Vienna, 15 February 2008 (UN.GIFT) - The Vienna Forum to Fight Human Trafficking, which this week brought together 1,400 delegates from 116 countries to share knowledge and develop a co-ordinated strategy to combat human trafficking, has concluded after three days with impassioned calls for greater awareness, more resources and co-ordinated 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 people's lives will not be for sale."
Mr. Costa urged national governments, businesses and civil society to speed up the implementation of practical measures to prevent trafficking, including:
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.
Mrs. 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."
Dr. Konrad said: "Let me remind you that when we got to the starting line, the traffickers were already far ahead in this race. Notwithstanding the progress we have made, we are still lagging behind. We cannot afford to be complacent - let us make a concerted effort to get to grips with this complex problem."
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 are even more companies represented - we need a critical mass."
Mr Costa highlighted the importance of strengthening alliances involving national governments, businesses and civil society. In this respect he paid special tribute to the Women Leaders' Council, a unique coalition of political figures, diplomats, trade unionists, business leaders, campaigners and entertainers from across the world, which was launched at the Vienna Forum to co-ordinate action, forge new partnerships, facilitate access to resources and work to reduce the stigma for victims of trafficking.
Referring to the 76 Member States of the United Nations 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".
He also called for greater attention to the mental health of trafficking victims: "many of these survivors, even when they are free, can not escape the mental enslavement".
The Vienna Forum was convened by the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT), which was established in recognition of the fact that human trafficking takes many forms and that a co-ordinated and united approach is required.
UN.GIFT was launched in March 2007 by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) together with the International Labour Organization (ILO); the International Organization for Migration (IOM); the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF); the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).