Yury Fedotov

Director General/Executive Director


Remarks at Group of Friends United against Human Trafficking - Thematic Dialogue on Slave Trade in Minors in the Digital Age, UNGA 72nd Session

New York, 28 September 2017

Distinguished participants,

My thanks to the Group of Friends for holding this dialogue.

New technologies have changed our lives in profound ways, many for the better. But there is a dark side to the digital age. 

Organized criminal networks are using modern information and communication technologies to carry out their crimes.

Globalization and the internet have also enabled criminals to take advantage of enforcement gaps to do business where they believe they will escape detection, finding their victims among the most vulnerable.

This includes the most vulnerable of all, children.

As a note of clarification, UNODC, along with our UN partners and INTERPOL, are very cautious about the use of terms referring to serious crimes against children.

Children by definition cannot give their consent to engage in pornography or prostitution. They can only be abused and exploited.

Child sexual abuse and exploitation, as well as the trafficking of children for prostitution, forced labour and other forms of exploitation, facilitated by the misuse of new technologies, represent some of the worst crimes that we face.

The latest UNODC Global Report on Trafficking in Persons found that almost a third of trafficking victims worldwide are children.

Among the victims trafficked for sexual exploitation, ninety-six per cent of them were women or girls.

In order to respond more effectively, we need to develop law enforcement expertise and specialized capacities, including to tackle cybercrime; improve information sharing and operational coordination between criminal justice agencies; and strengthen cooperation within and between countries and regions.

This work must be based on a sound international legal framework.

For this we have the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol against human trafficking, the importance of which was reaffirmed by the General Assembly yesterday in its meeting to appraise the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons.

These legally binding treaties have been ratified by most countries, and represent a solid basis for ending impunity for traffickers and providing support, protection, and access to justice for women, children and men who have been exploited.

Some 158 countries have criminalized most forms of human trafficking in their domestic laws, in line with the Protocol.

The number of convictions overall remains low, indicating that traffickers are still getting away with their crimes far too often.

However, UNODC research has found a strong correlation between how long a country has had legislation on the books and how many convictions it records.

So we are on the right path, but we need to promote more effective implementation, in all regions.

More resources need to be devoted to identify and assist trafficking victims, as well as improve criminal justice responses to detect, investigate and successfully prosecute cases.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime is working to support governments to use the tools provided by the Convention and Protocol, as well as by the UN standards and norms in crime prevention and criminal justice, to counter human trafficking.

We are also actively engaged in building capacities to detect, investigate and disrupt cybercrime, training investigators, prosecutors and judges to deal with this rapidly changing and expanding area and to support international cooperation so criminals have nowhere to hide.

I want to emphasize that we are seeing results from this work. As a direct result of training delivered by UNODC in Guatemala, local authorities apprehended an online paedophile with more than eighty child victims.

He was convicted for possession, distribution and production of online child sexual abuse material, aggravated violence and rape, fined and sentenced to thirty-two years in prison.

Clearly we can and must do more to support such effective law enforcement action, stop criminal misuse of new technologies and protect children.

I look forward to hearing from you on how we can work together to stop human trafficking in the digital age.

Thank you.