Continuing its high‑level meeting on human trafficking today, speakers in the General Assembly called for more tailored, effective multilateral responses to that “heinous” crime while outlining national efforts to protect its victims and prosecute perpetrators.
“The safety and well-being of at-risk people is the measure of our success, not the reduction of immigration rates or the numbers of traffickers incarcerated,” declared the representative of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, one of more than 70 speakers to take the floor.
Many praised the Political Declaration, endorsed by the Assembly a day earlier, which recommitted them to implementing the 2010 United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons. Speakers also affirmed support for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, outlining steps to tackle poverty, conflict and related economic ills that made people vulnerable to traffickers. While several drew links between trafficking and the broader dynamics of conflict and migration, some took issue with imbalanced approaches that only increased those risks.
In that context, Venezuela’s representative said socioeconomic exclusion and restrictive immigration policies exacerbated human trafficking. He cautioned against addressing trafficking as a purely security issue. As conflict continued to displace people, he rejected any unilateral, subjective and politicized anti-trafficking efforts. Venezuela’s Constitution ensured that human trafficking was not prevalent in the country.
Iran’s delegate, pointing to the interrelated causes of trafficking, said interventionist and destabilizing policies in the Middle East and Africa served as breeding grounds for criminal networks to engage in the practice. 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 advocated for information sharing and awareness-raising in countries of origin, transit and destination.
The Russian Federation’s representative said every country had the right to define its own optimal mechanisms to combat human trafficking. Balanced attention must be paid to both countries of origin and destination, and he thus echoed calls for a comprehensive approach to combat such root causes as poverty, unemployment and legalized prostitution.
Emphasizing the hidden nature of human trafficking, the representative of the United Kingdom drew attention to the “Call to Action to end Forced Labour, Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking”, which his country launched last week and had been endorsed by 37 nations. 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 stressed.
Australia’s representative said regional action was also critical. More than 50 per cent of the world’s people subject to forced labour were in the Indo Pacific region. Australia was working with its neighbours to combat that practice and had funded the largest single anti-trafficking investment in the region.
Along similar lines, Thailand’s delegate said the Government had signed labour cooperation agreements with neighbouring countries to facilitate legal employment in Thailand for some 400,000 migrant workers from four countries. “We have to step up our efforts to make sure that trafficking is a ‘high risk, no reward’ business,” he stressed, advocating for stronger support for victims and improved data collection. The Government also had recently convicted 62 offenders involved in the Rohingya case, with some sentences up to 94 years.
The United Arab Emirates received significant numbers of temporary workers from many different nationalities each year, that country’s delegate said. The Government was committed to fighting human trafficking and the criminal gangs that perpetrated it. To date, law enforcement agencies had arrested 106 traffickers.
Guinea’s representative said that as an origin, transit and destination country, the Government had strengthened its institutional framework. It had drawn up plans to train judges and security forces, launched an awareness campaign and strengthened cooperation with neighbouring countries, such as Mali, to fight trafficking, particularly of children.
Also speaking today were representatives of Jamaica, Sweden, Italy, Nigeria, Botswana, Zambia, United States, Cuba, Morocco, Brazil, Denmark, Slovenia, Myanmar, Austria, Portugal, Mexico, Philippines, Peru, Paraguay, India, Cameroon, Bahamas, Republic of Korea, Germany, Pakistan, Guatemala, Libya, Argentina, Colombia, Kenya, Canada, Azerbaijan, Latvia, Finland, Liechtenstein, Japan, Cabo Verde, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mongolia, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Saudi Arabia, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Switzerland, Hungary, Ireland, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Honduras, Viet Nam, El Salvador, Bahrain, Maldives, Iceland, Burkina Faso, Rwanda, Bangladesh, China, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Saint Vincent and Grenadines and Spain.
The General Assembly will reconvene at a date and time to be announced.
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.
KARI A. 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, multisectoral 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, 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, 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.
MICHAEL HOLMES, Director for Serious and Organized Crime, Public Safety Canada, said the country had strong criminal laws prohibiting all forms of trafficking, and had adopted a comprehensive approach to combat that crime. The PROTECT project, for example, launched by the Government and the private sector, allowed financial institutions to identify and report transactions that were suspected of laundering money for trafficking for sexual exploitation. The project had already contributed to a 400 per cent increase in financial intelligence disclosures to law enforcement investigations. A new Feminist International Assistance Policy addressed sexual and gender‑based violence, he said, while progress also had been made in ensuring that supply chains were free from trafficking.
HEYDAR HEYDAROV (Azerbaijan) said three national plans have played an exceptional role in helping the country address human trafficking, and led to the formulation of a broad legislative framework, including the ratification of the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others. He added that a trafficking law had been adopted and four articles defining the responsibility for human trafficking crimes had been added to the criminal code. Other measures included a special police unit, a State shelter for victims and a hotline service.
AGNESE VILDE (Latvia) called attention to the highly‑organized, lucrative nature of human trafficking. As an origin country, Latvia had developed a strong legal framework in accordance with relevant international instruments. Particular attention had been given to trafficking for sexual and labour exploitation, which disproportionately affected young women. The country also recognized the link between “sham marriages” to obtain European Union residence permits and trafficking in persons. As such, close cooperation was needed among origin, transit and destination countries. Latvia’s anti‑trafficking strategy was grounded on the “Four Ps” of prevention, protection, prosecution and partnerships, principles which guided a victim‑centred approach that protected the interests of those directly affected.
IBRAHIMA KOMARA (Guinea) said his country had demonstrated its will to combat human trafficking by supporting the Palermo Convention and its Protocols. Strengthening international cooperation deterred human traffickers. Guinea was a country of origin, transit and destination for victims. That fact had encouraged the Government to strengthen its institutional framework, creating a committee to fight the practice. It also had drawn up a plan of action to train judges and security forces, and created an awareness campaign covering the whole of Guinea. It had also strengthened cooperation with neighbouring countries such as Mali to fight human trafficking, particularly of children, he said.
KAI SAUER (Finland), noting that international obligations and best practices underpinned a holistic approach to counter‑trafficking efforts, said his country had ratified all relevant global agreements and transposed them into national law. Describing Finland’s system to prevent trafficking, protect victims and prosecute perpetrators, he said it had appointed a national coordinator for anti‑trafficking as well as a national, independent rapporteur reporting directly to Parliament. Noting that identifying victims — especially those living on the margins of society — remained a challenge, he said civil society played a central role in both finding and providing them assistance. Special attention should be paid to the gendered nature of the practice, he added.
CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein), describing human trafficking and modern slavery as being among “the biggest human rights scandals of our time”, said that while the trafficking Protocol had been widely ratified, it still lacked the universal acceptance necessary to achieve its full potential. Underlining the important cooperation in such areas as law enforcement and criminal justice, he said Liechtenstein’s engagement was focused in two areas: strengthening accountability and adapting national tools to fight money laundering and the financing of terrorism. By “following the money”, such practices could be identified and human trafficking confronted, he said.
TOSHIYA HOSHINO (Japan) said the nexus between trafficking in persons and terrorism was a matter of deep concern, as terrorist groups used the practice for fundraising and recruitment. Stressing that Member States had a shared responsibility to eliminate that crime, he said Japan considered human trafficking among the most important policy areas and had taken numerous holistic measures in coordination with relevant agencies. More broadly, Japan held an annual strategic policy dialogue with UNODC to enhance global law enforcement, he said, noting that experts from Japan contributed to various UNODC anti‑trafficking projects, particularly in Southeast Asia. Japan also provided technical assistance for prevention, victim protection and rehabilitation measures. In July 2017, Japan had become party to the United Nations Convention and trafficking Protocol, and subsequently, the Working Group on Trafficking in Persons in September 2017.
JOSÉ LUIZ FIALHO ROCHA (Cabo Verde) said trafficking in persons was a matter of concern for his Government. It was also a crime, and perpetrators deserved to be treated with no mercy by national and international law enforcement. In its own efforts, Cabo Verde had endorsed the United Nations Convention and its trafficking Protocol, criminalized trafficking and implemented both institutional and operational responses. He underlined the need to strengthen funding for policies and programs to end trafficking, stressing that international cooperation on capacity building, technical assistance and operational programmes at the country level could make a difference.
CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile) said his country was both a country of origin and transit for trafficking. As such, it had developed comprehensive public policies which included two national plans. Chile also had made progress by training 2,000 public officials on issues related to human trafficking, while ensuring broad recognition of victims’ rights, including indicators to monitor the implementation of anti‑trafficking plans. On the international level, Chile had worked to combat the practice with countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, notably on a bilateral level with such countries as Argentina, United States and Peru.
JUAN CARLOS MENDOZA-GARCÍA (Costa Rica) highlighted the importance of a people‑centred focus to prevent and combat trafficking in persons. Children were one third of its victims, while women and girls were 71 per cent of those who suffered. For that reason, he said, any strategy should take into account the increasing risks to children, while a gender focus would help in the design of specific actions to protect those vulnerable populations. Costa Rica had taken major efforts to criminalize trafficking, he said, noting that 88 per cent of countries had classified it as a criminal offence. However, the sentencing rates were still low. Trafficking in persons was associated with organ trafficking, money‑laundering and other organized crime, and a coordinated focus was needed to counter all of those offences, he said.
IRINA MORENO GONZÁLEZ (Ecuador), aligning herself with the Group of Friends United against Human Trafficking, said that as an origin, transit and destination country, Ecuador focused on the migration‑trafficking nexus. Regional cooperation was a priority as victims in Latin America were trafficked within the region, she said. Ecuador’s penal code identified trafficking as a human rights violation, she noted, adding that the Government’s approach was grounded on the “Four Ps”. Also, Ecuador had deployed specialized law enforcement units to more effectively address trafficking cases and better protect victims. She called on Member States to consolidate their political will to protect human dignity and human rights.
SUKHBOLD SUKHEE (Mongolia) said his country, a source and destination for trafficking, had acceded to the United Nations Convention and its trafficking Protocol in 2008. Similarly, Mongolia enhanced its legal framework in 2012, with the adoption of the law on combating trafficking in persons, and in 2013, the law on victim and witness protection. In 2015, it had revised the criminal code. However, weaknesses persisted in identifying victims and prosecuting cases, often due to an uneven understanding of the crime or misleading interpretations of legislation. Over the last six years, 54 human trafficking cases had been investigated; however, only 15 individuals had been convicted. More broadly, States should take full advantage of advancements in information and communications technologies (ICT), and intensify cooperation through capacity building and technical assistance.
KORNELIOS KORNELIOU (Cyprus) commended initiatives by the United Nations and Members States addressing human trafficking. However, despite those efforts, statistics had revealed that more than 20 million people, including 6 million children, continued to fall victim to trafficking. It was important to note the link between conflict and trafficking, as people were often pushed to leave their homes to escape conflict and hardship. With that in mind, Cyprus had put in place plans to prosecute human traffickers while strengthening partnerships with stakeholders.
GEORGI PANAYOTOV (Bulgaria), aligning himself with the European Union, stressed the importance of accelerating international cooperation to eliminate human trafficking through comprehensive, multidisciplinary approaches. Cooperation was instrumental to improving information‑sharing and victim support networks, he said. Since pioneering European efforts to combat trafficking, Bulgaria had penalized trafficking and introduced more severe punishment for crimes involving children. The country’s anti‑trafficking strategy emphasized detection and prevention measures, he said, adding that its human-rights-based approach allowed for cooperation with all stakeholders. To better assist victims, Bulgaria was prepared to more actively participate in global anti‑trafficking efforts.
ABDALLAH Y. AL-MOUALLIMI (Saudi Arabia) reaffirmed his country’s readiness to help end human trafficking, attaching great importance to the rights of citizens and foreign residents in that context. Saudi Arabia was among the first countries to fight trafficking and had always been among the first to ratify related United Nations protocols. Indeed, it had ratified 16 international conventions, for example the ban on forced labour, and played an active role in global efforts to combat crime. Last week, it had participated in the high‑level meeting organized by the United Kingdom that concluded with a call to action to end human trafficking and forced labour.
MODEST JONATHAN MERO (United Republic of Tanzania) said every country was affected by human trafficking and welcomed the “global call to combat trafficking”. The Government had passed legislation prohibiting all forms of trafficking and prescribing punishment for perpetrators. Services were being provided to victims and civil society, and guidelines were in place for the safe reunification of families affected by trafficking. Awareness efforts were essential for reaching vulnerable populations, he said. Recognizing the importance of data to combat trafficking, he said the United Republic of Tanzania’s trafficking database was informing policy and the allocation of resources.
CRISTINA CARRIÓN (Uruguay) said eradicating all forms of modern slavery — from human trafficking to debt bond — was a priority for her country. Protecting the rights of victims must be at the centre of prevention efforts, especially regarding their age, gender and sexual orientation. On the international level, Uruguay had joined the Palermo trafficking Protocol, while domestically, it had convened a round table comprised of Government and civil society groups, as well as drafted an act to prevent trafficking. Uruguay also was working on a national anti-human-trafficking plan. Ultimately, she said, ending human trafficking would require cooperation among local, regional and international stakeholders, and States must cooperate to punish those responsible.
RAFAEL DARÍO RAMIREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela), associating himself with the Group of Friends United against Human Trafficking, said socioeconomic exclusion and restrictive immigration policies were exacerbating human trafficking. Prevention must be the keystone of anti‑trafficking approaches, he said, calling for greater poverty reduction efforts. He called on Member States to engage in frank, inclusive dialogue and not to address trafficking as a purely security issue. As conflicts continued to displace populations, Venezuela categorically rejected unilateral, subjective and politicized anti‑trafficking efforts. He said Venezuela’s Constitution and relevant laws ensured human trafficking was not a prevalent issue in the country.
OLIVIER MARC ZEHNDER (Switzerland) said that significant migrant flows presented new challenges in the fight against human trafficking, and humanitarian stakeholders had an important role to play. Forced displacement and migration created vulnerabilities that had led to trafficking and labour‑related exploitation. In November 2016 in Geneva, Switzerland had participated in a conference on human trafficking and forced labour along migratory routes, he said, noting that his country supported the work of the Special Rapporteur on human trafficking. The role of civil society in identifying and protecting victims was vital, he said, and Switzerland would contribute 800,000 Swiss francs to the Voluntary Trust Fund.
KATALIN ANNAMÁRIA BOGYAY (Hungary), associating herself with the European Union, said human trafficking could only be addressed through cooperation and dialogue among countries and various stakeholders. It was also crucial to raise awareness, and to involve media and civil society in those efforts, she said, noting that Hungary had worked with the media and filmmakers to shine light on human trafficking. She said the international community must make the Global Plan of Action more effective by putting in place solutions tailor‑made to specific cases and sensitive to both gender and age. She pressed States to analyse data and coordinate efforts, while also ensuring that perpetrators were brought to justice.
GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland), aligning herself with the European Union, said that just under one year ago, the Government had adopted an action plan to combat human trafficking, setting out a collaborative programme that sought to protect victims. It had benefited from regular domestic and international scrutiny, and placed all victims — particularly women and girls — at the heart of Ireland’s response. The Government had created a centralized human trafficking investigation and coordinating unit within its national police, with expertise on child crime, organized prostitution and associated crimes. It also had created an anti‑trafficking team within the health service, offering dedicated care plans for victims. It was also working with State and non‑state agencies to ensure that suspected victims were identified at the earliest possible opportunity.
KAHA IMNADZE (Georgia) said national anti‑trafficking plans focused on the “Four Ps” of prevention, protection, prosecution and partnership. The practice had been criminalized under the criminal code since 2003. An anti-trafficking law was adopted in 2006 and amended in 2012 in accordance with the recommendation of the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. Further, Georgia had created an inter‑agency council which involved relevant ministry and agency representatives, and formulated a national plan for the 2017‑2018 period that outlined proactive methods for identifying victims, including through the use of mobile groups and task forces. Thanks to retraining programmes, investigations, prosecutions and convictions were increasing annually. For victims, Georgia provided shelters and a crisis centre, as well as legal aid, medical assistance, and help with rehabilitation and reintegration. Legislative and institutional measures had been taken to provide street children with identification documents.
KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan), associating himself with the Group of Friends United against Human Trafficking, placed high value in the work of the United Nations to assist Member States in combating trafficking. Describing trafficking as a consequence of migration flows, he called for full implementation of the Global Plan of Action. Kazakhstan was implementing anti‑trafficking programmes that envisaged the full integration of national agencies and civil society actors. Working alongside the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Kazakhstan was set to participate in a multi‑stakeholder simulation on identifying human trafficking and related threats in Central Asia, he said.
SAUD HAMAD GHANEM HAMAD ALSHAMSI (United Arab Emirates) said that, because his country received significant numbers of temporary workers from many different nationalities each year, it had committed to combating human trafficking and the criminal gangs that perpetrated it. In 2006, the Government had launched a comprehensive anti‑trafficking campaign and enacted a related law, which was amended in 2015 to provide greater guarantees for victims in line with the trafficking Protocol. It had also established a National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking Crimes, was working closely with civil society and had created a diploma programme on anti‑trafficking. The United Arab Emirates was also committed to both the prosecution and punishment of perpetrators, he said, noting that law enforcement agencies had arrested 106 traffickers to date.
YOLANNIE CERRATO (Honduras) said human trafficking called for an international response, noting that her country’s Constitution established that the dignity of humans was inviolable. No initiatives adopted against trafficking should be discriminatory, but must take into account the needs of women and girls, she said. Honduras had a law against trafficking, as well as a commission against both the sex trade and human trafficking. Honduras had committed to using all means possible to fight the abuse and exploitation faced by countless refugees and migrants, she said, noting that they were even more likely than others to fall victim to criminal groups.
NGUYEN PHUONG NGA (Viet Nam) said trafficking in persons was a heinous crime that challenged peace, security and development. Viet Nam had amended its penal code to criminalize trafficking in all its forms. Addressing root causes was at the core of anti‑trafficking efforts, he said, and programmes were being implemented to reduce poverty and promote both education and women’s empowerment, while victims of trafficking were being provided rehabilitation programmes. Viet Nam was also working with regional partners through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and bilateral agreements to identify trafficking victims and prosecute perpetrators, he added.
HECTOR ENRIQUE JAIME CALDERÓN (El Salvador) said many challenges remained in responding to the victims of human trafficking. He reaffirmed his country’s commitment to fundamental human rights for all and the restitution of the rights of trafficking victims. In 2004, El Salvador added trafficking in persons to its criminal code, he said. The country had also developed two anti‑trafficking campaigns, one of which was entitled “the path of life is not always what you imagined”, while the other focused on the trafficking of women and girls.
JAMAL FARES ALROWAIEI (Bahrain) said his country had ratified international protocols and put in place national legislation to combat human trafficking. Notably, it had introduced a law defining the crime of human trafficking and punishing those engaged in that act. Bahrain also had set up a service centre for victims, hotlines to report cases and guides to help foreign workers understand their rights. An executive office cooperated with the private sector in combating the practice, while conferences and workshops had been organized to raise awareness. Recalling the link between armed conflicts and human trafficking, he stressed the need to resolve conflicts around the world. He called on countries to share data in a precise and timely fashion, which would better enable States to respond.
AHMED SAREER (Maldives) said millions of people were moving across the globe with the hope of escaping poverty and conflict, but increasingly and unwillingly falling into the hands of smugglers and traffickers. Trafficking was inhumane and criminal, yet the number of trafficking cases was increasing at an alarming rate. There were currently more than 500 trafficking flows, moving people within and across borders. When women and children were lured by promises of decent employment, they were sexually exploited and tortured if they tried to escape. That was modern slavery, and should not be allowed in our civilized world. His country remained committed to the global fight to prevent trafficking in line with the Global Action Plan. In 2016, the Maldives acceded to the trafficking Protocol in an effort to reinforce the implementation of existing instruments.
EINAR GUNNARSSON (Iceland) said prevention was a key part of Iceland’s efforts to combat trafficking in persons, underscoring the importance of training for police officers, airport staff and flight attendants to recognize signs of trafficking, as well as awareness‑raising in society to address the crime. He highlighted the important role of the OSCE in coordinating action. As victims and survivors faced multiple forms of discrimination, further hampering their ability to seek justice, Iceland opened a “one‑stop shop” offering free comprehensive services, and continued to seek innovative ways to ensure the protection of their human rights.
YEMDAOGO ERIC TIARE (Burkina Faso), noting that his country had adopted the Global Plan of Action on human trafficking, said women and children continued to suffer violence of all sorts around the world. Burkina Faso, which was a transit country that had not been spared from human trafficking, had adopted in 2008 a law to combat that crime. Both legislative measures and awareness‑raising methods were geared toward ending human trafficking. Meanwhile, regional alert mechanisms and targeted programmes operated within different provinces. Emphasizing that no country could win the fight alone, eradicating that crime required joint action from States alongside national action plans.
VALENTINE RUGWABIZA (Rwanda) underlined a need to develop legally binding instruments and effective mechanisms to track perpetrators and freeze and confiscate their assets. Pointing out that most human trafficking victims were young people who had been deceived and promised decent jobs, she said poverty, unemployment and marginalization were additional factors fuelling the phenomenon. Stressing the importance of enhancing youth and gender empowerment while creating equal opportunities for all to reduce such vulnerabilities, she highlighted Rwanda’s efforts, including cooperating with Member States, regional law enforcement agencies and non-State organizations, such as INTERPOL and United Nations agencies. Citing success stories, she said Rwandan national police and immigration officers had worked with their counterparts in Kenya and Uganda to prevent 150 victims from being trafficked between 2014 and 2015.
SHAH ASIF RAHMAN (Bangladesh) said human trafficking was the “heart of darkness” in our midst, stressing that forcibly displaced persons remained at a heightened risk of trafficking and exploitation. Bangladesh had received a large number of displaced Rohingya from Myanmar, he said. The Government had enacted a national plan of action for 2015‑2017 to implement its anti‑trafficking law, and also remained focused on capacity, as well as the prevention and prosecution of trafficking cases. Bangladesh was active in the Group of Friends United against Human Trafficking, and noted that the Voluntary Trust Fund should be dealt with in a sustainable manner.
WU HAITAO (China) said no country was immune from human trafficking. To address that phenomenon, several essential steps must be taken, including implementing the 2030 Agenda, strengthening international cooperation in law enforcement and helping victims reintegrate into their families and societies. China attached great importance to combating human trafficking, implementing national action plans and the Convention’s Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.
FIRAS HASSAN JABBAR AL-KHAQANI (Iraq), calling for the recognition of the sensitive nature of human trafficking, emphasized the link between trafficking and terrorist groups. Calling on Member States to work towards combating the “inhumane objectives” of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), he said efforts must focus on banning all forms of trafficking and preventing terrorist organizations from moving hostages across borders. Terrorists were reducing people to slaves, he said, calling for the implementation of relevant United Nations resolutions to prosecute perpetrators. Combating trafficking required a multidimensional approach that accounted for political, economic and security factors, he said, urging Member States to stop trafficking by any means necessary.
SIMA SAMI BAHOUS (Jordan) said major political will was needed to put an end to trafficking and modern slavery. Trafficking affected people of all ethnicities and religions, exacerbating conflicts and resulting in spirals of violence. Waves of refugees had resulted in increased numbers of trafficking victims, with a particular increase in Syria. Noting that effects were also being felt across Europe, she emphasized a need for political solutions to ensure respect for the dignity of all people. International and interregional groups must play their essential roles in raising awareness without losing sight of the link between trafficking and development. Technical assistance was needed to increase the capacity of Member States responding to terrorist threats, namely ISIL, she said, adding that Jordan was creating a national network to link all competent authorities and make it possible to reach victims in cases of abuse.
BADER ABDULLAH N. M. ALMUNAYEKH (Kuwait) said trafficking in persons took different forms and patterns, and the perception of it differed due to culture, tradition and legal and political structures in the countries. Highlighting some of the actions and procedures Kuwait had taken, he said a national labour force agency had been established to guarantee the rights of migrant workers, while shelters had been set up for migrant workers, and assistance provided for their safe return home. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, had visited Kuwait in 2016 and reported that the country had proven its commitment to fight the practice and had put in place appropriate legal and institutional frameworks.
INGA RHONDA KING (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) recalled national efforts, including a 2012 initiative establishing an anti‑trafficking in persons unit, which carried out sensitization efforts reaching more than 30,000 students and 3,000 teachers — almost one third of the country’s total population of 110,000. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines had also strengthened its legislative framework to combat the phenomenon and improved coordination between ministries to those ends, she said, adding that recent support from the European Union and IOM was helping to revise a national plan of action to combat trafficking in persons and formulate data‑gathering tools.
MARIA BASSOLS DELGADO (Spain) said the work of the Inter‑Agency Coordination Group needed to be revitalized to enable progress in reaching the related Sustainable Development Goals and deal with all aspects of prevention and ending impunity. Specific responses were needed to address trafficking in conflict areas, where national justice systems were gravely affected, she said, pointing at the clear linkages between human trafficking and sexual violence, as well as organized crime and terrorist financing in conflicts. A global network of anti‑trafficking coordinators should be established to exchange best practices and coordinate efforts on an international level.
ROSARIO VALASTRO, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said the Political Declaration made reference to the 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, and emphasized that those groups were particularly at risk of being trafficked. “The safety and well‑being of at‑risk people is the measure of our success, not the reduction of immigration rates or the numbers of traffickers incarcerated,” he stressed, describing efforts by the British and Australian Red Cross to provide people who had been trafficked with accommodation, material support and caseworkers. However, offering such services was worth little if people were too afraid to reach out for help. “Supporting them means guaranteeing safe channels to access basic services and report abuses, irrespective of their legal status,” he said.
Right of Reply
The representative of the Russian Federation, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said Ukraine had not performed well in combating trafficking and forced labour. She said Ukraine was “one of the largest providers of slave labour in Europe” as Ukrainian internally displaced persons were particularly vulnerable to trafficking. She encouraged Ukrainian authorities to consider providing social protections instead of placing blame outside its borders.