Vienna, 15 March 2017 - My thanks to the Security Council and the UK Presidency for your unflagging attention to the crime of human trafficking in conflict situations.
We continue to witness criminals and terrorists exploiting instability and vulnerability.
As the Secretary-General has just observed, human trafficking thrives where the rule of law is weak and non-existent.
Armed groups are engaging in human trafficking, capturing and coercing young girls and boys into sexual slavery, or to be used as forced labour or combatants.
Organized crime networks are preying on the many thousands of people on the move.
UNODC's 2016 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons confirmed that migrants from countries with a high level of organized crime, or that are affected by conflicts, are more vulnerable to trafficking, as well as violence, abuse and other forms of exploitation.
As conflict displaces countless people, as the rule of law breaks down, as cooperation between countries falter, criminals see a clear business opportunity.
For organized crime networks, human trafficking is a low-risk, high-reward criminal business, a perception reinforced by the inexcusably low conviction rates still reported around the world.
States can and must do more to prevent people from falling victim to traffickers. To protect those exploited, and to hold criminals to account, they could take some concrete, immediate steps.
First, there is a clear need to make the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol against Trafficking in Persons more operational.
That means developing comprehensive legal frameworks to encourage and facilitate cross-border cooperation and responses to human trafficking, and the organized crime that perpetuates it.
It also means putting in place a mechanism that would allow review of the implementation of the Convention and its Protocols.
Second, some national laws may apply to the actions of their citizens abroad, including in conflict zones, which could be used to bring perpetrators to justice.
Third, anti-trafficking laws should not only criminalize trafficking but also provide for the protection and support of victims.
Fourth, countries must devote more resources to identifying and assisting victims, tailored to the challenges of conflict zones and large movements of refugees and migrants.
Fifth, we must continue building capacities to improve criminal justice action to detect, investigate and successfully prosecute cases of human trafficking.
In October, Member States will appraise the Global Plan of Action To Combat Trafficking in Persons, which was adopted by the General Assembly in 2010 to support implementation of the Protocol and coordinate national responses.
This event offers a chance to discuss and advance efforts against trafficking in conflict situations, and I hope you will take advantage of this opportunity.
I also hope that Member States, the private sector and all those concerned will help us provide a much higher level of direct assistance through the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, a facility which was established under the Global Plan of Action.
As always, UNODC remains engaged in supporting you to improve responses to human trafficking.
We are assisting with the identification and protection of trafficking victims among refugees and displaced persons.
We are helping to build capacities to disrupt organized crime and terrorist groups, including through intelligence sharing, financial investigations and coordination within and across borders.
We are working with our UN partners, including DPKO, to mainstream responses to human trafficking in efforts to address the conflict cycle.
Furthermore, UNODC is seeking to strengthen UN coordination through ICAT, the Inter-Agency Coordination Group Against Trafficking in Persons.
UNODC and its partners are holding an ICAT briefing to Member States in New York on Friday. I hope you will attend.
Clearly international responses to human trafficking continue to fall short, and we cannot accept the status quo.
The best way we can swiftly improve action against trafficking and protect the vulnerable is to fully implement and make use of the frameworks we have worked so hard to build, and more effectively deploy the tools we have painstakingly crafted to confront human trafficking in all its forms.
As the Secretary-General has so eloquently said, this is an issue that can and should unite us.
Your continued support for our work is essential. Thank you.
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