Thank you for inviting me to this 13th Alliance Against Trafficking in Persons High Level Event hosted by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
I welcome ever closer contacts between the OSCE and the UN. Personally, I have a long-standing relationship with the OSCE. In 1993-94 I worked as Chairman of the Minsk Process addressing the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. I have followed this issue closely ever since
I am especially grateful to the OSCE for bringing us together today on such a critical and urgent issue. The fight against human trafficking is a battle for justice, equality and dignity. It is a battle for human rights and for human decency.
We are dealing with a dangerous industry that generates more than $30 billion in profits each year. This compromised money is then poured back into further trafficking and other criminal activity.
The profits are earned at an inexcusable price: namely stolen and destroyed lives.
Take the case of Lina, a poor girl from Cambodia. By the time she was nine, she was in Bangkok selling flowers outside a nightclub. Her small profits went to traffickers who beat her when she did not earn enough to satisfy their greed.
When Lina was eleven, the traffickers convinced Lina’s parents to send her eight-year old sister to work in Bangkok. This was the last straw for Lina. She could not watch her sister suffer. She took her with her in a brave escape. They made it back to Cambodia.
They have now reclaimed their lives and dreams. Lina plans to be a teacher. Her sister hopes to become a nurse.
But millions of other people – many young girls like Lina – are still controlled by traffickers who enslave them for labour or prostitution.
This is an indelible stain on the human conscience.
In some cases the victims are not far away. Their plight is hidden but they are often among us.
Every country is affected but most of the victims come from weak and fragile nations. When families are insecure, they are vulnerable to the false promises of traffickers.
In vulnerable countries, human trafficking forms part of a nexus of criminality along with illicit drugs, arms trafficking, and other crimes. This blocks development, violates human rights and undermines the rule of law.
We have a framework and we have a roadmap to counter this threat.
The UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol on Human Trafficking provide the means to comprehensively respond to this contemporary form of slavery.
In 2010, governments renewed their commitments to prevent trafficking, protect victims, and prosecute related crimes through the adoption of the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons.
Member States also created the UN Victims Trust Fund to support the victims of human trafficking. This is a crucial element of the Global Plan, providing humanitarian, legal and financial aid to victims, especially women and children.
We must build on this momentum. Human Trafficking demands a coordinated response at every level. We must take action on all fronts: criminal justice, victim assistance and victim protection, human rights, migration policy and labour market regulation.
We must also strengthen legislative and other measures to discourage the demand that feeds exploitation and leads to human trafficking.
I urge every nation to ratify the Convention and its Protocol – and to implement their provisions.
Given the enormous black-market revenues, we must also focus on how to target the flow of illicit funds.
This means that countries must strengthen their commitment and means to tackle organised transnational crime.
When there is a suspicious movement of funds, reporting entities must be encouraged to share that information. Investigators must have the training, authority and resources to confiscate and seize criminal assets. Financial Intelligence Units and prosecutors must be able to pursue the criminals without fear of retaliation.
Strong financial investigations are crucial. Criminal networks go to great lengths to distance themselves from every aspect of the crime except one: their profits.
We need everyone’s help to fight human trafficking. I encourage all partners to come together: governments, the private sector, NGOs, the media and the public. Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something. Some of us can provide legal advice. Some can spark action by governments. Some can contribute funds. All can be part of our global movement to stop this terrible human rights abuse.
The title of this conference is “Stolen Lives, Stolen money”. It asks us to return the dignity and rights that have been taken from individuals like Lina.
We may never erase the scars that they bear. But we can ensure that victims of human trafficking receive fair compensation and access to practical opportunities to reclaim their lives.
At the same time, we have to address the underlying conditions that breed human trafficking.
Earlier this month, the Report of the High-level Panel offered its vision on the post-2015 Development Agenda to the Secretary-General.
The report establishes that peace and freedom from violence are essential for security, especially for women and girls. Such security is in fact a prerequisite for development and for respect for human rights. The report also calls for rule of law and new partnerships to support this broad agenda.
At its core is the driving desire to eradicate extreme poverty, while also tackling inequality and injustices, as well as establishing good institutions to build rule of law everywhere.
When we eradicate poverty and fight for human dignity, we protect children like Lina from falling prey to traffickers, and we empower parents to resist their false promises.
Our work to end trafficking is part of this great, global campaign, which will empower all people – including victims of human trafficking – to live full lives and give their own contributions to a better world.