UN.GIFT and UNODC host first global forum on human trafficking

12 February 2008 - The first-ever global forum to fight human trafficking will take place in Vienna from 13-15 February 2008. Bringing together 1,200 experts, legislators, law enforcement teams, business leaders, NGO representatives and trafficking victims from 116 countries, the forum will provide the platform for a new campaign of coordinated action to tackle the crime.

In a rallying call to raise international awareness on the eve of the Forum, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa, said that the crime is so widespread within the global economic system that we have all become complicit in it: "The blood, sweat and tears of trafficking victims are on the hands of consumers all over the world. This is a crime that shames us all."

Thus far lack of information and a disjointed response have enabled human trafficking to flourish in our midst. Mr. Costa described the problem as "a monster whose shape, size and ferocity we can only guess." It takes many forms, always in collusion with other unlawful activities like illegal migration, forced labor, pedophilia, child exploitation, civil conflicts and organized prostitution. "It's time for the world to open its eyes to this form of modern slavery", said Mr. Costa.

Participants of the Forum will discuss practical measures to increase the effectiveness of preventing human trafficking and bringing the perpetrators to justice. "Moral outrage is not going to stop the traffickers", warned Mr. Costa. "We need high impact law enforcement measures to make human trafficking a riskier business."

"If law enforcement, the private sector, NGOs, the media, and the general public work together, we can fight back", said Mr. Costa. "Massive campaigns have been waged against the trade in blood diamonds, fur, and illegal timber. Efforts to stop the trade in people lag behind."

The Vienna Forum to Fight Human Trafficking will focus on the three key elements of human trafficking - its root causes, its social and economic impact, and the actions needed to eradicate it:

• Root causes: the Forum will analyse the "push and pull" factors which make people vulnerable to human trafficking, like poverty, gender-based violence, ethnic, racial and religious marginalization, conflict situations, and discrimination.

• Impact: the Forum will explore the impact of human trafficking on the lives of individuals and their communities including the violence to which they are often subjected, threats to health such as HIV/AIDS, psychological and emotional trauma and social stigmatization.

• Actions to eradicate human trafficking: the Forum will push for the universal ratification of the UN anti-trafficking Protocol that entered into force in December 2005. This will include working to make sure that the necessary laws are in place, that law enforcement officials are aware of their responsibilities to prosecute traffickers, and that the punishment fits the crime.  

The Vienna Forum is being convened by the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking ( UN.GIFT) which was established in recognition of the fact that human trafficking takes many forms and that a co-ordinated and united approach is required. UN.GIFT was launched in March 2007 by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) together with the International Labour Organization (ILO); the International Organization for Migration (IOM); the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF); the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). 

Audio: What is UN.GIFT?

More information on UNODC's work against human trafficking.