Costa: Vienna Forum "tipping point"

15 February 2008 - The Vienna Forum to Fight Human Trafficking, which this week brought together 1,400 delegates from 116 countries to share knowledge and develop an international strategy to combat human trafficking, called for greater awareness, more resources and coordinated action in the fight against human trafficking.

Describing the Vienna Forum as a "tipping point" in the global battle against human trafficking, Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said, "This Forum is just the beginning of a process. Let us build on the momentum generated here to ensure that peoples' lives will not be for sale." 

Mr Costa was joined at the closing session of the Forum by Renuka Chowdhury, India's Minister of Women and Child Development; Helga Konrad, the former Austrian Minister for Women's Issues; and Dan Henkle, Senior Vice President of Social Responsibility at GAP Inc.

Ms Chowdhury stressed the need to move "from talk to action". Describing human trafficking as the "biggest of obscenities", she urged people to be "brave enough to speak inconvenient truths". Praising the success of the discussions of the last three days, she said, "We are leaving this Forum with innovative ways to influence our respective nations and governments." 

Stressing that businesses have a critical role to play in combating human trafficking, Mr Henkle said, "I am pleased that the private sector has been so well represented at the forum. My hope is that the next time we meet there will be even more companies represented - we need a critical mass."

In fact, during the Forum, global companies such as Microsoft, Manpower and GAP, representing hundreds of thousands of employees, came together for the first time to discuss how business can play its part in the fight against human trafficking. Business leaders acknowledged that the private sector had a critical role to play by examining their supply chains and business practices, utilising their core competencies to fight the crime and driving awareness more widely 

Referring to the 76 United Nations Member States which have not yet ratified the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Mr Costa said, "It's time to move". 

Moreover, Mr Costa urged national governments, businesses and civil society to take a series of practical measures to prevent trafficking, including: 

- The implementation of self-certification by businesses to take slave-made products off the shelves

- The development of technology to identify, monitor and disrupt human trafficking routes

- The tracking and blocking of credit card payments for internet human trafficking transactions

- The development of codes of conduct to curb sex tourism

In his conclusion, Mr Costa urged all participants: "Let us intensify the fight - to work even harder to stop a crime that shames us all."