering women.  Public policies now promote the implementation of operational action plans to fight against human trafficking, including focusing on the structural drivers of the crime.  Highlighting other national efforts, he said initiatives include awareness raising, psychological services for victims and legal assistance.  Special centres cater to female trafficking victims, and a national committee is addressing such concerns as poverty, gender discrimination and targeted violence, he said, adding that improved coordination among partners is one effective tool to combat the scourge of trafficking.

TETSUYA KIMURA (Japan) noted that the social and economic impacts of the COVID‑19 pandemic affect the lives of the world’s most vulnerable people and could cause an increase in human trafficking.  Close coordination among relevant agencies to crack down on that heinous crime — together with efforts to identify and protect victims — enables Japan to address all types of trafficking, including in women and children for sexual exploitation, he said.  Japan has been providing technical assistance through various anti-trafficking projects developed by UNODC and other agencies.  For example, Japanese experts are engaged in victim support and rehabilitation measures, which enabled more than 300 victims to return home safely, in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM).  Moreover, the Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund has helped implement projects to confront trafficking crimes, he said.

HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana), expressing solidarity with the victims and survivors of trafficking, highlighted the growing link between armed groups — including terrorist groups — and trafficking in persons, especially in West Africa.  Also voicing concern about the use of online platforms to facilitate grooming, recruitment and exploitation, he welcomed the Assembly’s timely adoption of its Political Declaration.  Pointing to various legislations enacted by his Government to prevent and suppress trafficking, he stressed the importance of providing technical assistance to developing countries.  It is necessary to go beyond investments in border management and intelligence-sharing to tackle the phenomenon’s root causes, he stressed, adding that debt cancellation and the restructuring of debt repayments is essential to enable States to build back better in a manner that helps prospective victims be less inclined to fall prey to the traps of traffickers.

AMEIRAH OBAID MOHAMED OBAID ALHEFEITI (United Arab Emirates) said the United Nations Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons is an important tool to unify international efforts.  The United Arab Emirates attaches great importance to combating that crime, she said, pointing to the 2007 establishment of a National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking.  She highlighted the importance of prevention and drew attention to awareness-raising campaigns aimed at educating people on the menace posed by human trafficking.  The United Arab Emirates is also keen on capacity-building and sharing practices to better identify the crimes of human trafficking.  Stressing that her country has adopted a victim-based approach and adopted a law criminalizing trafficking in persons, she said it is constantly updating its legislation to best serve victims’ interests.

CRAIG J. HAWKE (New Zealand) signalled his country’s strong support for a human rights-based, gender- and age-responsive, survivor-centred and trauma-informed approach to combating human trafficking.  Such an approach ensures that the welfare of victims is at the heart of its efforts, and that effective enforcement tools are available to hold offenders to account.  New Zealand's national plan of action aims to address forced labour, trafficking in persons and slavery, and is organized around prevention, protection and enforcement/prosecution.  His Government is also considering domestic legislation to address modern slavery in global supply chains.  “Modern slavery is a global issue, and it will take a global response to create meaningful change,” he said, noting that the proposed legislation would help ensure that New Zealand’s businesses and consumers are not inadvertently contributing to the exploitation of other people, including children, around the world.

AMRIT BAHADUR RAI (Nepal) said that the COVID‑19 pandemic has exacerbated the situation of vulnerable people, noting an increase in sexual and gender-based violence.  He invited the international community to address the root causes of human trafficking while reiterating his country’s support for the implementation of the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons.  Citing a range of national initiatives, he noted Nepal’s adoption of the Human Trafficking and Transportation Act; its implementation of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children, which supplements the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime; and its development of a Second National Master Plan on the Elimination of  Child  Labour.  He further called for the implementation of the Global Compact for Migration to help prevent the trafficking and smuggling of migrants while reiterating Nepal’s support for a coordinated approach at the national, regional and international levels.

MOHAMED AL HASSAN (Oman) outlined his country’s efforts to combat human trafficking, highlighting the establishment of a dedicated national committee which has been implementing awareness‑raising programmes, as well as new proposed legislation to eradicate the phenomenon.  Noting that COVID-19 pandemic has not deterred those efforts, he detailed activities carried out under the national plan to combat human trafficking, including the training of frontline workers.  He further pointed to “Incentive” — an initiative launched by his Government in cooperation with the private sector and civil society — which seeks to achieve greater awareness among the broader private sector about trafficking risks.  Oman has also joined several international and regional instruments and conventions to prevent, suppress and eliminate trafficking in persons, especially women and children, he said, also reiterating his country’s commitment to the United Nations Global Plan of Action.

IVAN ŠIMONOVIĆ (Croatia) said trafficking in persons is a modern form of slavery, a flagrant violation of human rights and a serious crime.  “It is also a symptom of our lack of coordination and solidarity in governing a globally interconnected world,” he said.  To stop trafficking, the international community must improve its cooperation on a national and international level.  Countries of origin, transit and destination must work with security and law enforcement agencies, social services, the private sector and non-governmental organizations.  Instead of shifting blame to each other, the international community should use today’s high-level session to identify new threats, exchange experiences and identify best responses.  Noting that the COVID‑19 pandemic increased people’s vulnerabilities and left many more susceptible to fraud and fake promises — which are frequently used as a cover for trafficking — he said traffickers are using new methods for recruitment via social media and online platforms, particularly targeting children and young adults.  Meanwhile, overall prosecution and conviction rates remain low, making human trafficking a “low-risk, highly profitable crime”, he warned.

EGRISELDA ARACELY GONZÁLEZ LÓPEZ (El Salvador), outlining various national efforts, said her country adopted laws to combat human trafficking in 2015 and has implemented measures through a comprehensive approach.  Despite pandemic-related limitations, the national commission has advanced on a range of issues, including the provision of support to trafficking victims, training to strengthen technical abilities and the bolstering of legal tools to prevent the crime.  Meanwhile, a cross-sectoral mechanism provides assistance to victims.  However, challenges remain, she said, adding that Member States must intensify efforts to prevent irregular migration.  Efforts are needed to support regular migration, including family reunification.  Given that trafficking takes place in all countries, greater cooperation at national and regional levels is needed to better combat and punish the crime while at the same time providing restitution to victims.

MARÍA DEL CARMEN SQUEFF (Argentina), outlining steps taken by her country to combat trafficking in persons, highlighted the work of a federal council and an executive committee to implement a national anti-trafficking programme.  Argentina’s efforts to combat that transnational crime are focused on ensuring quality assistance for victims and allowing them to start a life based on autonomy, freedom and dignity.  Citing research on the economic dimension of trafficking, she noted that Argentina has rescued some 19,000 victims of sexual or labour trafficking between 2008 and the present day.  Noting that those most vulnerable to trafficking are women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, she said Argentina therefore recognized trafficking as a form of gender-based violence in its law on the comprehensive protection of women.

MOHAMMAD KURNIADI KOBA (Indonesia) reaffirmed his country’s commitment to develop strategies to combat human trafficking, a challenge which cannot be solved in silos.  Strengthening international cooperation is crucial.  The global community must be agile in adapting its responses, as traffickers use the Internet to target victims, he said, urging Governments to employ information and communications technology (ICT) for the early detection of crimes.  The international community also needs to strengthen partnerships with civil society and the private sector, which can help local law enforcement officials.  “One victim is one victim too many,” he stressed, calling for action-oriented responses and pointing to the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime as an example of an effective mechanism.

MOHAMMED HUSSEIN BAHR ALULOOM (Iraq), outlining several steps his Government has taken to combat trafficking in persons, said the Parliament enacted an anti-trafficking law in 2012, and existing gaps are currently being addressed.  However, combating the crime requires collective efforts.  For its part, Iraq continues to dismantle trafficking networks — even during the COVID‑19 pandemic — and aims to strengthen the capacities of its anti-trafficking commission and of local authorities.  Iraq welcomes the Assembly’s Political Declaration, particularly its provisions related to strengthening national institutions.

DIEGO PARY RODRÍGUEZ (Bolivia) described trafficking in persons as a global problem that deprives millions of people of their dignity and must be addressed as a priority.  The crime of trafficking goes hand in hand with racial and gender discrimination and requires renewed global efforts, he underscored, noting that women and children are most affected.  Indeed, trafficking in persons punishes those who have done nothing but aspire to a better future.  The traditional approach to that cross-border crime is insufficient, as transnational organized crime groups use technology to capture victims and hide their actions.  Prosecution and punishment of those who traffic persons or organs cannot depend on just the testimonies of victims.  To that end, he called for strengthened mechanisms for judicial cooperation and the modernization of criminal legislation.

CEREN HANDE ÖZGÜR (Turkey) pointed to the digitalization of trafficking, noting that addressing that menace requires strong national legal frameworks, gender-responsive efforts and victim- and survivor-centred approaches.  Describing her country’s policies, she emphasized prevention, detection, prosecution and partnerships.  As women remain more vulnerable to trafficking, she outlined successful projects to address needs of women, including a telephone hotline and the “Be my voice” campaign.  She further noted that Turkey supports all international cooperation mechanisms to combat human trafficking and prioritizes the effective implementation of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its protocols.  Stressing the specific vulnerability of migrants and refugees — who face greater risks of victimization by traffickers — she recalled instances of inhumane treatment of migrants in international waters, whose boats are forcefully driven to Turkish waters, describing such actions as a “disgrace to humanity” and “blatant violations of human rights”.

ALICIA GUADALUPE BUENROSTRO MASSIEU (Mexico) said her country will shoulder its responsibility to restore the rights of trafficking victims.  Underlining the need to eradicate all forms of gender-based violence, she called for the protection of migrants that get caught in the webs of human traffickers.  Voicing support for the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, she said Mexico is working diligently to coordinate its trafficking responses on all levels and to promote human rights.  It is also building knowledge in communities and municipalities to prevent such crimes, while enacting laws at the state level to bring them in line with federal legislation.  In addition, Mexico — with support from civil society and academia — is investigating the financial schemes that allow traffickers to operate and reap a profit, she said.

GBOLIÉ DÉSIRÉ WULFRAN IPO (Côte d'Ivoire) stated that 11 years after the adoption of the Global Plan of Action, it is time for the international community to step up efforts to finally eradicate human trafficking.  He underlined initiatives carried by his country in line with the recently adopted Political Declaration while also welcoming regional and subregional action in that regard.  Adding that the multifaceted threat of human trafficking will require greater coordination and the use of ICT, he noted that Côte d'Ivoire has ratified international conventions to level up its commitments.  He went on to urge Member States to intensify their efforts to eliminate the heinous crime of trafficking in persons.

EMAN HUSSAIN (Maldives) said the COVID‑19 pandemic has increased the vulnerabilities of people to trafficking, particularly women and girls.  Her Government has remained steadfast in its efforts to combat human trafficking and implement the Global Plan of Action, and in 2018 it ratified the Prevention of Human Trafficking Act, which made trafficking a criminal offence punishable by up to 15 years in prison.  The Maldives has also ratified two amendments to that law in order to bring its definition of trafficking in line with the 2000 United Nations Trafficking in Persons Protocol.  Noting the Maldives’ all-of-Government approach to combating trafficking, she added that a shelter has been established to provide a secure refuge for victims.  There have also been national social media campaigns to raise awareness, while the role of law enforcement authorities has been elevated to better address human trafficking cases.  Noting that the Assembly’s Political Declaration highlights the need to scale up the resources to match the gravity of the challenge, she said that this includes intensifying international cooperation to strengthen prevention and address the needs of the victims.

MARÍA BASSOLS DELGADO (Spain) said all efforts must aim at eradicating trafficking, which degrades people until they become merchandise.  The pandemic’s impact has only worsened the situation by, among other things, increasing the vulnerability of people to trafficking networks.  That transnational problem requires a multidisciplinary coordinated approach.  For its part, Spain is working on awareness-raising, protecting victims and taking steps to address the reality that seven of every 10 trafficking victims are women.  In addition, the Foreign Ministry is strengthening Spain’s implementation of the Palermo Protocol while engaging with European Union efforts.  Noting that Spain appointed a focal point for preventing and fighting trafficking, she stressed that international partnerships are key and noted that her Government is working bilaterally to conclude a range of related agreements.  Spain, together with the United Nations, hosted the first international seminar on human trafficking in Madrid, she said, reiterating that the crime must be fought by forging stronger partnerships.

MARIA DE JESUS DOS REIS FERREIRA (Angola) said human trafficking moves $30 billion around the world, of which more than 75 per cent comes from the sexual exploitation of women and children.  In Angola, human trafficking has more than 100 victims per year.  In 2014, the Government approved provisions to penalize trafficking in persons, and the country also joined the “Blue Heart” campaign in solidarity with victims of trafficking.  Angola now faces the challenge of the use of ICT for criminal activities, she said, stressing the need to improve the capacity of countries to confront those activities and calling for cooperation and information exchange.  International cooperation in the field of criminal justice should be strengthened, she asserted, highlighting UNODC’s role and the need to improve capacity‑building.

MARTIN KIMANI (Kenya) said his Government is determined to prevent trafficking in persons, as it poses a serious threat to human dignity, human rights, peace and security as well as development.  In addition, transnational criminal networks involved in human and drug trafficking, corruption, terrorism and illicit financial flows have a negative impact on the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.  Kenya’s National Action Plan incorporates robust international cooperation in integrating prevention, detection, investigation and neutralization of criminal acts.  Special attention must be paid to protecting the most vulnerable groups, including migrants, women, girls and children, who are at risk of being trafficked and exploited by lucrative criminal networks.  That includes forced marriages in conflict situations and sexual enslavement, a practice which has been worsened by the COVID‑19 pandemic.  In addition, he said identifying, protecting, supporting and providing resources to survivors of trafficking remains the key to a survivor-centred approach.

GEORG CHRISTIAN KLUSSMANN (Germany), associating himself with the European Union, said that his country is affected by human trafficking and in particular sexual exploitation.  Voicing regret that the COVID-19 pandemic has made it more difficult to support victims, he said Germany has established a national structure to collect data, protect victims and prosecute traffickers.  He also expressed concerns about the situation at the border between Belarus and the European Union, where the former has been instrumentalizing migrants.  He called on countries of origins to end that situation, commending the Government of Iraq for facilitating their return.

RICARDO DE SOUZA MONTEIRO (Brazil), highlighting national efforts, said the COVID‑19 pandemic’s impact has worsened the situation, as many people continue to risk their lives on routes where they risk falling prey to traffickers.  A multidisciplinary approach is required, with strategies spanning national, regional and international stakeholders, because isolated actions cannot bring lasting solutions.  Regular channels for migration are an important tool to fight trafficking, he said, adding that effective strategies must ensure that the needs of trafficking victims are met in a manner that respects their dignity.  For its part, Brazil offers visas for those facing conflict or other threats, has implemented measures to protect victims and has contributed to a range of efforts aimed at ending human smuggling.

FERIT HOXHA (Albania) highlighted significant progress in addressing many of the social, economic, cultural and political factors that make people vulnerable to human trafficking.  However, such strides are insufficient, as the extent of human trafficking across the globe has only worsened.  Armed conflicts and humanitarian emergencies are on the rise, socioeconomic inequalities are increasing and the gender gap is widening.  The COVID‑19 pandemic has further exacerbated those trends, making it much easier for vulnerable people to fall victim to sex trafficking, forced labour and other forms of exploitation.  In that context, he stressed the need to improve mechanisms that enable the early identification of trafficking victims.  Calling for a human-rights‑based and victim‑centred approach, he underscored the importance of promoting strong partnerships among Governments, academic institutions, the media and civil society.

JÖRUNDUR VALTÝSSON (Iceland) noted that more needs to be done to prevent trafficking, address root causes and end impunity, stressing that his country is strongly committed to playing its part.  Outlining measures to that end, he drew attention to a national action plan with revised legislation, victims’ protection and assistance measures as well as amendments to the General Penal Code’s provision on human trafficking.  While national measures are essential, human trafficking is a global problem that requires a global response, particularly in the context of the COVID‑19 pandemic, he said, demanding an immediate end to the instrumentalization of migrants for political purposes.

GVARAM KHANDAMISHVILI (Georgia) noted that COVID‑19 has exacerbated the challenges related to the identification of human trafficking and victim protection, while traffickers are taking advantage of modern communication technologies.  Welcoming the adoption of the Political Declaration, he noted that Georgia is committed to taking measures to enhance prevention, protection, prosecution and partnerships at both the national and international levels.  Noting that his country has built cooperation in combating crime and enhanced police cooperation with more than 30 countries, he stressed that the proactive identification of relevant cases by Georgian law enforcement authorities remains a key priority.  As a result of intensive community policing and proactive measures, the number of investigations, prosecutions and statutory victims is gradually increasing, and the Government also provides victims with essential services.  He further asserted that the illegal occupation of the Georgian regions of Tskhinvali/South Ossetia and Abkhazia by the Russian Federation remains the main obstacle for the Government in implementing its counter‑trafficking measures across the country.

PETER MOHAN MAITHRI PIERIS (Sri Lanka) said the time has come for the international community to address human trafficking.  Referring to the 25 million people currently subjected to modern slavery, he noted that trafficking prevention and assistance to victims remain distant goals.  He went on to underline that a greater understanding of the root causes of human trafficking is needed.  Human trafficking is a $150 billion industry, he stressed, drawing attention to the common responsibility every time one purchases objects manufactured under forced labour.  Voicing support for the Assembly’s Political Declaration, he pointed to initiatives carried by his country to better collaborate with the United Nations and its ratification of several relevant international agreements.  He also called on Member States for more action to achieve a meaningful outcome.

JASSER JIMÉNEZ (Nicaragua) said human trafficking requires a coordinated international response with States working together to strengthen existing tools to protect victims.  Especially during the COVID‑19 pandemic, multilateralism must be strengthened to tackle that evil scourge, which puts profits above human rights.  Every year, women of all ages are exploited by international, regional and local trafficking networks due to the growing demand for cheap labour and the sex industry.  For its part, Nicaragua has adopted a set of laws covering the prosecution of perpetrators and the protection of victims.  Going forward, a new social contract is needed to achieve a world built on love, cooperation and solidarity and to finally combat human trafficking, he said.

ZSUZSANNA HORVÁTH (Hungary) stressed that ending human trafficking is a top priority for her Government, which is deeply committed to supporting and empowering survivors, preventing them from victimization and bringing perpetrators to justice.  Hungary’s national strategy places special emphasis on vulnerable populations and people living in extreme poverty, especially women and girls of Roma origin, who are particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation.  Citing the Government’s cooperation across sectors and with non-governmental organizations, she noted that it appointed senior supervising officers for anti-trafficking within the police force and recently amended the Criminal Code, the Child Protection Act and the Act on Minor Offences.  Among other initiatives, she also pointed to awareness-raising and training programmes, which covered all 19 Hungarian counties and the capital.

DENNIS FRANCIS (Trinidad and Tobago) said the protection of all victims of human trafficking is ensured by security and safe accommodation for such individuals, without fear of deportation.  His country’s National Action Plan (2021–2023) will result in improved coordination in interagency efforts to combat trafficking in persons and strengthened prosecutorial effectiveness.  Given the channels through which trafficking takes place, Trinidad and Tobago takes an all-encompassing approach to its response.  International organizations, civil society and the media must cooperate to ensure the perpetrators of trafficking are brought to justice.  As a small island developing State, Trinidad and Tobago understands the importance of capacity-building as well as strengthened regional and international partnerships, he added.

PETRONELLAR NYAGURA (Zimbabwe), noting that traffickers are becoming increasingly sophisticated, called on States to get ahead of them by applying new strategies and approaches as well as collective efforts.  To that end, she highlighted the importance of cooperation and of strengthening and standardizing national, regional and international legal systems to combat the misuse of ICT for criminal purposes.  Detailing her country’s efforts to align its national legislation with international norms on combating human trafficking, she said Zimbabwe is at an advanced stage in the ratification of the Protocol Against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air.  She further outlined measures taken by her Government to protect trafficking victims while noting that national institutions require capacity-building to more effectively fight trafficking and human smuggling.

OMAR KADIRI (Morocco) emphasized his country’s determination to eradicate human trafficking through prevention, protection and assistance to victims.  He listed various national initiatives, such as the establishment of a national commission against trafficking, the adoption of a law for its criminalization, the establishment of special mechanisms to protect women and children and measures to facilitate access to justice.  Noting that Morocco has ratified 20 bilateral judicial agreements to combat trafficking, he expressed support for the United Nations mandate to address the phenomenon.  Morocco has taken steps in line with the Global Plan of Action, including dismantling human traffickers’ networks, thanks to collaboration with its international partners.

BIRUK MEKONNEN DEMISSIE (Ethiopia) noted that demographic pressure and economic underdevelopment contributes to the increasing intensity of human trafficking and smuggling in his country.  The crime is also changing in its tactics, challenging social protections and law enforcement mechanisms.  Outlining steps undertaken by his Government to improve responses to human trafficking, he pointed to steady progress in the rate of prosecution.  Commending States who have reformed their labour laws to make migration more humane and mutually beneficial, he called on other States to follow suit, as effective cooperation in that arena is key to curbing human trafficking.  Pointing to the mass deportation and inhumane treatment of migrants in receiving countries, he said his country had to apply emergency repatriation measures for migrants due to the life-threatening challenges they faced in countries of destination.  In that context, he called on countries of destination to respect the dignity of migrants, irrespective of their legal status.

DAVIT KNYAZYAN, speaking on behalf of Mher Grigoryan, Deputy Prime Minister of Armenia, said nations must jointly combat the challenges and threats that have only become more difficult during the COVID‑19 pandemic.  Armenia’s approach is based on a systematic and continuous focus on, among other things, establishing national strategies, a dedicated national commission and a national council.  The Government also provides monetary compensation for victims and has adopted a decree and amendments to the Criminal Code that will take effect in 2022.  The needs and interests of victims form the basis of Armenia’s efforts alongside preventing trafficking.  However, strengthening measures to combat this crime can only be effective with the involvement of all stakeholders, including the United Nations and other intergovernmental entities, he said.

GENNADY V. KUZMIN (Russian Federation), noting the transnational character of human trafficking, called for strengthened international cooperation to combat the phenomenon.  He further pointed to an interconnectedness of trafficking in persons with economic imbalances and increases in legal migration, which should be considered in developing anti-trafficking measures.  Noting that his country views tackling the root causes of trafficking as a priority, he pointed to legalized sex industries in a number of countries, the continued demand for cheap labour as well as low living standards.  Combatting trafficking requires a comprehensive approach, which includes prevention, assistance to victims and the irreversibility of punishment.  Welcoming the United Nations lead role in efforts to combat human trafficking, he noted that States require concrete assistance which considers the needs of countries of origin and destination.  He further stated that any anti-trafficking project should be implemented only in response to a State’s request.

FREDRIK HANSEN, observer for the Holy See, pointed out that despite increasing efforts by States, data on trafficking in persons is still limited.  The COVID-19 pandemic has made that undertaking even more complex. Stressing that children continue to account for about one‑third of trafficking victims, especially in the poorest countries, he noted that school closures due to COVID‑19 have rendered millions more children vulnerable to trafficking.  Meanwhile, women and girls still constitute the vast majority of victims who are trafficked, sold, coerced or subjected to conditions of slavery.  He went on to cite significant progress and acknowledged the growing awareness and legal recognition that victims should not be inappropriately punished or prosecuted for acts they might have committed as a direct consequence of being trafficked.  He also noted that there have been significant advances in formulating the legal norms to investigate, prosecute and punish traffickers, as well as strengthened partnerships among States and relevant stakeholders.

MAGED ABDELFATTAH ABDELAZIZ, observer for the League of Arab States, invited the international community to step up its efforts to implement the Global Action Plan by securing partnerships with non-governmental organizations and working with transit and destination countries.  The identification of national contact points in those countries is crucial, he said, highlighting the need to build constructive partnerships between civil society, the private sector and public authorities.  Turning to the Political Declaration adopted by the Assembly, he called for additional resources for the Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking.  In line with the Global Plan of Action, he commended efforts by Qatar, Lebanon and other countries which have presented insightful reports.  He also echoed other speakers in describing the COVID‑19 pandemic as one of the most significant challenges hindering efforts against human trafficking.  Citing tensions between Belarus and Poland on the issue of migrants, he went on to invite the United Nations to study the complex link between the pandemic and human trafficking.

Summaries of Panel Discussions

The Assembly then heard from the Chairs of the two panel discussions held on 22 November, who provided summaries of those dialogues.  Respectively, they focused on the themes “The Global Plan of Action and enduring trafficking issues and gaps including, inter alia, the trafficking of women and children, particularly girls, for the purpose of sexual exploitation” and “The Global Plan of Action and emerging issues, such as trafficking in persons in the context of COVID‑19, and the misuse of information and communication technologies to facilitate trafficking, including trafficking of children for the purpose of sexual exploitation on the Internet”.

Right of Reply

The representative of Greece, exercising the right of reply in response to the statement made by the delegation of Turkey, said his country is on the frontline of the migration crisis and became familiar with the inhumane treatment of migrants by human traffickers, supported or encouraged by authorities of third countries.  Noting that Greek authorities saved many human lives in the sea, he committed to continue doing so while underscoring the importance of cooperation and understanding among neighbouring countries in that regard.

The representative of Belarus, responding to the statements made by the representatives of the European Union and Poland, dismissed accusations against his country as false.  Noting that the European Union’s delegate derailed the meeting and used it to pursue short-term political interests, he further noted that Belarus continues to examine the situation on the border with Poland and has become aware of the use of chemicals and tear gas by Polish border guards against migrants.  His country will continue to provide information about confirmed cases of violations of international law on its borders with Lithuania and Poland, he said, stressing that the European Union is not authorized to comment on his country’s domestic affairs.

For information media. Not an official record.