Via Video Conference, 16 December 2015
That criminals exploit situations of conflict, and that transnational organized crime erodes the rule of law and can fuel insecurity, is well known.
That the growing sophistication of links between transnational criminal networks and terrorists in many regions of the world poses a grave threat to peace and security has been recognized many times over by this Council.
Now this important and timely debate can help draw attention to, and promote action on, a particularly appalling aspect of the crime-terrorism-conflict nexus that has received too little attention.
Namely, that the most vulnerable - women, children and men, caught in the crossfire of conflict; often impoverished and displaced; many on the move to escape desperate circumstances - are falling victim to trafficking in human beings.
Syria was primarily a country of destination for trafficking before 2011. However, according to information collected for UNODC's Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, since that time at least ten countries in Europe, Asia and the Middle East have detected Syrian victims.
Trafficking victims from Iraq have been more frequently detected in many parts of the world since ISIL/Da'esh started insurgency in the north of the country.
Trafficking victims from the Horn of Africa, including Somali citizens, are increasingly detected in Europe.
While many are trafficked to other destinations, there are scores of victims bought, sold and exploited by groups like ISIL and Boko Haram in the territories where they operate.
Taking action in such a fluid environment clearly presents great challenges.
This debate is a timely reminder to the international community that we in fact already possess strong frameworks that can enable joint responses against trafficking in persons.
First and foremost among these is the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its landmark Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.
Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2000 and entering into force in 2003, the Protocol was the first international instrument calling for all acts of human trafficking to be criminalized.
The Protocol also laid the foundation for further ground-breaking steps, including the General Assembly's adoption in 2010 of a Global Plan of Action that also mandated UNODC to conduct research on trafficking, and established a UN Trust Fund to help victims.
The Convention and Protocol provide a legal and practical framework, under which countries can cooperate to address what is commonly a crime involving multiple jurisdictions.
The good news is that most countries in the world are States Parties to the Convention and trafficking protocol, and, in recent years, most of them have enacted relevant laws.
The bad news is that not so many countries fully use these laws. Forty-one per cent reported no convictions or fewer than ten convictions for trafficking per year. Clearly this impunity must end.
I hope this debate will further encourage States Parties to fulfil their commitments under the Convention and Protocol.
More can and should be done to foster cooperation among States affected by trafficking, whether they are countries of origin, transit or destination.
UNODC, as the guardian of the Convention and its Protocols, is assisting countries in these efforts.
Over the past two years, UNODC delivered assistance to more than sixty countries through its global programme against human trafficking, to enable governments to effectively implement provisions of the Protocol.
Dedicated programmes have also been set up in key regions affected by conflict.
In response to migrant smuggling through the Mediterranean - which to a large degree is the result of conflicts in Syria and Libya - UNODC has developed a plan to support Member States, encompassing research and analysis, national capacity building, regional and inter-regional cooperation and enhanced protection of victims.
Through strengthening criminal justice capacities, as well as the regulatory frameworks for banks and other financial institutions, we also help to disrupt the illicit financial flows, corruption and money-laundering that enable criminal activities.
The interests of the victims remain at the heart of UNODC's efforts.
Next year, we seek to bring together practitioners from countries hosting large refugee populations to share experiences on addressing the vulnerability of refugees to trafficking and preventing victimization.
Within the UN system, UNODC seeks a strong, coordinated and consistent response through its active participation in the Inter-Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons, or ICAT.
Established by the General Assembly, ICAT brings together 16 UN and other partners engaged in the fight against human trafficking.
By harmonizing our approaches and taking advantage of each agency's value added, we can help to ensure that there are no gaps in the UN system's response.
As the incoming chair of ICAT, I will invite UNODC's counterparts to a follow-up discussion.
With the Convention and Protocol, we have a strong, agreed basis for international cooperation and concerted action against trafficking in persons, including in situations of conflict.
Through ICAT, we have the structures in place to coordinate UN action to provide comprehensive assistance to Member States.
We need to make the best use of these tools.
UNODC stands ready to support you.
For further information please contact:
Phone: (+43 1) 26060-5629
Mobile: (+43-699) 1459-5629