UNODC Eastern Africa Speeches

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Sandford International School, Model United Nations, Addis Ababa

Speech by Margaret Akullo, Representative a.i., UNODC Programme Office in Ethiopia

22 November 2019

Good Afternoon students, teachers and members of the board of Sandford International School. 

I am truly honoured to be here, together with my colleagues from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for the opening of the Model United Nations in your school.

Please allow me to extend my appreciation to Ms Metasebia Mulugeta (Meti), Madame Secretary-General of this Conference and all staff members for your efforts in engaging students on such an important debate not just for the United Nations but also for the wider the national and international community.

To give us all some context, my speech is divided into three broad areas – the Doha Declaration Global Programme and the E4J Initiative, the work of UNODC, Importance of simulating the Commission and finally Human Trafficking.

Doha Declaration Global Programme and the E4J Initiative:

Today’s session is a result of the partnership between Sandford International School and UNODC, under its Doha Declaration Global Programme.  The Doha Declaration Global Programme was created in 2015 with the financial support of the State of Qatar and it is a programme that is helping countries deal with crime related issues and the rule of law.   The Doha Declaration Global Programme applies a people-centred approach by supporting initiatives that provide access to justice for everyone and helps build institutions that are effective and accountable at all levels. In this regard, UNODC has an initiative called the Education for Justice initiative (E4J).  This initiative seeks to prevent crime and promote a culture of lawfulness through education activities designed for primary, secondary and tertiary levels. The E4J initiative has developed a Resource Guide to support those who organise Model United Nations (MUN) events to incorporate issues into their conferences from UNODC’s areas of work.

Before you start the MUN conference, allow me to briefly tell you about UNODC.  UNODC was originally established in 1997 as the “Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention”, after the combination of the United Nations Drug Control Programme and the Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Division. Since 2002 it has been named as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).  The merging of the United Nations Drug Control Programme and the Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Division came from the former and late UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan so that UNODC could help address global challenges, such as the fight against transnational crime, drugs and terrorism. According to the late Kofi Annan, issues of drugs and crime were linked, and, therefore, combining the two was important to address the interrelated issues of drug control, crime prevention and international terrorism in the context of sustainable development and human security.

UNODC’s work is therefore divided into two components

  • The drug component whereby UNODC leads on the UN’s drug control activities and ensuring countries adhere to international standards (treaties and resolutions);
  • The crime component whereby UNODC leads on activities on international crime prevention and control, including addressing transnational crimes and other matters related to the criminal justice system. E.g. human trafficking

UNODC delivers it work in three ways:

  • assisting countries develop domestic legislation that meets international standards.  
  • undertaking research and analytical work to increase knowledge and understanding of drugs and crime issues; and
  • working through field-based projects to help countries address drugs, crime and terrorism.

Today, UNODC is present in about 150 countries with nearly 2,500 staff members.  The UNODC Programme Office in Ethiopia has 8 staff members and we work with the Government here and the other 28 UN agencies on UN related matters such as peace and security and ensuring the rule of law. The UNODC office here reports to the UNODC Regional Office for Eastern Africa based in Nairobi and which covers 13 countries including Ethiopia.  UNODC HQ is based in Vienna-Austria

I am especially delighted to be here because it is my first invitation to a MUN conference and secondly because you are simulating one of the most important UN commissions -the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (or, as we call it, the CCPCJ). This Commission was originally created in 1992 to assist in guiding practical activities in the field of crime prevention and criminal justice.  The Commission meets once a year, in May, and is composed of 40 Member States elected for three years with a specific distribution of seats amongst 5 regional groups - Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA). 

UNODC’s main international legal framework on addressing human trafficking is the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime and the Protocols Thereto (UNCTOC). This is a legally-binding instrument signed in Palermo, Italy, in 2000 and it is the only international convention which deals with organised crime.  Today, 190 countries have successfully ratified and incorporated its content into national legislation. In other words, it means that a country has given its formal consent and made it officially valid to use the convention in their country. Ethiopia, for instance, ratified the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime in 2007.

The purpose of this Convention is to promote cooperation to prevent and combat transnational organised crime more effectively. To do so, the Convention also brings three Protocols that deal with specific issues: trafficking in persons, smuggling of migrants, and illicit trafficking in firearms.

The Protocol Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons has three elements to its definition: 

  • What is done (the act) is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons
  • How it is done (the means) Such act is usually done by the threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, abuse of power or vulnerability
  • Why it is done (the purpose) Finally, the individual or organised group that does so with the purpose of exploitation, which includes prostitution, sexual exploitation, slavery or removal of organs, for instance.

In this regard, UNODC assists the Member States to adjust their national legislation accordingly, trains its government officials and promotes cooperation amongst various stakeholders, including within the government, civil society and the private sector.

There is often confusion on human trafficking and migrant smuggling but they are essentially different crimes. Smuggling of Migrants involves the procurement for financial or other material benefit of illegal entry of a person into a State of which that person is not a national or resident. There are four distinguishing features that can help clarify the confusion. 

  • Firstly, migrant smuggling usually involves consent on illegal entry of a person in a country whilst trafficked persons usually have never consented or, if they did so initially, the consent was conceived by coercion or abusive actions by the traffickers.
  • Secondly, trafficked persons involve the ongoing exploitation of the victim (purpose), whereas migrant smuggling ends with the migrant’s arrival at their destination.
  • Thirdly, smuggling of migrants is always transnational, whereas TIP can occur within a country without crossing any borders.
  • Finally, whereas the trafficking in persons’ source of profit is the exploitation itself, migrant smugglers profit from the transportation or illegal entry or stay of a person in another country.

I have some data illustrate why these two issues are of much debate and a global challenge.  Data has been gathered for UNODC’s Global Report on Trafficking in Persons – which you can find in the UNODC website.

  • In 2016, 254,000 victims were identified by 97 countries.
  • Regionally, Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 55% of all trafficking victims detected globally.
  • 72 per cent of all trafficking victims detected across the world are women and girls, the majority of whom are trafficked for sexual exploitation.
  • Men and boys are also at risk, and account for more than half of the victims trafficked for forced labour.
  • In the sub-Saharan region, most of those trafficked are from the region. Children are especially vulnerable, accounting for half of all trafficking victims. Too many victims continue to go undetected and unprotected, while too few traffickers are ever convicted.
  • Regarding exploitation, whereas the main form of exploitation is for sexual purposes in the African continent, forced labour has also been the main exploitation form.

UNODC’s response to addressing human trafficking focusses on a prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnerships approach. We believe such an approach is best suited when addressing not only weaknesses in any criminal justice system but also when ensuring that adequate assistance and support programmes are put in place for victims of trafficking and vulnerable migrants.

On prevention for example we can reduce the vulnerability of potential victims through educational interventions; On protection of victims we need to  protect the privacy and identity of victims and also provide physical, psychological and social recovery of victims.  On criminalisation and prosecution we should ensure that countries adopt legislative and other measures to establish criminal offences related to human trafficking. Preventing the trafficking from happening, protecting its victims and guaranteeing proper criminalisation of the offence and prosecutions of offenders are not easy tasks. For that reason, developing partnerships is important – partnerships between Ministries and law enforcement units, international cooperation between law enforcement authorities and the international community.  Importantly, it is imperative to promote a wider involvement of the population through campaigns, private sector engagement, corporate social responsibility, advocacy, research.

One example of such involvement is UNODC’s Blue Heart Campaign, a global awareness-raising initiative to fight human trafficking and its impact on society. We bring together Governments, civil society, the corporate sector and individuals to inspire action and help prevent human trafficking. Today, 30 countries have joined the Campaign and Ethiopia joined this year on UN day 24 October 2019.   What is significant is that, Ethiopia is the first Sub-Saharan country to support the Blue Heart Campaign.  The hashtag for the event was #EthiopiaHasAHeart and we have brought some wrist bands for you all which symbolises the call to action and you standing in solidarity with the victims and survivors of human trafficking.

The benefits of bringing trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants into a MUN conference means that you will learn more about the different approaches and policies applied by countries, you will learn about these complex issues and how they relate to crime and the list goes on.   Human trafficking exploits men and women, adults and children from all around the globe. Every year, criminal organisations generate millions of dollars in profits from exploiting the vulnerable condition of individuals. Of course, there is much more we can discuss on this issue but

As I conclude, I have to mention the Sustainable Development Goals, known as the SDGs.  The SDGs are a collection of 17 global goals designed to be a blueprint for our future.  Out of the 17 SDGs, human trafficking is specifically mentioned in three goals

  • 5 (Gender Equality) - Target 5.2, for instance, seeks to “Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation”.
  • 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth) - Target 8.7 moves attention to measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking.
  • 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions) - Target 16.2 calls for ending abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children.

Important to you and us all is also SDG 4 – Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.  There is a saying that goes ‘Be the change you want to become’.  It starts from here and I hope you will be the facilitators of change you want to see.

Allow me to express my sincere thanks to everyone here for attending this MUN Conference and showing such eagerness to discuss solutions to address human trafficking.

Thank you.