UN officials press for urgent action to end human trafficking, a ‘modern-day slave trade’

5 March 2007
Asha-Rose Migiro

United Nations officials today called for increased efforts – by Governments, civil society, law enforcement agencies, the private sector and international organizations including the UN – to curb human trafficking, especially in women and girls.

Although this year marks the bicentennial of the end of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, “the fact that there are forms of slavery in our world today should fill us all with shame,” Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro told delegates from around the world who converged at UN Headquarters in New York to attend the International Conference on Trafficking in Women and Girls. “As an African woman, I would add that it also fills me with rage.”

She advocated increased cooperation among Governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the media, among other groups, to halt trafficking, prosecute those guilty of perpetrating such crimes and to protect victims.

Ms. Migiro also urged States to join the Global Initiative to fight Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery, a new UN program which will be launched later this year in Vienna. “We must act together to stop a crime in our midst that deprives countless victims of their liberty, dignity and human rights.”

Citing trafficking’s global scope, General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa said that it impacts millions of people, particularly those in poor countries, and is a multi-billion dollar industry that lines the pockets of organized crime.

“I cannot imagine a more terrible crime than the sale of women and children to be exploited and abused by others,” Sheikha Haya told the Conference’s participants.

She lauded strengthened international legal instruments, such as the 2000 Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking, Especially Women and Children, which entered into force on 25 December 2003, and said that such agreements must be applied effectively.

Also, Sheikha Haya suggested a “bottom-up approach” to curtail human trafficking, including awareness-raising campaigns at the local-level, having vulnerable groups join in discussions on finding solutions to the problem and improving local economies to prevent “risky migration practices.”

In a related development, the head of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said today that enhanced measures, including improving educational opportunities and enlisting the help of men and boys, are necessary to combat enduring discrimination and violence against girls.

“It is long past time that countries, cultures and communities everywhere accept that it is in their own best interests to treat girls and women as equals,” UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman said on the occasion of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, currently in its 51st Session in New York.

Despite progress, millions of girls are not receiving adequate educations, exploited for their labour, trafficked and exposed to diseases such as HIV/AIDS, she added. “Common sense and economics alike tell us that a society cannot possibly marginalize half its population and expect positive outcomes.”


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