Deputy UN chief calls for action on all fronts to end scourge of human trafficking

25 June 2013

United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson today called on all partners – Governments, the private sector, civil society, the media, and ordinary citizens – to help fight human trafficking, stressing that ending this scourge requires action on all fronts.

“We need everyone’s help to fight human trafficking,” Mr. Eliasson told the 13th Alliance Against Trafficking in Persons High-level Event, hosted by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

“Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something,” he said. “Some of us can provide legal advice. Some can spark action by Governments. Some can contribute funds. All can be part of our global movement to stop this terrible human rights abuse.”

Entitled “Stolen Lives, Stolen Money: The Price of Modern-Day Slavery,” the event in Vienna aims to shed light on a range of financial, social and legal factors surrounding the ongoing debate on globalization, migration, inequality and trafficking.

“The fight against human trafficking is a battle for justice, equality and dignity. It is a battle for human rights and for human decency,” Mr. Eliasson told participants.

“We are dealing with a dangerous industry that generates more than $30 billion in profits each year. This compromised money is then poured back into further trafficking and other criminal activity,” he said. “The profits are earned at an inexcusable price: namely stolen and destroyed lives.”

Mr. Eliasson stressed that human trafficking demands a coordinated response at every level, as well as action on all fronts – criminal justice, victim assistance and protection, human rights, migration policy and labour market regulation. It also requires strengthening legislative and other measures to discourage the demand that feeds exploitation and leads to human trafficking.

“Given the enormous black market revenues, we must also focus on how to target the flow of illicit funds,” he added. “This means that countries must strengthen their commitment and means to tackle organized transnational crime.

“When there is a suspicious movement of funds, reporting entities must be encouraged to share that information. Investigators must have the training, authority and resources to confiscate and seize criminal assets. Financial Intelligence Units and prosecutors must be able to pursue the criminals without fear of retaliation,” said Mr. Eliasson.

“Strong financial investigations are crucial. Criminal networks go to great lengths to distance themselves from every aspect of the crime except one: their profits.”

While every country is affected, the Deputy Secretary-General noted that most of the victims come from weak and fragile nations. “When families are insecure, they are vulnerable to the false promises of traffickers.

“In vulnerable countries, human trafficking forms part of a nexus of criminality along with illicit drugs, arms trafficking and other crimes. This blocks development, violates human rights and undermines the rule of law.”

As part of his official visit to Vienna, Mr. Eliasson will also participate in the launch of the World Drug Report 2013, produced by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). In addition, he will address the opening of the conference to mark the 20th anniversary of the World Conference on Human Rights, as well as hold bilateral meetings with senior Government officials.

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