Over 1000 People Engage in UNODC Campaign to Prevent Trafficking in Persons in Turkmenistan 

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) recently held a series of meetings in Turkmenistan to take stock of a public awareness campaign to prevent trafficking in persons that was rolled out in Ashgabat and 2 provinces in the summer of 2019.

The campaign, which engaged over 1000 youth, representatives of government organizations, law enforcement, public organizations and universities, was the result of a two-day workshop, held in early July 2019, for 15 public sector representatives, youth and civil society organizations and mass media.

Together they developed specific action plans to conduct public awareness raising initiatives focusing on root causes, consequences and indicators of trafficking in persons and providing people with information to reduce the risk of becoming a victim and to know where to turn to in case of questions or to ask for help.

"Virtually every country in the world is affected by these crimes. The challenge for all countries, rich and poor, is to target the criminals who exploit desperate people and to protect and assist victims of trafficking and smuggled migrants, many of whom endure unimaginable hardships in their bid for a better life", said Mr. Koen Marquering, Manager of UNODC's Criminal Justice Program for Central Asia at a coordination meeting on countering human trafficking held at the UN Office in Ashgabat with the participation of national partners from the Supreme Court, Ministry of Interior, General Prosecutor's Office, State Migration Service, Mejlis (Parliament), Ministry of Justice, Institute of State, Law and Democracy, Ombuds Office, Ministry of Sport and Youth Policy, Women's Union, Magtymguly Youth Union, as well as representatives from international organizations, such as IOM, UNDP and UNFPA, and the Embassies of the United States and Russian Federation.

The campaign, which was led by national and local authorities in partnership with UNODC, USAID, IOM and civil society organizations, such as Junior Achievement and Beyik Eyyam, covered the capital city Ashgabat and 2 provinces: Dashoguz and Lebap. Interventions included multiple trainings for law enforcement and local authorities, as well as a variety of interactive sports and cultural events, quiz nights and concerts.

During the events, UNODC disseminated leaflets and posters prepared by UNODC volunteers with key messages on trafficking in Persons, such as "Have a heart for victims of trafficking", "Some things should never be for sale. Act to Stop Human Trafficking" and "We must all get on board to Stop Human Trafficking. It is everybody's business".

"Victims of trafficking are often duped by a recruiter who is a relative, a supposed friend or seems like someone they can trust. Traffickers and victims often share the same nationality. UNODC helps to make people aware of these risks by running such campaigns as here in Turkmenistan", said Mr. Koen Marquering.

During the mission, UNODC representatives met with national counterparts from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the General Prosecutor's Office in Turkmenistan to discuss further cooperation in countering trafficking in persons, including through promotion of international cooperation and mutual legal assistance.

UNODC supports national efforts to prevent and respond to trafficking in persons within the framework of the UNODC Program for Central Asia with generous financial support from the US State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL).

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