Remembering the victims of slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade

25 March 2011

On the occasion of the fourth International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, UNODC observes the Day also from its work to combat Human Trafficking.

The theme of this year's commemoration is The Transatlantic Slave Trade: The Living Legacy of 30 Million Untold Stories. In commemoration of the memory of the victims, the General Assembly, in its resolution 62/122 of 17 December 2007, declared 25 March the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, to be observed annually. The resolution called for the establishment of an outreach programme to mobilize educational institutions, civil society and other organizations to inculcate in future generations the "causes, consequences and lessons of the transatlantic slave trade, and to communicate the dangers of racism and prejudice".

Addressing Trafficking in Persons since 1949

Nowadays Trafficking in persons is among the fastest growing criminal activities, occurring internally within countries, and worldwide. According to ILO estimates, the minimum number of persons in forced labour, including sexual exploitation at a given time as a result of trafficking is 2.45 million. The inhumane activity involves coercion, abuse of power and human rights violations, as vulnerable victims are transported, harboured, and exploited. The crime of trafficking in persons for the purposes of  exploitation be it for labour, sexuality or organs, presents a distinctive set of challenges to most countries. Yet conditions in the current era of globalization such as the growth of informal economies and economic discrepancies among nations, increasing flows of labour and commodities across international, and transnational organized criminal networks are causing human trafficking to flourish on a global scale.

Historically, the United Nations has worked vigorously to address human trafficking, and to curb the exploitation of others for a monetary profit. International concern has given rise to many important legal instruments, including the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others (General Assembly resolution 317 (IV) of 2 December 1949) that entered into force in 1951. To a certain extent, this Convention was a legal turning point, as it was the first international instrument on trafficking and related issues that was legally binding. 2 December, the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, in fact recalls the date of the adoption of the first Convention to fight human trafficking by the General Assembly.

After about half a century, the most recent global effort to address this crime at the international level has been the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime which entered in force on 25 December 2003. The Trafficking in Persons Protocol for the first time provides a universally agreed upon definition of trafficking in persons. It addresses human trafficking as a crime including all forms of exploitation and all types of victims, seeking to balance law enforcement action with the rights of victims. The Trafficking in Persons Protocol commits ratifying States to combating trafficking in persons, prosecuting perpetrators, protecting and assisting victims of trafficking and promoting cooperation among states in order to meet those objectives. To date over 140 countries are party to the Trafficking Protocol.

Together with the Trafficking in Persons Protocol  also the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2000. Both protocols are important multilateral components of the worldwide effort to combat trafficking in persons and the distinct, though often related crime of migrant smuggling.

Support to Victims of Trafficking in Persons: the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Human Trafficking

In July 2010, the General Assembly adopted a resolution which established a Global Plan of Action to combat Trafficking in Persons. As part of the plan, a United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children was established and is managed by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

UNVTF On 8 March UNODC, as manager of the Trust Fund, announced along with the Board of Trustees, the first round of call for proposals: a small grants facility for victims of human trafficking. To date, nearly $1 million has been mobilized, with grants to be issued over the coming months to front-line organizations helping those most affected by such trafficking.

The Trust Fund supports the timely provision on the ground of humanitarian, legal and financial aid to victims of trafficking through a range of avenues and provides the opportunity for people from all walks of life to contribute in a meaningful manner and to assist victims of human trafficking to reclaim their lives and rebuild their futures.

The campaign supporting the fundraising efforts for the Trust Fund is linked to the Blue Heart Campaign calls for everyone to have a heart for victims of trafficking in persons.

Related Information:

United Nations launch grants fund for human trafficking victims

First Aid Kit for use by Law Enforcement Responders in addressing Human Trafficking

Tools and Publications