New York

13 May 2013

Secretary-General's remarks at the General Assembly's high-level meeting on Improving the Coordination of Efforts against Trafficking in Persons

Thank you for coming together to stop the scandal of human trafficking.  And I highly appreciate [that] the President of the General Assembly is bringing all of us together to address this very important yet very serious global challenges – human trafficking.

Around the world, traffickers victimize defenceless and vulnerable people.

Earlier this month, authorities in Yemen freed about 500 Ethiopian migrants who had been trapped by traffickers. The victims were mostly women and girls. I was deeply disturbed to hear that many had been tortured or abused.  Of course, we know millions of others experience a similar ordeal.

Human trafficking devastates individuals and undermines national economies. Billions of dollars are generated through exploitation and abuse. These black market funds support illegal drugs, corruption and other crimes.

The United Nations is bringing partners together to protect the victims, prosecute the traffickers, and end this trade in humans.

There are three critical steps to advance this life-saving cause.

First: Universal ratification of important treaties. The Trafficking in Persons Protocol already has more than 150 States parties. I urge all others to join, and to become party to international pacts against trafficking, corruption and slavery – as well as treaties that protect human rights, especially the rights of women and children.

Second: Implementation of the UN’s Global Plan of Action against trafficking. Our comprehensive set of recommendations attacks the problem from many angles.

Third: Contributions to the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund to help victims  take back their lives and build new futures. I thank all those who have already donated and I urge others to give generously to this important Fund.

Human trafficking is a vicious chain that binds victims to criminals. We must break this chain with the force of human solidarity.

In this effort, we have to listen to the voices of the victims. Recently, the International Labour Organization interviewed hundreds of them. One young woman described how her employer broke her arm and then locked her in a room with a camera. He threatened to tell the authorities that she was stealing from him so they would throw her in jail.

When the torture was finally over, she said simply: “I want to prosecute my employer… I want him to be judged for what he did to me.”

We must heed this call for justice and the many others from victims around the world. We will never succeed in preventing trafficking unless we end impunity.

To achieve justice, we need a strong foundation in the rule of law. This demands putting a stop to the corruption that pollutes so many transactions. We have to strengthen judicial systems and help governments earn the trust of their people.

More broadly, we have to raise living standards. Human trafficking thrives in conditions of poverty. People are lured from their homes by promises of wealth and security. In some of the most tragic cases, parents sell their children for a pittance in a desperate bid to survive.

The good news is that we have a roadmap to the future we want. The Millennium Development Goals constitute the largest and most successful anti-poverty campaign in history. We must do everything possible to reach the MDGs before the 2015 deadline. Success in this will add momentum to our work to craft a post–2015 development agenda.

I count on all of you to be part of our work to end human trafficking, and to create a world where people’s basic needs are met and their fundamental rights are respected.

I thank you.