I can imagine few crimes more terrible than the sale of women and children for sexual exploitation and forced labour. This year 2007 marks the bicentennial of the end of the slave trade in the British Empire. Yet, the fact remains that forms of slavery exist in our world today. In a perverse commercialization of humanity, these people these human beings are used like products and then simply thrown away. Tossed aside. They are disposable people. This should fill us with shame.
For this reason, there are few causes that I consider nobler than fighting human trafficking a global crime which is organized and nets billions of dollars in profit each year. Since trafficking in persons is often a trans-national crime and affects almost all countries around the world, it needs to be fought on a global scale. This year, UNODC, in partnership with other members of the UN family, has launched the Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking also known as
Mr. Gary Lewis, Representative, UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Regional Office for South Asia
The Global Initiative is based on one simple principle: human trafficking is a crime of such magnitude and such atrociousness that it cannot be dealt with successfully by any one country alone - and yet, one country, one organization, one corporation, one person - can make a difference. It is an organized crime. It needs an organized response.
In this fight, the United Nations is engaging as broad a spectrum of actors as possible. We are holding regional forums around the world to look at the different manifestations of the problem, to collect information, and to build stronger networks and take action to produce a turning point in the fight against trafficking in human beings. The recently-held
UNGIFT conference in South Asia - the first of its kind in this region - was one of them. From every country in South Asia, we came together - policemen, politicians, the film and entertainment industry, artistes, the media, those in government and those from the NGO community who struggle in the trenches day in and day out, and many of you - businesswomen and men, representing the corporate houses of this vibrant region of the world.
The conference was but a starting point, a turning point, for an organized response to the crime of human trafficking. The challenges and the opportunities lie ahead of us now. As India takes strong and confident strides towards economic growth, we need to make efforts to make sure that 'all' are included in this progress. Strides towards economic growth, need to run parallel to small solid steps towards self-sustainability - for all sectors of society. This includes the survivors of trafficking and violence.
We are all familiar with the impressive numbers, when references are made to India's growth. To put the issue in perspective, let me share another set of numbers with you. Human trafficking remains the third most profitable illicit trade, after that of arms and drugs. According to one estimate, human trafficking generates about $ 9.5 billion
 in revenue, annually, and is linked to other organized crimes like human smuggling, drug trafficking, and money laundering. Our region, South Asia, is home to the second largest number of trafficked persons, estimated to be around 150,000 annually.
In addressing the Confederation of Indian Industry in May this year, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh emphasized the importance of corporate social responsibility, stating
"I appeal through CII to our industry to come forward in a much more substantial manner and engage extensively in activities which benefit society at large". Such action towards corporate social responsibility has already been successfully embraced by a number of enterprises. We are committed to work with all sectors, including the industry, for the transformation of India's economic and social landscape.
What can you do? I put forward 10 simple suggestions to mull over.
First and foremost - think. Inform yourself on this modern-day evil and think about how you can join this endeavor, in this organized fight, and do your part in ending a crime that shames us all.
Talk about human trafficking.
Write about human trafficking.
Partner with agencies working on this issue.
Provide training, mentoring and employment.
Sponsor education to prevent second generation trafficking.
Find ways to support and protect the survivors.
Support shelter homes.
Make financial contributions to civil society partners.
Adopt - and implement, a 'zero-tolerance' code of ethics on human trafficking and the use of a trafficking-free supply chain.
1. 2006 Trafficking in Persons Report, United States Department of State, 2006, p. 13.
2. The highest numbers are estimated to come from South East Asia, estimated to be 225,000. State of the World Population Report, UNFPA, 2006, p. 45.