Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
It is my honour to take part in this multi-stakeholder hearing to prepare the review of the Global Plan of Action against Trafficking in Persons.
I thank the President of the General Assembly for convening this event, and I congratulate the Permanent Representatives of the Dominican Republic and the Philippines on their appointment as co-facilitators.
The world needs an inclusive, robust and well-adapted action plan against one of the most enduring and exploitative forms of crime.
Traffickers ruthlessly use people for profit, depriving victims of their rights as they deceive and coerce them into sexual exploitation, forced labour, and other forms of exploitation.
Women and girls are disproportionately targeted, as are people in dire economic situations, including migrants, and the share of children among detected victims has tripled in the past 15 years.
One rescued trafficking victim interviewed by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, an impoverished single mother tricked into a life of horrific abuse, told us: “My trafficker had studied my vulnerability.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the same vulnerabilities which traffickers feed upon.
In 2020, extreme poverty was on the rise globally for the first time in more than 20 years. Women lost jobs at a greater rate than men. Some 1.6 billion children were affected by school closures.
The effects of these drastic setbacks will increase the number of people at risk of exploitation by traffickers for years to come.
At this critical time, UNODC remains committed to protecting people and supporting victims, leading the UN system’s anti-trafficking responses.
In 2020 alone, through our dedicated global programme and network of field offices, we have provided technical assistance to 83 countries to help them implement the Trafficking in Persons Protocol.
We support Member States with drafting legislation, building national action plans, and training practitioners to ensure sustained impact.
The Global Plan of Action, adopted in 2010, has been an important roadmap for our work.
Our Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, mandated by the Plan of Action, provides policy-makers and all of our partners in the fight against trafficking with the latest global data and trends, setting a foundation for victim-centred, age- and gender-sensitive responses.
UNODC also manages the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons, which was established by the Global Plan of Action.
The Trust Fund assists 5,000 trafficking victims a year in over 50 countries.
UNODC’s Blue Heart campaign against trafficking in persons supports the Trust Fund, and I am pleased to see that the Chair of the Trust Fund’s Board will deliver a statement at the closing session of this hearing, and advocate for the campaign.
Our Office is also proud to coordinate the Inter-Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons, which brings together 30 international organizations, enabling better coherence and synergies.
With the review of the Global Plan of Action in November this year, we need to build on our common achievements while adapting our responses to new and enduring realities.
Let me share with you three key points for your consideration, as you prepare to write the next chapter in the global fight against trafficking.
Firstly, traffickers have become experts at harnessing technology to identify, control and exploit victims.
We need to equip responders with the knowledge, skills, and software to tackle this threat, and work closely with tech companies to detect and disrupt the use of technology by traffickers. Public-private partnerships are needed to make progress on this front.
Secondly, the pandemic has made it harder for victims to seek help and obtain justice.
Last week, UNODC published a first-of-its kind study showing that frontline organizations experienced funding and staffing shortages, and victims faced challenges in accessing key services, such as shelter, health services, and legal aid.
Our study also identifies success stories in countering these effects, through the provision of services to victims online, and the development of e-justice mechanisms.
We need to use the lessons of this pandemic to ensure continuity of support for victims in future crises, and help countries digitize their services.
Thirdly, more needs to be done to promote the recognition of victims, and avoid holding them accountable for the crimes of their exploiters.
UNODC’s analysis shows that traffickers deliberately use victims to shield themselves from prosecution, placing them in low-ranking roles within criminal hierarchies, and exposing them to detection by law enforcement as suspects and offenders.
Countries should step up efforts to correctly identify victims of trafficking and refrain from punishing them, while facilitating access to remedies for those who have been unjustly penalized.
In short, more support to victims is needed.
Ladies and gentlemen,
With their experience and insights, victims have a key role to play to prevent trafficking in persons, identify and support other victims, and bring perpetrators to justice.
This year, the theme of our campaign for World Day against Trafficking in Persons on 30 July is: “Victims’ Voices Lead the Way”.
States and international organizations must listen to survivors, support victim-led initiatives, and integrate victims’ voices into counter-trafficking responses.
I very much welcome the participation of Ms. Itohan Okundaye in this opening segment. I salute her courage and efforts to help so many victims break free from exploitation and abuse.
I thank you once again for the opportunity to contribute to the review of the Global Plan of Action through this hearing, and I encourage you to let victims’ voices guide your work towards the Political Declaration.