Yury Fedotov

Director General/Executive Director


Remarks at "Why Slavery? Global launch of the largest-ever media campaign on modern slavery", UNGA 72nd Session

New York, 21 September 2017

Ladies and gentlemen,

Allow me to begin by thanking the organizers, Denmark, the United Kingdom and Hungary, along with the Why Foundation, the Danish Broadcasting Corporation and the BBC, for this initiative.

As guardian of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol against human trafficking, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime supports governments to strengthen criminal justice responses, and work towards achieving all anti-trafficking related targets under the Sustainable Development Goals.

When the Protocol first came into force in 2003, only eighteen per cent of countries recognized human trafficking as a crime.

Now some one hundred and fifty-eight countries, or eighty-eight per cent, have criminalized most forms of human trafficking in their domestic laws.

This is welcome progress, but much more needs to be done.

The rate of convictions remains far too low, and victims cannot always access the assistance and protection services countries are legally obliged to provide.

As this event makes clear, it is most often the poorest and most vulnerable among us who are at risk of being enslaved.

That is true both within a given society, and between developed and less developed countries and regions.

The continuing refugee and migrant crises the world is facing have further underscored the urgency of addressing the circumstances that exacerbate people's risk of being trafficked.

Research by UNODC has found that cross-border human trafficking flows often track migration flows.

Migrants from countries with a high level of organized crime, or that are affected by conflicts, are more vulnerable to trafficking, as well as to violence, abuse and other forms of exploitation.

While crises increase vulnerabilities and trafficking risks, we must also be clear that human trafficking is not something that is happening far away from any of us.

Trafficking in persons - modern day slavery - is a global problem that affects virtually every country in every region of the world.

UNODC's 2016 Global Report found more than five hundred different trafficking flows, within and across borders and regions.

Women and girls comprise some seventy per cent of the total number of detected victims, and have accounted for most of the victims since UNODC started collecting data in 2003.

Some seventy-two per cent of these women and girls are being trafficked for sexual exploitation, while twenty per cent are trafficked for forced labour and eight per cent for other forms of exploitation.

Almost one third of trafficking victims worldwide are children.

This crime infects and affects all our societies, and that is why efforts like this one to raise awareness, to bring human trafficking out of the shadows, are so important.

Awareness can help people understand how their own actions may relate to human trafficking, and improve prevention.

Knowledge can help catch the criminals exploiting victims and subjecting them to slavery-like conditions, and bring them to justice.

And understanding and compassion can help ensure that victims are identified, and that they are not punished but protected.

UNODC supports you, and thanks you for your support.

Finally, I would like to mention the United Nations Voluntary Trust Funds for Victims of Human Trafficking, which provides direct assistance to help trafficking victims to become survivors.

You can find out more on the UNODC website. I urge you to contribute.

Thank you.