The international community must speed up a stronger, more coordinated response to the scourge of human trafficking – integrating cutting-edge tools to outpace criminals whose online tactics have been increasingly sophisticated – the General Assembly heard today, as delegates concluded their high-level meeting on the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons.
The two-day meeting opened on 22 November, with the 193-member Assembly adopting a Political Declaration aimed at generating further momentum on that critical issue. (See Press Release GA/12387.)
More than 70 speakers took the floor throughout the day, with many noting that – more than a decade after the adoption of the 2010 United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons – the COVID‑19 pandemic has only expanded the global trafficking industry. Economically vulnerable people, especially women, girls and migrants, have been ensnared by the online techniques used by criminals. Greater international cooperation, especially in the areas of prevention, protection, prosecution and partnership, must be wielded to counter the tools traffickers are using to expand the multibillion-dollar human trafficking industry across global borders.
The representative of Slovakia said the Assembly’s adoption of the Political Declaration was a decisive step forward. Yet, the international community has to tackle the root causes of human trafficking, such as discrimination and social exclusion. It must also expand communication between aid providers and law enforcement authorities at the national and international levels. Slovakia stands ready to collaborate with international partners against organized crime, he said.
Croatia’s delegate labelled trafficking in persons a modern form of slavery, a flagrant violation of human rights and a serious crime. “It is also a symptom of our lack of coordination and solidarity in governing a globally interconnected world,” he stressed. Rather than blaming each other, members of the international community should use today’s high-level session to identify new threats, exchange experiences and identify best responses. Noting that the pandemic has left people more vulnerable and more susceptible to the fake promises frequently used by traffickers, he noted that recruitment is increasingly being carried out via social media and online platforms, aimed at children and young adults.
The representative of Sweden agreed that law enforcement officials should be using the Internet to strengthen their global cooperation with Internet providers. The right laws can also help curb trafficking. For example, in 1999, Sweden became the first country in the world to criminalize the purchase – but not the sale – of sexual services. That important tool made Sweden a less attractive market for criminals interested in trafficking people for sexual exploitation, she said.
Israel’s representative noted that her country has been making the prevention of trafficking and the protection of vulnerable people a priority, as it harnesses the same technologies misused by criminals to boost its response. Approaches that focus on victims and help them overcome trauma are critical, she stressed, adding that Israel has set up a dedicated forfeiture fund for compensation and aid to victims.
The representative of Ghana pointed to the growing link between armed groups – including terrorist groups – and trafficking in persons, especially in West Africa. Echoing other speakers’ concerns about the use of online platforms to enable the grooming, recruitment and exploitation of vulnerable people, he welcomed the Assembly’s timely adoption of its Political Declaration. Noting that the Government of Ghana has enacted various laws to prevent and suppress trafficking, he urged the international community to provide technical assistance to developing countries seeking to do the same.
Angola’s delegate agreed that it is critical to improve countries’ capacity to confront trafficking-related activities, which are exacerbated by the criminal use of information and communication technology (ICTs). In that regard, she called for greater information exchange and cooperation, particularly in the criminal justice arena, citing the important role being played by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Human trafficking moves some $30 billion around the world, of which more than 75 per cent comes from the sexual exploitation of women and children, she stressed.
The representative of the Maldives said her country has taken an all-of-government approach to combating trafficking, including the creation of a shelter for victims. It has also launched national social media campaigns to raise awareness and built up the capacity of law enforcement authorities. Noting that the Assembly’s Political Declaration highlights the need to scale up the resources to match the gravity of the challenge, she said that this includes intensifying international cooperation to strengthen prevention and address the needs of the victims.
Also delivering statements were Government ministers and representatives of Sierra Leone, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Chile, Ukraine, Canada, Portugal, Italy, India, Egypt, Guatemala, Australia, the United States, France, Venezuela, Romania, Azerbaijan, Syria, Iran, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Mongolia, Namibia, Uzbekistan, Poland, Bahrain, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Ecuador, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, New Zealand, Nepal, Oman, El Salvador, Argentina, Indonesia, Iraq, Bolivia, Turkey, Mexico, Côte d'Ivoire, Spain, Kenya, Germany, Brazil, Albania, Iceland, Georgia, Sri Lanka, Nicaragua, Hungary, Trinidad and Tobago, Zimbabwe, Morocco, Ethiopia, Armenia, the Russian Federation.
Representatives of Holy See and the League of Arab States spoke in their capacity as observers.
Speaking in the exercise of the right of reply were representatives of Greece and Belarus.
The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 24 November, to take action on two draft resolutions and continue its debates on several outstanding items.