At UN anti-trafficking forum, participants raise awareness of tainted goods

14 February 2008

As couples celebrated Valentine’s Day around the world with gifts of chocolate and cut flowers, participants at a United Nations forum in Vienna on human trafficking today worked to raise awareness of how the problem is tied to these commodities.

Behind the romantic gestures of roses and chocolate “is often a chain of trafficked human beings delivering disposable commodities to affluent consumers. Many are children toiling in inhumane conditions or women trapped in near-slavery,” the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in a news release issued in conjunction with the Vienna Forum to Fight Human Trafficking.

Conference participants wore upturned heart lapel badges called the “upset heart” as a sign of solidarity with the victims. Their aim was to raise consciousness and affect the buying decisions of consumers just as the “blood diamond” and Fair Trade certifications have fostered ethical choices on diamonds. The campaign was also the subject of a press conference at UN Headquarters in New York this week.

“Take exploitation out of your bottom line,” said UNODC Antonio Maria Costa in his opening speech to the Vienna Forum yesterday. “Make sure that the supply chain is not tainted by blood, sweat and tears of modern slaves.”

“On this Valentine’s Day, spare a thought for those whose lives have been turned upside down by human trafficking,” he said.

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UN to launch drive against human trafficking at upcoming global forum

The United Nations this week will convene the first global forum against human trafficking in Vienna, where some 1,200 experts, legislators, law enforcement teams, business leaders, non-governmental organization (NGO) representatives and trafficking victims are expected to launch an international campaign to combat the crime.