General Assembly: plenary

Note: A complete summary of today’s General Assembly meetings will be made available after their conclusion.


COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica) said there was a mutually reinforcing relationship between the efforts made to implement the Sustainable Development Goals and the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons.  Jamaica had made a strong political commitment not only in prevention and protection, but also in prosecuting crimes of human trafficking.  It had developed a sophisticated legislative and institutional framework to cope with that heinous practice.  The country had also appointed a National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, the first to have been appointed in the Caribbean.  Since 2010, 76 victims had been rescued, with sentences ranging between 16 and 18 years, four human traffickers had been convicted and restitution costs had been paid to victims.

PER-ANDERS SUNESSON (Sweden), associating himself with the European Union, said cooperation on counter-trafficking measures must be based on the common definition of the practice, and a shared view of relevant legal definitions.  It was crucial that all States ratify international instruments and share data and best practices.  Warning against selective efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals as counterproductive, he called for work across all three of the Agenda’s pillars.  Requesting the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to produce an annual report on measures to reduce demand — especially for sex trafficking and slave labour — he said weak national laws allowed such demands to flourish.  Legislation much be revised, he stressed, adding that all States bore an obligation to deliver on their commitments to support victims.  That required cooperation between Government and civil society, and adequate funding, he said, endorsing the work of the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons in that regard, and announcing Sweden’s decision to commit $100,000 in 2017.

SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy) highlighted the need for greater attention to trafficking victims and adopting more effective countering measures at the national level.  Assistance to victims must be guaranteed to prevent them from becoming victimized twice‑over through indictments for any unlawful conduct in which they were forced to engage.  In April 2016, Italy’s Parliament addressed the legal protection of undocumented migrants arriving in the country.  A new law harmonized existing legislation and activated additional resources that were tailored to the specific needs of migrant minors without families.

VIVIAN NWUNAKU ROSE OKEKE (Nigeria), aligning herself with the Group of Friends United against Trafficking in Persons, said the causes of trafficking were complex and multi‑dimensional, with “push and pull” factors such as inadequate employment, poor living conditions, conflict, war, famine, loss of livelihood, forced marriage, dissolution of families and natural disaster.  She highlighted the role of the family as a “basis of unity”.  Nigeria, a destination and export country, had zero tolerance for trafficking and had put in place strong institutional measures and legislation to ensure prosecution, including the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, and a review of relevant laws to combat the crime.  It also had scaled up domestic laws under the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Acts of 2015, expanded its prosecutorial mechanism and strengthened international partnerships.  She urged greater support for the Voluntary Trust Fund, reaffirming Nigeria’s commitments to UNODC and the Inter-Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons.

 CHARLES T. NTWAAGAE (Botswana) said his country was a party to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime [also known as the Palermo Convention], and had taken stern measures to combat trafficking by passing the Anti-Human Trafficking Act in 2014 and establishing the Human Trafficking (Prohibition) Committee.  Highlighting the importance of adequate funding for programs, he commended UNODC and other United Nations agencies for their support.  On a regional level, Botswana had collaborated with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) on data collection and analysis to improve the effectiveness of anti-human trafficking initiatives.

LAZAROUS KAPAMBWE (Zambia), associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, and the African Group, expressed concern that women and children in developing countries, especially sub‑Saharan Africa, continued to be the largest category of victims of trafficking.  Zambia had not been spared from that scourge, as victims continued to be exploited in urban areas in domestic servitude, and other types of forced labour.  The Government had adopted a new national policy that aimed to eradicate all forms of human trafficking through combined measures to raise awareness and address the causes, while ensuring that victims were protected and perpetrators brought to justice.

ESHAGH AL HABIB (Iran) described a 2004 national law on combating human trafficking and efforts to enforce legislation through training of judicial and law enforcement departments.  Noting the interrelated root causes of trafficking, he said interventionist and destabilizing polices in the Middle East and Africa had served as breeding grounds for criminal networks to engage in trafficking.  He called on Governments to share information, and provide both capacity building and technical assistance to developing countries.  He reiterated the importance of education and awareness of trafficking in countries of origin, transit and destination, as end users of services provided by trafficked persons required as much training as those who were vulnerable to trafficking.  There was a need for impartial and reliable data, and he questioned the “moral authority”, competency and integrity of Member States whose “destructive” foreign policy options left people at risk of exploitation and trafficking.  He commended UNODC for its Global Report on Trafficking in Persons as a follow up to the Global Action Plan, and reaffirmed the role of that body in promoting partnerships in support of prevention, protection and prosecution.

Ms. JOHNSTONE (United States) said while the world’s collective understanding of trafficking had grown significantly in recent years, efforts to support victims remained “appallingly” low, due largely to widespread impunity.  “We must expand our collective response to this crime,” she stressed, adding that resources and strong collaboration were critical.  The United States had taken a victim‑centred approach to its national efforts on those issues, she said, having increased funding for services and the number of victims supported.  On the enforcement side, it had convicted 439 human traffickers in 2016, and established a national council composed of trafficking survivors to provide guidance to the Government.  It had also recently provided $25 million to promote anti-trafficking efforts around the world and was working to raise an additional $1 billion from other donors.

GILLIAN BIRD (Australia) welcomed collective efforts to improve international cooperation to address migration and displacement.  Whenever people were on the move, they were vulnerable to exploitation.  The Global Compacts on Refugees and Migration would provide an opportunity to build global consensus for practical action.  Regional action was also critical.  Noting that more than 50 per cent of the world’s people subject to forced labour were in the Indo‑Pacific region, she said Australia worked closely with its neighbours in Southeast Asia to combat trafficking and forced labour, and funded the largest single anti-trafficking investment in that region.  Domestically, Australia was establishing a new reporting requirement for large businesses to publish annual statements outlining their actions to address modern slavery in supply chains.

RODOLFO REYES RODRÍGUEZ, Director General for Multilateral Affairs and International Law at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, said there was a low prevalence of human trafficking in his country.  In February, the Government approved the national action plan for the 2017‑2020 period, coordinating its actions with civil society to implement a “zero tolerance” policy.  Cuba’s experience had demonstrated it was possible to achieve results in the fight against trafficking in persons even with few resources, under a tight blockade and amid the growing complexity of the crime.

ISMAIL CHEKKORI (Morocco) said his country was an origin, transit and destination country for trafficking.  The Political Declaration would strengthen the international resolve to protect victims, and to that end, Morocco had prioritized the issue.  In line with the National Policy for Migration and Asylum, Morocco had taken measures to ensure the integration, preservation and protection of migrants and refugees, notably through the establishment of a legal and institutional framework to address asylum and migration, while adhering to the main human rights conventions.  He called for the adoption of a global, multi‑sectoral approach to combat trafficking in persons.

MAURO VIEIRA (Brazil) said States must enhance efforts to tackle trafficking in persons and bring perpetrators to justice.  Noting that restrictive immigration policies could compound the effects of trafficking, he called for effective approaches that ensured fundamental rights.  Discussions on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration could also help to eliminate the practice, while safeguarding migrants’ rights.  As a global network to protect and assist victims would discourage demand and prevent re-victimization, Brazil had adopted a national law to prevent and suppress domestic and international trafficking.  It also was working on its third national anti-trafficking plan with involvement from civil society.  He called for greater cooperation among Member States, as well as with the Secretary-General, UNODC and International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), commending the work of the Inter-Agency Coordination Group.

IB PETERSEN (Denmark), associating himself with the European Union, said the Global Plan of Action was a critical instrument, but would only be useful if States implemented it.  Trafficking in persons was an offense of human dignity and rights that understood no borders, he stressed, pledging that Denmark would do its part, including as a candidate for the Human Rights Council for the period 2019‑2021.  “We must raise awareness about this issue, and make sure that no one can ever say again that they did not know about modern slavery,” he said, urging States to put in place flexible and adaptable policies, and work harder to prosecute perpetrators.  Denmark supported victims all over the world, he added, announcing that it would contribute $160,000 to the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund.

SANDI ČURIN (Slovenia), associating himself with the European Union and the Human Security Network, and noting that trafficking in persons and related forms of modern slavery were on the rise, said their underlying causes included exploitive tendencies, loss of values, increased demand for cheap labour and global poverty.  The increasing shadow economy, underground labour market and unfair competition reflected a cheap labour force, which too often, stemmed from trafficking.  Calling for a multidimensional approach, he drew attention to Slovenia’s appointment of a National Anti-Trafficking Coordinator in 2002, enhanced efforts to prosecute perpetrators and strong cooperation between law enforcement authorities and non-governmental organizations.

HAU DO SUAN (Myanmar), expressing concern that millions of people were being exploited in forced labour around the world, said trafficking could not be resolved by Governments alone.  Thanking Malaysia and Australia for organizing the Bali Business Forum in an effort to engage the private sector, he noted that Myanmar was a source country.  The Government had adopted an anti-trafficking law in 2005, and recently reviewed its national action plan, with a focus on such issues as forced marriage, debt bondage and forced labour.  The industries in which Myanmar migrant labourers suffered the most included fisheries and forced prostitution.  In response, the Government was cooperating with countries in the region that received large numbers of people trafficked from Myanmar, and had signed on to several regional agreements in that regard.  Voicing concern that people fleeing across the border into Bangladesh could be at risk of trafficking, he said that flight had resulted from terrorist violence by “the so-called Arankhan Rohingya Salvation Army” in Rakhine State on 25 August, whose “scorched earth” tactics had spread fear among the population.

JAN KICKERT (Austria) said his country was a transit and destination country for human trafficking, mainly involving cases of sexual and labour exploitation, and forced begging.  Austria paid particular attention to the linkages between migration and trafficking in persons, as it had lately been affected by large mixed migration movements.  It had intensified efforts to identify victims, or those at risk of being trafficked, and supported both regional and international organizations in assisting victims along migration routes.  Advocating a victim‑centred approach, with a focus on prevention, he expressed support for UNODC and the involvement of civil society, especially in protecting victims.

MANUEL ALBANO (Portugal), recalling that his country along with Cabo Verde had co‑facilitated negotiations for of the 2010 United Nations Global Action Plan, said all his country’s national efforts were in line with that instrument as well as the 2030 Agenda.  Portugal had joined the “Blue Heart” global awareness campaign, provided support to victims and was working on its fourth national action plan which took both a victim‑centred and gender‑based approach.  Its Support and Protection Network for Victims of Trafficking had improved coordination between police forces, justice systems, civil society and victims, among others.  The Observatory of Trafficking in Human Beings, created in 2008, also had allowed Portugal to reinforce its referral mechanisms and consolidate and share both data and best practices.

Ms. PELAEZ (Mexico), recognizing the links between inequality and marginalization in relation to human trafficking, called for enhanced regional cooperation to address that crime.  Only by renewing support to people‑centred policies could States make progress in implementing the 2030 Agenda and the Global Action Plan.  To that end, Mexico enforced a robust legal framework to care for victims.  It had increased sentences for traffickers and created a reparations fund for victims, working with academic and civil society groups to bolster such work.  At Mexico’s request, UNODC had conducted a national diagnosis which identified gaps in anti‑trafficking efforts.  As a result, Mexico established a national system that featured an information database, care and protection services for victims, and improved reporting, tools and maps.  Those improvements would be used to support investigation and prosecutorial activities, and efforts to protect victims, including through the “Blue Heart” campaign and a new telephone hotline.

REYNALDO A. CATAPANG (Philippines) said the threat of human trafficking could not be overemphasized.  With 10 per cent of its population working abroad, the Philippines adhered to the mandate of migrant protection.  To better serve vulnerable populations, the Government had moved to criminalize attempted trafficking.  Stressing that effective mitigation efforts must acknowledge the link between migration and trafficking, he said multi‑sectoral approaches focused on enshrining cooperation between civil society groups, the private sector and Government.  That approach had energized stakeholders to devise robust responses to trafficking, he said, also noting the benefits of international cooperation in the region.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru), voicing support for the Political Declaration, said human trafficking was as complex as the horrors it generated.  It resulted from various dynamics, including the use of social networks, the exploitation of migrants and refugees and armed conflict situations.  Peru’s national strategy to combat trafficking was anchored by such activities as caring for victims, protection and reintegration and prosecution.  However, “we cannot wage this war alone”, and the support of the United Nations was crucial.  The specific challenges and circumstances of certain regions also highlighted the important role to be played by regional organizations, he said.

JULIO CÉSAR ARRIOLA RAMÍREZ (Paraguay), pointing out that the crime of human trafficking also threatened sustainable development, outlined national strategies to combat the practice in cooperation with civil society and others.  Paraguay’s national convention against trafficking provided comprehensive care for victims, while a related 2012 law levied a maximum 20‑year sentence for anyone involved in the crime.  Calling for international support in several areas, he stressed that migration must not be criminalized.  States should highlight the link between drug trafficking and human trafficking, while efforts to prosecute offenders must be effective.

JAIDEEP GOVIND (India) said his country had adopted a multi‑pronged, multi‑stakeholder approach to tackling human trafficking, with 264 anti‑trafficking units and 150 investigative units for crimes against women established across the country.  Capacity building for law enforcement agencies and the judiciary had been accorded high priority, while special “Operation Smile” drives were conducted regularly to rescue trafficked children.  The “Track Child” and “Khoya Paya” portals, which showcased the innovative use of information technology, had also produced results.  Greater focus must be placed on development in the countries of origin, and on demand for trafficked persons for exploitative purposes in the destination countries, he said.

TOMMO MONTHE (Cameroon) said trafficking in persons had worsened as increased migratory movements had made people more vulnerable.  New forms of trafficking, by groups such as Boko Haram, were also on the rise, marked by the recruitment, forcible removal or luring of girls and boys, who were then exchanged for ransom, indoctrinated or forced into marriage and sexual slavery.  Boko Haram also used young people as “human bombs”, sending them into civilian populations to carry out suicide attacks.  Cameroon had become a party to the Palermo Convention and its Additional Protocols, as well as to the 1949 Convention on the Suppression of Trafficking in Human Beings and International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions 105 and 138 respectively on the abolition of forced labour and the minimum age of work.  In addition, it had enacted a national law to combat trafficking, regularly organized awareness-raising campaigns in its most vulnerable regions, and cooperated with other States in West and Central Africa under a UNODC supported initiative.

SHEILA CAREY (Bahamas) said that due to its geographic location and porous borders, the Bahamas experienced large mixed migration and was used as a trafficking transit point.  The Government had signed the United Nations Convention and passed the Trafficking in Persons Prevention and Suppression Act in 2008, which criminalized the practice and prescribed strict penalties for offenders.  Working with non-governmental groups, the Bahamas had created the national anti‑trafficking strategy for the 2014‑2018 period.  It also had established coordination groups, police and task forces, a nationwide campaign, and developed standard operating procedures and protection services for victims.  In August 2017, the Bahamas had convicted two people of trafficking and several trials were ongoing, he said, adding that the success of the national action plan had led to the development of similar models in other Caribbean countries.

JUNGMIN SEO (Republic of Korea), emphasizing that human trafficking “preys on the weakness of individuals and thrives in conflict”, expressed support for the Global Plan of Action and outlined national efforts taken in line with it.  The Republic of Korea had codified human trafficking as a serious crime in 2013 and had ratified the United Nations Convention and its trafficking Protocol in 2015.  As prevention played an important role in combating the practice, the Government sought to build capacity at the national level while addressing social inequalities and discrimination, among other root causes.  “Perpetrators of such crimes thrive in the shadows of lawlessness and must be brought to justice,” he stressed, adding that the sharing of best practices and lessons learned should be more broadly shared and promoted between States.

JÜRGEN SCHULZ (Germany) said his country’s resolutions in the Human Rights Council, submitted alongside Philippines, underscored the need to support victims and employ a human rights approach in all anti-trafficking measures.  “Traffickers treat their victims as mere commodities,” he said, calling for States to address that gross abuse of human dignity.  Describing his country’s support for anti‑trafficking efforts in various regions, including the Sahel in Africa, he underscored the transnational nature of the practice and the fact that refugees and migrants were particularly at risk.  Preventing human trafficking involved many facets, he added, citing the example of forced labour and noting that companies with international supply chains bore a particular responsibility to protect victims and their human rights.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), associating himself with the Group of Friends against Human Trafficking, said political will and cooperation were required to achieve results.  Balanced attention must be paid to both countries of origin and destination, and he thus echoed support for a comprehensive approach and efforts to combat root causes, such as the legalization of prostitution, poverty and unemployment.  Recalling that the Russian Federation had hosted a conference on public‑private‑partnerships to combat human trafficking in July, he outlined its involvement in similar efforts under the auspices of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and spotlighted the central role of the United Nations, especially UNODC.  Every country had the right to define its own optimal mechanisms to combat human trafficking, he asserted.

KHALIL HASHMI (Pakistan) called for international resolve and commitment to clear away bottlenecks and obstacles in implementing the Convention and relevant laws.  Financial and technical support would help developing countries streamline processes, collect and share data, and implement grassroots projects.  Drawing attention to the legislative and regulatory measures that Pakistan had taken, he said there must be coordination and cooperation among stakeholders to develop synergies policies to address human trafficking.

JORGE SKINNER-KLÉE (Guatemala) said comprehensive, people-centred approaches were needed to guarantee safe migratory flows and respect for migrants’ human rights.  The dangers of irregular migration must also be discussed.  He advocated cooperation as a way to strengthen the protection and repatriation of victims, as well as the prosecution of traffickers.  Noting that Guatemala was the first country in Central America to join the UNODC campaign to fight trafficking in persons, and would continue to comply with its commitments, he said the Government also had developed a database and reference cards to assist in tracking missing persons.  To protect victims, it had established temporary shelters, medical programmes, psychological and social support, and initiatives to promote technical and labour training.  On the prosecution front, Guatemala had passed 19 sentences against traffickers, two of which had received 28‑year sentences.

ELMAHDI S. ELMAJERBI (Libya) said armed conflict, unemployment, poverty and natural disasters were factors that prompted migration, displacement and trafficking.  The conditions fostering the expansion of criminal networks must be also examined, he said, citing the role of preventative diplomacy in the cessation of conflict.  He also advocated support for developing countries to address poverty, hunger, unemployment and service‑sector performance, while encouraging cooperation in efforts to prosecute traffickers and criminal networks, including by building human and institutional capacities.  He called for solidary in providing new resources to refugees and migrants, as well as improved data collection and analysis, and information sharing related particularly to disasters and migration.  In partnership with the United Nations and others, Libya’s coast guard had saved thousands of migrants on route to Europe, he said.

JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom), calling for further political attention to the “hidden nature” of human trafficking, drew attention to the United Kingdom’s establishment last week of a “Call to Action to end Forced Labour, Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking” plan, which had already been endorsed by 37 nations, and urged others to join it.  All countries should create policies based on prevention, prosecution, protection and partnership, and consider producing domestic “estimates of prevalence” reports.  Trafficking must also be stamped out in countries’ economies, which required better regulated labour policies.  The United Kingdom had enacted a Modern Slavery Act and introduced a comprehensive legal framework which was resulting in a growing number of convictions.  To address the scale of the problem, United Nations agencies must join together, rather than fight over turf.  “We have reviewed our plan, now let us act,” he concluded.

VITAVAS SRIVIHOK (Thailand) said his country had made the eradication of human trafficking a national priority, adopting a policy based on prosecution, protection, prevention and partnership.  On prosecution, he said Thailand had recently convicted 62 offenders involved in the Rohingya case, with some sentences up to 94 years.  On prevention, the Government was working to establish a national screening mechanism for undocumented immigrants, trafficking victims and refugees, which would identify those in need of protection.  It had also signed labour cooperation agreements with neighbouring countries to facilitate legal employment in Thailand for some 400,000 migrant workers from four countries, and had strengthened public-private-civil society partnerships.  “We have to step up our efforts to make sure that trafficking is a ‘high‑risk, no reward’ business,” he stressed, advocating stronger support for victims and improved data collection and analysis.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) said the fight against trafficking must be holistic and include a variety of stakeholders at all levels.  Argentina had focused on preventing trafficking, and providing assistance to victims, in accordance with Sustainable Development Goal 5 to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Welcoming the adoption of the Political Declaration, he said Argentina had taken measures to protect victims’ privacy and to ensure their physical, psychological and social recovery through safe housing, counselling, medical and material assistance, as well as offers for employment, education and training.  Victims were given the option to remain in Argentina by filing for refugee status, or offered repatriation assistance.  The Government also had carried out awareness raising, particularly in border areas.

MARÍA EMMA MEJÍA VÉLEZ (Colombia) expressed support for the Political Declaration and Sustainable Development Goal targets 5.2, 8.7 and 16.2 to combat human trafficking.  Noting the links with transnational organized crime, he described the challenges in terms of prevention, investigation and prosecution.  Each year, Colombia identified and assisted victims of all kinds of trafficking.  It had established sexual and reproductive rights training programmes for children and adolescents, strengthened the legal branch through training initiatives and provided assistance to victims.  He called for greater international commitment, notably through enhanced work with UNODC and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

SUSAN WANGECI MWANGI (Kenya) said people from areas of conflict were especially vulnerable to being trafficked, as they experienced such “push factors” as a lack of economic opportunity, poverty and low education rates.  It was important to consider the causal link between racism, bigotry, prejudice and human trafficking so as to enhance legal and policy responses.  Noting that Kenya had signed protocols and formulated laws to combat trafficking, she said the Government also had created an advisory committee to guide inter-agency activities, developed a national action plan to promote cooperation, and set aside $800,000 through the Counter Trafficking in Persons Secretariat.  To protect workers, the Government in 2014 had revoked the licenses of more than 900 agencies recruiting workers for jobs in the Middle East and the Gulf region.  Today, it continued to vet agencies, requiring them to apply annually for fresh licenses, she added.