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UN: First-ever World Day against Trafficking in Persons

Statement by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, on the first-ever World Day against Trafficking in Persons, 30 July 2014

Jul 29, 2014

The trade in and exploitation of human beings through trafficking is one of the gravest violations of human dignity that exist. The purposes of trafficking in persons range from forced and bonded labour to various forms of sexual exploitation, forced marriages, removal of organs and other contemporary practices similar to slavery.

On July 30, the first World day against trafficking in persons, we emphasise three goals. To uncover and expose traffickers. To safeguard vulnerable children, women and men from falling prey to exploitation. And to honour and protect the victims of these crimes – people who have been coerced and defrauded by trafficking, pressed into servitude, and often exposed to violence and other forms of abuse.

They may be young women who have been enslaved as prostitutes or abused as unpaid domestic workers. Girls and boys who have been forced to beg and steal on the street, or exploited in dangerous and back-breaking work. Men who have been trapped in everlasting servitude, in conditions that no human being should have to endure.

Every country experiences the crime of trafficking in persons, and every government has a responsibility to fight it – both directly, through investigations and prosecutions, and in the deeper sense of serious and sustained efforts at prevention, which aim to safeguard future generations from such ordeals. To assist them, there are a number of international legal frameworks in place that address various aspects of trafficking, trying to ensure that such grave crimes are met with thorough investigations and appropriate punishment.

In response to the evident need for practical, rights-based policy guidance My Office has developed the Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Human Trafficking. They place the victim at the centre of our work and emphasize root causes. In receiving countries, patterns of trafficking are fuelled by demand for goods and services derived from exploitation, such as prostitution or products made cheaply by people who are not paid a living wage.
In supplier countries, victims have frequently been made vulnerable to traffickers by chronic discrimination based on ethnic origin or gender.

Inequalities, unjust distribution of power, social exclusion and lack of employment opportunities also drive people into the hands of unscrupulous traders. They may include teenage runaways, migrants, or members of discriminated minority groups. Often victims of trafficking are individuals in search of a better life for themselves and their families. Traffickers prey on them by offering false hope for a different future.

Often, after trapping their victims, traffickers exploit them in criminal schemes. They are therefore exposed to the possibility of being prosecuted as criminals or as irregular migrants. It is vital that they instead be seen as the victims of what is not only a crime but also a serious human rights violation.

My Office supports the invaluable work of the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children; the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of Slavery; and the Special Rapporteur on Violence against women. I urge every country to extend standing invitations to them, in order to benefit from their careful investigations and detailed and expert recommendations to improve responses to trafficking.

Identifying, assisting, and protecting the victims and survivors of trafficking must be at the centre of our concerns. Firstly, because they have been treated as merchandise, often suffering years of almost unendurable physical and emotional violence. We owe them respect, care, and remedy – insofar as it is possible to recover from such experiences and be compensated for such wrongs. But in addition, we should use the services of survivors of these crimes because they can provide us with the keys to understanding the root causes of trafficking; the operational methodologies of the traffickers; and the best way to expose and eliminate these appalling crimes in order to protect others.

In 1991 the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery was established to help finance projects around the world that assist survivors. Well over half its grants go to survivors of trafficking, and on this World Day against Trafficking in Persons – which constitutes a significant milestone – I urge governments and private donors to contribute to the work of the Voluntary Fund.

The General Assembly's decision to mark the global calendar with an annual day dedicated to the fight against human trafficking is welcome. Few topics could be as vital or as grave. All of us have a responsibility – and the ability – to help end human trafficking. And our work with survivors, coupled with strong global action by law enforcement, can open the door to real change.

ENDS

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