VIENNA, 25 April 2006 - Julia Ormond, United Nations Goodwill Ambassador on Anti-Trafficking and Slavery, called on all United Nations Member States on Monday to ratify the Palermo Protocols outlawing trafficking in persons and the smuggling of migrants.
Speaking at the 15 th Session of the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Vienna, she said all governments needed to make the fight against human trafficking a priority.
"Trafficking is one of the most egregious violations of human rights in the 21 st century. I ask all Member States, at a minimum, to sign and ratify the Protocols," Julia said. "It is not acceptable that law enforcement in any country should be under-staffed, under-equipped and under-funded in the fight against trafficking."
The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, adopted in 2003, has been signed by 147 countries and ratified by 118. The accompanying Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, has been signed by 117 states and ratified by 97.
Julia, who was appointed UNODC Goodwill Ambassador in December 2005, said she had been shocked by the scale of the trafficking problem - not just for sexual exploitation but also for forced labour.
"It costs as little as $50 to buy a healthy 18-year-old boy in Mali, who can then be trafficked and shipped to the Ivory Coast and sold into modern-day slavery," she said. This was a fraction of the cost of a young male slave in the American Deep South in the 1850s, which was the equivalent of around $38,000 in today's money.
"Once he is under the farmer's physical control, the farmer gets the entire productive capacity, the embodied labour, of this young man for as long as the farmer can control and exploit him," Julia said.
"The drop from $38,000 to $50 shows the shift in the price of a human life, a shift that shows that slaves are now seen simply as a disposable commodity."
However, the British-born actress said her recent visit to Ghana, where she met children forced by fishermen to dive in life-threatening conditions to untangle nets, had given her hope that it was possible to combat trafficking effectively.
"Local NGOs are close to having rescued and rehabilitated a thousand children," Ms Ormond said. "Breaking this cruel cycle has been achieved by giving skills-training to parents and traffickers and schooling to the children."
To view the full text of Julia Ormond's speech, click here.
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