UNODC strengthens Belgian and EU partnerships in support of the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons

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30 July 2021, Brussels

On the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and its partners across Belgium and at the European Union came together to underscore the importance of listening to and learning from survivors of human trafficking.   

Under the theme of “Victims’ Voices Lead the Way”, this year’s UNODC-led Blue Heart Campaign highlighted the crucial role of survivors of human trafficking in establishing effective measures to prevent this crime, identifying and rescuing victims and supporting  them on their road to rehabilitation. 

“Belgium has long been a leader in the fight against human trafficking. But further action is needed,” noted Vincent Van Quickenborne, Belgian Minister of Justice. UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly and EU Commissioner Johansson also recommitted “to working together to stamp out trafficking in persons, to protect its victims and bring its perpetrators to justice” in their joint statement.

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In Belgium, the Blue Heart Campaign was launched by Minister Van Quickenborne, UNODC, NGO Payoke, and the Belgian Friends of the Blue Heart on 22 July in Bruges. Belgium has long played a leading global role in combatting human trafficking and in the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking.

UNODC Goodwill Ambassador, Ozark Henry, participated and stressed, “I am particularly attached to the World Day against Trafficking in Persons and the Blue Heart that I am wearing. Both are occasions to remind people of the conditions of victims of human trafficking.” Read more on human trafficking in Belgium in FR-NL-DE-EN.


Events on World Day kicked off with the photo exhibition “PHOTO-VOICE: Human Trafficking Through Victims’ Eyes” organised by the NGO PAG-ASA and UNODC at Brussels City Hall. Opened by the Ministries of Justice and of Foreign Affairs, the City of Brussels, UNODC, the EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator, and PAG-ASA, the event gave the spotlight to 24 victims to interpret their experiences through photography. 

At the occasion, EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator, Diane Schmitt, underlined “combatting trafficking in human beings is a priority for the European Union. We have to listen to victims at all stages of our actions. They are in the centre.” “We need to work in partnership with them to promote a more victim-centred and effective approach to combating this heinous crime.,” echoed Yatta Dakowah, Representative of the UNODC Brussels Liaison Office.

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During the day, Brussels landmark and folklore legend, Manneken-Pis, joined the events dressed in his 1047th costume inspired by the Blue Heart Campaign. Belgian partners and personalities, including former minister and new Board Member of the UN Voluntary Trust Fund Inge Vervotte, chocolatier Dominique Persoon, the football players of Club Brugge, and Belgian federal and embassy staff around the world, showed their solidarity on social media. 

At sunset, the European Parliament, Belgian federal buildings, and the cities of Antwerp, Brussels, Bruges, Ghent, Kortrijk, Leuven, Mechelen and Mons lit iconic buildings and monuments in blue to encourage governments, civil society, the private sector, and individuals alike to take action. The blue colour refers to the Blue Heart, the international symbol against human trafficking, representing the sadness of those trafficked, while reminding us of the cold-heartedness of those who buy and sell fellow human beings.

This year, Antwerp top chef, Seppe Nobels, also lent his support to the campaign with a unique recipe for mussels that combines Belgian’s national dish with “masala” spices using the hashtag #MusselsAgainstHumanTrafficking. Developed each year by the NGO GATAM, Gatam-masala mixes spices from the most important countries of origin for migrants in Belgium. 

UNODC is also grateful for the partnership of the Smurfs, who again supported World Day against Trafficking in Persons with a tailored-made illustration for the Belgian Friends of the Blue Heart. 

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