Ladies and Gentlemen,
My thanks to Norway for holding this forum on this important topic.
Ethiopia has shown its leadership in the fight against human trafficking, as the first Sub-Saharan country to join 30 other countries supporting the United Nations Blue Heart Campaign. The country has also been a leader in advancing the participation of women in public life, including through a political cabinet that is half female. In fact, the Nobel Peace Prize just awarded to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed highlighted his role in “significantly increasing the influence of women in Ethiopian political and community life.”
I think we can all agree that we are well beyond the point of needing to explain or justify the need to involve and empower women in promoting peace and in realizing the Sustainable Development Goals. Action that fails to meaningfully bring in women will fall short of meeting the ambitious objectives of the 2030 Agenda and Africa’s Agenda 2063. With only a decade to deliver on the SDGs, the international community clearly cannot afford this handicap.
Harnessing the energies, skills and resources of all parts of our societies to address global challenges and achieve the SDGs means enabling women to have a voice and an active role. This applies, too, to our efforts to prevent and counter human trafficking. Multiple targets under the SDGs call for addressing human trafficking, to prevent abuse and exploitation, eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls, eradicate forced labour and child labour, and stop transnational organized crime.
Eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls depends upon fair and effective institutions to access justice and essential services. But far too often, institutions have let down women and the barriers remain formidable and pervasive. We have seen all over the world that marginalized and at-risk women, with limited resources or access to the formal economy, are often preyed upon by organized crime networks. Almost three quarters of trafficking victims detected globally are women and girls.
The empowerment of women – and indeed, the promotion of sustainable growth in the country and across the globe – requires breaking down barriers of access to economic resources, increasing access to education and keeping girls in school. These are also obvious protective factors that can help prevent human trafficking.
To achieve this, we need to advance integrated responses in line with the Protocol against human trafficking and other international commitments, that bring in all stakeholders – the private sector and civil society as well as government – and all sectors, from criminal justice and social services to health and education.
In Ethiopia, with its very dynamic and young population, we have the opportunity to promote the empowerment of girls as a catalyst for positive change and prosperity. To do this we must also involve boys as active and valuable participants in our efforts.
Working together we can encourage the meaningful participation of youth, to empower women and girls to promote justice, including to prevent and counter human trafficking. In this way can we unlock the great potential of Ethiopia and the region and keep our promise to future generations.