Thursday, July 30, 2015

Putting an end to trafficking in persons

Conflict, terrorism, economic turmoil, natural calamities, disease: We are living in an era of unprecedented crises and troubles, as United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has warned.

Record numbers of people are fleeing war and persecution, and the international community is grappling with acute migration challenges in the Mediterranean, the Balkans, in the Andaman Sea, Latin America and Africa.

For human traffickers, these hardships represent business opportunities. Many millions of vulnerable women, men and children are being cruelly exploited — coerced into working in factories, fields and brothels or begging on the street; pushed into armed combat or forced marriages; trafficked so their organs can be harvested and sold.

More and more detected victims of trafficking are children, especially girls under the age of 18. No place in the world is safe: The latest Global Report on Trafficking in Persons by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime found that the trafficking victims identified in 124 states were citizens of 152 different countries.

And the traffickers are getting away with it. Over the past decade there has been no significant improvement in the overall criminal justice response to this crime. In the period covered by the Global Report, some 40 percent of countries reported less than 10 convictions per year. Some 15 percent did not record a single conviction.

The world is facing many grave challenges, and our resources are strained. But we cannot allow criminals to exploit these crises and take advantage of desperation and suffering. You might wonder what one person can do about an entrenched and pervasive crime like human trafficking. But we can all do our part.

As a first step, you can educate yourself about human trafficking and help others become aware of the problem. You can find out more on our website for World Day against Trafficking in Persons,

You can urge lawmakers and businesses to take this crime seriously, and to take action. For governments, that means joining the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol on trafficking and putting these frameworks into action in national legislation.

 Effective implementation of the Convention and Protocol — backed with the necessary resources — can help to protect trafficking victims, promote cooperation between countries and ensure that criminal traffickers, wherever they are, are brought to justice.

As a consumer, employee or business owner, you can advocate for measures to prevent the use of forced labor in operations and supply chains and eliminate abusive and fraudulent recruitment practices that may lead to trafficking.

Finally, you can encourage governments, companies and individuals to support the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons.

Financed solely through voluntary contributions, the Trust Fund works with NGO partners across the globe to identify women, children and men who have been exploited by traffickers and give them the assistance, protection and support they need.

Since 2011, the Trust Fund has helped some 2,000 victims annually, providing shelter, basic health services, vocational training and schooling, as well as psychosocial, legal and economic support.

The Trust Fund has been able to assist girls like Skye, who was trafficked to India when she was just 13. After escaping back home to Nepal, she sought help from NGO Shakti Samuha. She went after her trafficker in court and went back to school.

Skye won her case and graduated, and now works as a staff member at Shakti Samuha, helping other trafficking victims become survivors.

There are many more young girls and trafficking victims like Skye who need and deserve our support.

July 30 is United Nations World Day against Trafficking in Persons, established to raise awareness of the plight of human trafficking victims and promote and protect their rights.

This Thursday, let’s take this opportunity to give hope to trafficking victims, pledge to do our part and help end this terrible crime.
Yury Fedotov is the executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.


  1. The Trouble with the US Human Trafficking Report
    A focus on annual rankings misses the point.
    In a world of statistics and records the human desire to rank anything that moves – whether it’s in sports, war, education, medicine, the weather or crime – is often overwhelming and taken to absurd and unnecessary levels.
    This was highlighted by the United States this week and the release of its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, which ranks all countries on one of four levels – Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 2 Watchlist and the dreaded Tier 3 – on their ability to combat the scourge.

  2. It was galling to watch Malaysia behave like an Olympic medal had been won after it was upgraded from the bottom of the pile to the Tier 2 Watchlist.
    Equally so with Thailand, which was “upset” after being left to languish in Tier 3, the only ASEAN country now “ranked” alongside North Korea and Syria on this issue.
    Both Southeast Asian countries deserve to be thoroughly thrashed for their treatment of thousands of Bangladeshis and ethnic Royingyas from Myanmar, entrapped by people smuggling rings, a dreadful stain on ASEAN’s short history.
    Malaysia’s promotion came despite the discovery of 139 graves at 28 hidden transit camps used by smugglers and traffickers on its northern border with Thailand.
    Human rights groups were outraged by the upgrade. Washington defended its actions arguing the latest Rohingya incident had unfolded after deadlines had past for this year’s TIP, which will make the 2016 report a fascinating read.
    Point scoring in the human trafficking market like it was some kind of sport does seem to compromise the report’s worth. It trivializes the plight of victims coerced and tricked into poorly paid indentured labor, prostitution or imprisoned for years on fishing vessels plying the region’s waterways.

  3. Half of ASEAN’s 10 countries are in the benign Tier 2 group, including Singapore which lashed-out over its ranking saying it was not an accurate representation of the state’s harsh stance on the issue.
    Cambodia was disappointed. It had expected to be upgraded out of the Tier 2 Watchlist, where it ranks alongside Laos and Myanmar. Given Myanmar’s inability to deal with the trafficking of its own people, it seemed absurd that it too was not lumped in Tier 3.
    But it was Malaysia’s promotion that generated most interest, with cynics also asking whether the US had been swayed by politics and its need to finalize the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in Hawaii this week.
    The TPP, a trade deal between 12 Pacific Rim countries commanding 40 percent of the global economy, is a key plank in U.S. President Barack Obama’s economic agenda. But recent laws have banned the US from negotiating trade deals with Tier 3 countries.
    Malaysia’s rank was a problem. But once the TPP is signed, trade will continue as normal even if it falls back to into the Tier 3 category.
    Hence Washington should not be surprised by the doubts that surround its report and Malaysia – a country whose government is beset by allegations of corruption and a lack of transparency over issues ranging from human trafficking to downed and missing airliners and scandals involving 1MDB, the acquisition of French submarines and racial and religious tensions.

  4. It’s a situation made all the worse by the jailing of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who won the 53 percent of the popular vote at elections held in 2013.
    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says the TIP report is designed to ‘enlighten, energize and empower activists into fighting human trafficking across every continent’.
    Yet this form of modern day slavery is flourishing like never before under the same governments ranked by the same report year-after-year.
    If the US is serious about it’s own efforts to end the human trafficking and people smuggling rackets, then perhaps it’s time to drop the sporting analogies and ranking systems and deal with this horrific problem by isolating, prosecuting and punishing governments for failing to meet their international obligations, as opposed to trading with them.
    Luke Hunt