Yury Fedotov

Director General/Executive Director


Remarks at the UN Security Council High Level Open Debate on Trafficking in Persons in Conflict Situations

New York, 20 December 2016

Prime Minister,



Allow me to begin by expressing my gratitude to the Security Council for its attention to this urgent issue.

I would also like to thank UNODC Goodwill Ambassador Nadia Murad for helping to raise awareness of the plight of trafficking victims.

Thanks to these efforts, there is heightened attention to the problem of human trafficking in conflict and mass movements of refugees and migrants, where we have seen this terrible crime acquire ever more appalling dimensions.

In seeking to strengthen international responses, we must keep in sharp focus the fact that human trafficking is pervasive.

It is transnational, and its victims are everywhere. Trafficking victims have been detected in 106 different countries and territories around the world.

Building effective action thus requires a strong framework of international cooperation and shared responsibility.

I deliberately use the word "build", as there is no single measure, no one step in any given part of the world that can address this problem alone.

The building blocks we need can be found in the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol against Trafficking in Persons.

This international treaty concluded more than a decade is still young, but some 158 have now criminalized most forms of human trafficking in their domestic laws, in line with the Protocol.

Many of these laws provide for victim identification, protection, support and compensation, as well as for national coordination mechanisms.

It is true that full implementation of the Protocol's provisions has yet to be achieved. However, the Palermo Convention and the Protocol could serve as a platform for robust collective responses to many of the challenges raised by today's debate.

What we really need is to strengthen the existing frameworks, which represent a solid foundation of international law and years of painstaking operational cooperation that we can build upon to act against modern-day slave traders, including in situations of conflict and wherever we find it.

The report of the Secretary-General details the efforts of the UN system to support Member States to improve implementation.

Tomorrow, UNODC will present the 2016 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, which provides a snapshot of the state of national responses to the challenges of human trafficking.

The report, based on reliable data and information provided by Member States, establishes that an increasing number of trafficking victims from conflict-affected countries such as Syria, Iraq and Somalia have been detected in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

The report also features a thematic chapter on the connections between conflict, migration and trafficking.

I hope, ladies and gentlemen, that you will join us at its launch.

Looking ahead, I would like to highlight the urgent need for countries to improve identification and referral, tailored to the challenges of conflict zones and mass movements.

UNODC is assisting countries to enhance identification and protection of trafficking victims among refugees and displaced persons fleeing conflict in the Middle East and Africa, and we hope to expand this work in future.

At the same time, strategic law enforcement action must target upstream organized criminals through intelligence sharing, joint operations, financial investigations and coordination within and across borders.

The full arsenal of tools that we have to disrupt organized crime networks and terrorist groups, to fight money laundering and counter terrorist financing, must be deployed.

Criminals exploit weakness. Gaps in our responses abet impunity and leave defenceless people exposed.

UNODC is committed to doing our part to support you, to integrate action against human trafficking, to promote justice and accountability, and protect the victimized and vulnerable.  

I thank you.