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Put Survivors at Centre of Policies to Stop Human Trafficking, Better Protect Victims, Deputy Secretary-General Tells General Assembly

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks at the high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the third Appraisal of the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, held today:

My thanks to the President of the General Assembly for convening this meeting on the UN Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons.

I congratulate Member States on the successful negotiation of the Political Declaration that is before today’s session for adoption.  Renewed and reinvigorated global action against this crime is needed more than ever, as economic hardship, conflict and health and climate emergencies are increasing and compounding vulnerabilities to trafficking, exploitation and abuse.

Global crises, including the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, have set back progress on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including important targets on preventing and combating all forms of trafficking in persons.  This is increasing the suffering of victims.  Trafficking survivors in many countries have encountered greater difficulties in accessing shelter, food, health care, legal aid and other essential services.

At the same time, law enforcement authorities face additional challenges in detecting human trafficking, in view of pandemic-related restrictions on travel and movement.   Human trafficking, a crime that is often hidden in plain sight, has retreated further into the shadows of our global economy and the dark corners of the Internet.  Information and communication technologies, which have also become increasingly important in the pandemic, are being misused by traffickers to facilitate recruitment, control and exploitation of victims.

Women and girls are disproportionately targeted by traffickers and forced into marriage, including child marriage, as well as domestic servitude and forced labour.  The latest United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Global Report on Trafficking in Persons shows that around one third of all detected victims are children, a share that has tripled over the past 15 years.  More and more children are being targeted by traffickers using social media to recruit new victims and profiting from the demand for child sexual exploitation materials.

Refugees and migrants are especially vulnerable to traffickers.  They may be abused and exploited for forced labour, sexual exploitation, domestic servitude and even organ removal.  According to the UNODC Global Report, a significant proportion of victims of abuse are migrants in most regions of the world.

Trafficking in global supply chains continues to be under-detected and unpunished due to a lack of appropriate frameworks and reporting mechanisms to tackle this complex issue.  When trafficking cases are detected, all too often, victims themselves face punishment.  Although many States now recognize victims’ rights to assistance, protection and effective remedies, they may also punish people for acts committed as a consequence of being trafficked.

To end this suffering and injustice, we need to support all countries to build strong legal institutions and frameworks to respond to this crime.  Survivors should be at the centre of policies to prevent and counter human trafficking, to bring perpetrators to justice and provide effective access to remedies, including compensation.

We now have strong tools for international cooperation on preventing and ending human trafficking.  The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime is almost universally ratified and 178 States are now parties to its supplementing Trafficking in Persons Protocol.

The General Assembly’s Global Plan of Action, adopted in 2010, has been decisive in promoting implementation of the Protocol.  The biennial Global Report on Trafficking in Persons has become a primary resource on global trafficking trends and patterns.  The Plan of Action also established the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons and strengthened the Inter-Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons, which now brings together 30 United Nations agencies and regional organizations.  Thanks to the Protocol and Plan of Action, nearly all States Parties have enacted national legislation criminalizing trafficking in persons.

However, practical responses to human trafficking continue to vary widely. We need increased technical assistance and support to strengthen common action.  Better responses require improved cooperation among Member States, on information-sharing, joint criminal justice operations and more.

And more needs to be done to protect vulnerable migrants from falling prey to trafficking, in line with commitments under the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.  We need to strengthen coordination between United Nations entities and others to detect and respond to this crime in emergency situations and humanitarian crises.   We also need to strengthen private sector engagement, so that companies can manage their procurement processes in an ethical and transparent way.  The United Nations has taken action to prevent and address human trafficking risks in our own procurement processes.

And finally, we need to develop and promote partnerships with civil society.  Survivor-led organizations can support a shift to holistic anti-trafficking responses, as well as victim support and services.

Today’s General Assembly appraisal meeting can reinforce the need for greater cooperation and action against human trafficking.  The recently launched peer review process for the Organized Crime Convention and the Trafficking Protocol offers ways to further improve and inform policies.

At this pivotal moment, the Political Declaration can help to generate the momentum needed to take decisive action against this crime.  I urge Member States to make the most of this opportunity, to help us get back on track to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in the Decade of Action, and to work together to end the scourge of trafficking once and for all.

For information media. Not an official record.