Good afternoon. Thank you for joining us for the launch of UNODC’s latest Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, the UN’s flagship publication tackling the global threat of human trafficking.
This report sheds light on a crime that targets and exploits the vulnerable, the impoverished and those in need, and subjects them to abuse, deception, manipulation, and often physical violence.
With the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences leaving more people than ever at risk of being trafficked, this research represents a timely resource to help governments take targeted action.
The report paints a greatly concerning picture of the vulnerabilities preyed upon by traffickers in their victims.
In every 10 victims of trafficking detected, 5 are adult women, and two are girls, while more than half of the cases analyzed involved victims who were in economic need or whose families lived in extreme poverty.
Migrants also make up a significant percentage of victims detected in most global regions, a percentage that rises as high as sixty-five percent of victims detected in Western and Southern Europe.
It is particularly alarming that in recent years more and more children are being targeted by traffickers.
One in every three detected victims of trafficking is a child, a proportion that has tripled in the past 15 years, with children accounting for a significantly higher percentage of detected victims in low-income countries. Children in those countries are primarily trafficked for forced labour, as impoverished families may resort to sending their children to work to earn a living, thereby exposing them to traffickers.
Already targeted and potentially at risk, youth who are denied their right to education will particularly find themselves easier prey for traffickers.
Children and young people have had their education dangerously curtailed. 73% of youth aged between 8 and 19 are estimated by UNESCO to have experienced school closures; 11 million girls may find themselves unable to return to education at all.
Overall trafficking risks are also rising in the midst of the COVID-19 economic crisis.
The World Bank estimates that up to 164 million people have been pushed into extreme poverty in 2020, with women losing their jobs faster than men during the pandemic.
As poverty, inequality and marginalization deepen, more people are likely to find themselves opportune targets for traffickers.
While sexual exploitation still accounts for the largest proportion of trafficking victims detected overall, the Global Report has found that trafficking for forced labour now accounts for more than one-third of victims, a development that demands more focused attention.
Urgent action is required to protect potential victims who find themselves increasingly at risk, particularly in sectors and industries such as fishing, construction work, domestic work, catering and cleaning, and agriculture.
The Global Report also brings to the fore emerging threats posed by traffickers misusing the internet and social media to identify and interact with more potential victims, as well as facilitate new forms of exploitation and abuse.
The number of reported cases involving use of the internet is increasing, as traffickers take advantage of technology to operate in multiple locations at once, to recruit victims and advertise their exploitation online, and to exploit victims via webcam.
Our responses to trafficking in persons must adapt and be tailored to these realities.
As the leading UN entity in the fight against trafficking in persons, and the custodian of the Protocol against trafficking in persons, UNODC is dedicated to protecting those who need us most at this urgent juncture.
UNODC is firmly committed to supporting Member States’ efforts to combat trafficking in persons, and to protect and assist victims, including through our dedicated global programme and network of field offices.
In 2020 alone, UNODC provided integrated technical assistance to 83 countries, supporting them in drafting legislation, establishing national action plans, and training practitioners.
The Global Report on Trafficking in Persons represents a crucial component of our efforts in this regard, bringing to light the ways in which traffickers operate and adapt, and providing an essential foundation of knowledge to counter their operations.
It is my hope that this new report will serve as a tool to focus international attention on one of the most abhorrent and exploitative crimes that still exist.
Going forward, we need to combine anti-trafficking action that targets emerging developments with systemic solutions to the inequalities and conditions that create fertile ground for exploitation.
I am optimistic that the UNODC Global Report on Trafficking in Persons can provide a solid foundation for gender and age-sensitive, victim-centred approaches that can be fully integrated into comprehensive pandemic responses, to build forward with stronger and more resilient societies where no one is left behind.