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We Must ‘Raise Our Voices’ for Victims of Human Trafficking, Secretary-General Says at Event Supporting Trust Fund

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at a charity reception in support of the Trust Fund for Victims of Human Trafficking, in Vienna today:

I am very much happy to be in [my] second hometown, in Austria.  Thank you for your warm welcome.

Thank you very much, Mr. Ali Rahimi, for your warm welcome and for being such a strong supporter of this campaign.

I am extremely happy to see and meet my former boss [Benita Ferraro-Waldner], my [Austrian] Foreign Minister when I was [South Korean] Ambassador.  Thank you for contribution and leadership.  She has been a strong supporter.  I have two former bosses.  Wolfgang Schüssel was my first Foreign Minister, and she became his successor.  Anyway, I left half of my heart in Vienna.  That is why I am coming very often to Vienna to check whether the half of my heart is still working.

Ali Rahimi, I know that you are celebrating your fiftieth birthday.  Happy birthday to you!  I promise I will not sing the “Happy Birthday” song.  But I do want to offer my best wishes for your continued good health and your continuing very generous support.  I heard you had told your friends that instead of receiving your birthday gifts, you would like them to donate to the Trust Fund.  This is a wonderful expression of your humanity.  Thank you very much for that.  I hope if anybody has not brought a birthday gift — why don’t you donate to this Trust Fund?

Ladies and gentlemen, human trafficking surrounds us.  This callous crime touches almost every aspect of modern existence, from the clothes people wear to the meals they eat.  Its victims work appalling hours.  They suffer terrible conditions.  They are exploited through sex work, in fields, in fisheries and even tourism.  Their individual stories are marked by pain, suffering and inhumanity.  When these narratives are taken together, they form a tragedy that shames the world.

Trafficking hits the most fragile and vulnerable people in our societies.  Twenty-seven per cent of those trafficked are children.  More than one in four people who should be enjoying their childhood are being robbed of it instead, exploited in brutal and unimaginable ways.  Up to 60 per cent of victims are women.  When you account also for young girls, this figure becomes a harrowing 75 per cent.

The scale of human trafficking is atrocious.  The silence that conceals this crime is disgraceful.  We have to speak out because the victims are living in fear for their lives.  They are abandoned in foreign countries, far from anyone who loves them, sometimes with no one they even know.  They are held against their will with no way to escape.  They want to call out for help, but they have been threatened into silence.

We have to raise our voices for them.  That means confronting the social and economic conditions that abet this crime.  It means arresting the traffickers.  And above all, it means protecting the victims. 

This is why we place such great importance on the UN Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, and the Blue Heart Campaign that supports it.  The Fund links the contributions of nations to the grassroots actions of non-governmental organizations.

The UN Trust Fund transforms victims into survivors.  It offers safe houses, legal support and treatment for physical and mental abuse.  It enables people to obtain job training and children to get an education.  These may seem like small steps forward in the lives of individuals, but they add up to a global march toward progress.

The United Nations publication “Hear Their Story”, which forms part of the Blue Heart Campaign, shows how the UN Trust Fund is changing lives.  I was struck by the words of one of the child victims whose story is told in the publication.  This very young girl suffered poverty and abuse. She said, “I don’t remember good things.”

Our work is about offering the victims of human trafficking a chance to remember good things.  A chance to walk a new road.  This is why tonight, I call on all of you to support the UN Trust Fund and to give it extra momentum to turn victims into survivors and survivors into victors.  That will deliver a clear message to the world: that people are not property, and children are not commodities, and we stand together in solidarity for them.  I thank you for your commitment.

For information media. Not an official record.