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Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Following is the text of remarks as delivered by UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro to the International Conference on Trafficking in Women and Girls, today in New York:

 This year, we commemorate the bicentennial of the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.  We celebrate the fact that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.  Yet, around the world, millions of people are still deprived of their freedom.

 There should be no place in the twenty-first century for forced labour or sexual exploitation.  The fact that there are forms of slavery in our world today should fill us all with shame.  As an African woman, I would add that it also fills me with rage.

 Human trafficking affects us all, whether we live in countries of origin, transit or destination.  Preventing and combating it requires a comprehensive international approach.

 The world is becoming more aware of the nature and extent of human trafficking, and is starting to take action.  In 2000, United Nations Member States agreed to an historic anti-trafficking Protocol that supplements the UN Convention against Organized Crime.  I urge Member States that have not done so already to ratify and implement this powerful anti-trafficking instrument.

 Trafficking respects no borders, and our response requires cross-border cooperation.  Law enforcement networks must prove that they can be stronger, more connected and more efficient than criminal networks.  An equally transnational approach must apply to protecting and rescuing the victims of trafficking, particularly the most vulnerable, who are usually women and children.

 Let me thank those who organized this Conference -- the Governments of Belarus and the Philippines, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and Vital Voices Global Partnership, and others who played a role.

 I hope all participants will use this meeting to bolster efforts for prevention, prosecution and protection.  I hope you will strengthen the partnerships that are needed -- among Governments, non-governmental organizations, police forces, the media and the private sector.  And I encourage you to join the Global Initiative to fight Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery, which is being launched by the United Nations this year in Vienna.

 Two hundred years ago, courageous men and women around the world stood up for freedom.  Today, we must do the same.  We must act together to stop a crime in our midst that deprives countless victims of their liberty, dignity and human rights.  Thank you for your important contribution to this global cause.  I wish this Conference every success.

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For information media • not an official record






Address of Ms. Kyung-wha Kang, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights,

to the International Conference on Trafficking in Women and Girls 


Distinguished participants and colleagues,

 Allow me to start by thanking the Governments of Belarus and The Philippines, as well as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and Vital Voices Global Partnership, for inviting me to attend this roundtable. I would also like to congratulate them for taking this important initiative which builds on the momentum created by the two General Assembly Resolutions on human trafficking. It is of fundamental importance that the global fight against this crime is a collective endeavour. This conference, which brings together some of the main players concerned, provides such an opportunity.

 Ladies and Gentlemen,

 Human trafficking represents one of the most serious global human rights challenges. This practice denies its victims all those human rights which make for a life of dignity including freedom of movement, freedom from violence and abuse, security, access to health and education, the enjoyment of family life and of a decent livelihood. It is for the reasons that fighting human trafficking has been identified as one of OHCHR's priorities. Moreover, we have established a women's human rights and gender unit to reinforce initiatives to prevent trafficking and provide protection to victims.

 Recent research suggests that the pool of those vulnerable to trafficking in most parts of the world may be actually growing rather than declining. This is the consequence of widespread inequalities, insecurity of food and livelihoods, violence, conflict, discrimination, and a general uprooting of populations resulting in large-scale migrations. To comprehend the trafficking phenomenon, it is necessary to also understand the dynamics of modern-day migration, and to address these issues from an integrated human rights perspective.

 To this end, OHCHR issued in 2002 the Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Human Trafficking, based on a perspective that would bolster the rights of victims, as well as protect the vulnerable. This document, adopted by ECOSOC, sought to address the violations that occur during the course of the trafficking cycle and explain the obligations on States to provide protection and redress. The approach focused on the protection of the rights of the individuals and identified tools that could enable States to better address the causes of trafficking. The Principles also provided a framework aimed at victim and witness protection. Moreover, it outlined ways to facilitate integration or re integration of victims into communities. We have learnt from field experience that when this comprehensive approach is actually put into practice, it leads to more effective prevention and prosecution of trafficking perpetrators .

 Ladies and Gentlemen,

 Putting human rights at the core of anti-trafficking work means first and foremost, acknowledging that trafficking is in itself a violation of basic human rights. Such violations include abhorrent practices, such as debt bondage, forced labour, sexual exploitation and slavery-like practices

 Secondly, since it is the exploitation and forced labour outcome which distinguishes trafficking from other migration-related crimes, a human rights approach places added responsibility on governments of destination countries. This translates into establishing enforceable labour standards, measures to prevent sexual exploitation, efficient prosecution of the offenders and above all, extending full support and assistance to trafficked persons. In this regard it is important to underscore the need for cooperation between countries of origin and destination and understanding the complex dimensions of supply and demand.

 Thirdly, a human rights approach means ensuring appropriate identification of the victims. To this end, we must draw clear distinctions between irregular migrants, trafficked persons, and smuggled persons. It must also be recognised that trafficking is highly gendered, with sexual exploitation the most likely labour outcome for women. It is women that experience a double discrimination, since they are more likely to be treated as criminals, more likely to be ostracised upon return and hence more vulnerable to being re trafficked. Trafficked persons should not be subjected to summary deportations nor should they be held in detention. Nor should they be prosecuted for activities that are a direct outcome of being trafficked.

 Fourthly, a human rights approach involves ensuring that all anti-trafficking measures are designed to empower trafficked persons to recover their dignity and rights. They should be provided with needed assistance and service. Their mobility should not be further curtailed. They should be not denied the right to make decisions. They should not be stigmatized and ostracized.

 Finally, a human rights approach entails special care for the protection of the rights of children (up to the age of 18 years) at all times. Procedures should be established for the rapid identification of trafficked children. Age-sensitive and other measures need to be taken to reunite these children with their families, or to otherwise meet their best interests, in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol.

 Let me say that combating trafficking is a monumental task. Concerted efforts and multilayered cooperation on the part of a variety of stakeholders, including States, international organizations and civil society is of the utmost importance. This is already happening. We now need to make sure that we consciously and systematically embed human rights into all of our initiatives to combat human trafficking. While assessing the impact of our anti-trafficking work at all levels.

 Our Office is fully engaged in this fight. And so are you. Together we can make a difference for the countless victims of this despicable commerce.

 I wish you the very best for the remaining duration of this conference.

Thank you.

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