Ghada Waly

Director-General/Executive Director


Virtual Launch of Women's Network: Gender Champions against Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling in Asia and Middle East

  29 June 2020

Distinguished participants,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning. It’s a pleasure to join you for the virtual launch of this women’s network to advance our joint efforts to prevent and stop human trafficking and migrant smuggling.

I would like to start by thanking the European Union for their support and strategic partnership with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, including through our flagship Global Action against Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants for Asia and the Middle East.

I also welcome our ally and partner in the project, IOM.

The women’s network for Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan is an important and much-needed step to address a terrible imbalance.

Women and girls represent more than 70 per cent of detected human trafficking victims over the last 15 years.

In South Asia, women and girls accounted for 59% of detected victims for purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labour.

At the same time, women are vastly under-represented in law enforcement and criminal justice sectors, judicial institutions and policy-making bodies, globally and in the region.

For example, women on average make up two percent of the police service and five to eight percent of the judicial service in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It is a key priority of UNODC, in all of our work, to promote women’s participation and representation in criminal justice agencies to improve responses to crime, violence, abuse and exploitation.

Studies have shown that increased representation of women in law enforcement can result in positive systemic changes, including more effective policing styles, reduced costs and lower rates of escalation of violence.

More women in policing can improve support for female crime victims. There is a higher risk of abuse or secondary victimization if sensitive functions, including for example conducting bodily searches or taking statements, are not carried out by female officers.

Without adequate representation of women at all levels, police and criminal justice institutions are not able to provide victims with the right to speak to a female officer, as required by UN standards and norms.

We urgently need more women as agents of change to support and empower women victims.

Crimes like human trafficking and migrant smuggling are made worse by conflict and humanitarian crises and poverty.

The COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn has vastly increased vulnerabilities and risks to these crimes.

In order to shift the paradigm and achieve progress, we need champions.

That is where you come in.

I congratulate all of you on joining the Gender Champions against Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling in Asia and the Middle East.

I also very much welcome the men who have joined the network, to stand with their colleagues to work for gender equality and gender mainstreaming in their professions.

We need the full and equal participation of both women and men to achieve progress.

Your leadership can make a real difference, in your places of work, and for the people you serve.

At the UN, we have seen how true commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment, coupled with a structured response with clear targets, can result in improvements.

Thanks to the dedication of the Secretary-General, I am proud to say that the UN has achieved gender parity at the senior management level, on the way to parity at all levels by 2028.

At UNODC I am directly engaged in strengthening implementation of our Strategy and action plan for gender equality and women’s empowerment, and we are monitoring results.

Going forward, the Women’s Network can help you to find solutions to the barriers and bottlenecks that prevent the meaningful inclusion of women in operational and leadership roles in criminal justice institutions.

By offering opportunities for professional development, the Network will strengthen the skills and capacities of women working on human trafficking and migrant smuggling cases, and provide mentoring for female criminal justice professionals.

And it will help to establish closer connections between practitioners in different countries, who are often facing the same challenges and can benefit from sharing information and from mutual support.

I encourage you to use this Network to amplify your collective expertise, experience and influence, and to help each other, so we can better help and protect trafficking victims and smuggled migrants, leaving no one behind.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I thank the distinguished speakers taking part in the launch.

I wish the Women’s Network every success, and I hope you find today’s discussion useful and productive.

Thank you.