Vienna (Austria), 10 November 2023 – Child trafficking is one of the worst forms of violence against children and urgent, global action is needed to end it.
This is the clear message from the annual meeting of the heads of the 31 international organizations that work together under ICAT – the Inter-Agency Coordination Group Against Trafficking in Persons.
The members of the ICAT group, which is coordinated by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), concluded their meeting at the United Nations in New York with the approval of a ten-point Call to Action for the implementation of comprehensive measures to prevent child trafficking and protect the victims of this crime.
UNODC’s latest report on global human trafficking trends shows that around 35 per cent, or one in three, of detected victims of trafficking are children.
The research also indicates that trafficked children are subjected to physical or extreme violence at a rate almost two times higher than for adults.
“Shielding children from the horrors of human trafficking is a shared global responsibility. I welcome today’s call to action as an important step forward in our efforts to end the heinous exploitation of children and to protect future generations,” says UNODC Executive Director, Ghada Waly.
ICAT’s Call to Action highlights that child trafficking is closely intertwined with other forms of child exploitation and abuse.
It emphasizes how crises, including armed conflicts and persecution, political instability, pandemics, economic hardships, natural disasters, environmental degradation, and climate change are further exposing children to heightened risks of trafficking.
“While trafficking networks adapt quickly to capitalize on crises and children’s vulnerabilities, anti-trafficking responses are failing to adequately prevent and respond to this crime,” says Dr. Najat Maalla M’jid, the Special-Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children and 2023 ICAT co-chair.
The Call to Action notes that children are being forced to commit crimes by their traffickers and that some trafficked children are wrongfully arrested and penalized rather than being identified as victims and provided with the necessary protection and assistance.
The ten points include the need for countries to mitigate trafficking risks by investing in systems to protect vulnerable children and by strengthening mechanisms for the early identification and support of trafficked children.
Measures must be improved to guarantee child trafficking victims receive care and support that is tailored to their needs, age, gender and situation. More effort is needed to enhance children’s online safety and protection from newly emerging threats, including technology-facilitated trafficking and exploitation.
No child is immune from the risk of being a victim of human trafficking, as highlighted by the Director General for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and 2023 ICAT co-chair, Amy Pope.
"A recent IOM report showed that trafficking affects children of all backgrounds, demographics, and abilities, regardless of their level of education, their country of origin or other factors,” Ms. Pope notes. “Everyone must step up efforts to protect children, especially with the emergence of new trafficking-related threats, such as technology-facilitated trafficking, that particularly impact children and young people.”
UNODC Executive Director, Ghada Waly, stresses the importance of international cooperation to end child trafficking: “Together with IOM, the SRSG on Violence against Children, and the other ICAT members, we all play a critical role in informing global responses and leveraging our diverse expertise and mandates to address the issue of human trafficking with one unified voice.”
“It is vital that we listen to children’s voices, in an ethical, safe and responsible manner, to empower them and help inform decisions that shape child trafficking responses,” she concludes.
ICAT is a multilateral policy forum established by the United Nations General Assembly through resolution 61/180 with the aim of improving the coordination and cooperation among UN agencies and other relevant international organizations to facilitate a holistic and comprehensive approach to preventing and combating trafficking in persons, including protection and support for victims and survivors of trafficking.
Through the same resolution, the General Assembly tasked the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), as Coordinator of ICAT, with keeping Member States informed of the schedule of and the progress made by the Coordination Group.
In 2023, ICAT is co-chaired by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Office of the Special-Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children (OSRSG VAC).