Global treaties provide blueprint to ‘seal cracks’ in legal regime on human trafficking – UN anti-crime chief

27 October 2016

Tackling human trafficking is not a simple or trivial pursuit, the head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said today, urging States to implement all provisions of the so-called ‘Palermo protocol,’ the nearly universal UN treaty that contains a ‘blueprint’ for successfully preventing and supressing the scourge while punishing perpetrators.

At a Headquarters event on ‘Countering Human Trafficking by Achieving Universal Ratification of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children ‘Palermo Protocol,’ UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov welcomed a discussion about global efforts to combat human trafficking.

The event comes just before the General Assembly’s appraisal of the UN Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons and follows last week’s Eight Session of the Conference of Parties to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and September’s UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants.

In his remarks during the conference, Mr. Fedotov cited the importance of the Convention and its ‘Palermo Protocols’– named after the Italian city where the treaty was agreed – on trafficking in persons and migrant smuggling, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Specifically, he called attention to Goals [and incorporated targets] 16.2, which calls for an end to trafficking and all forms of violence against children, 8.7 to take effective measures against human trafficking, and 5.2, which seeks to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.

“These targets deliver a clear message to the world’s criminals that the focus on crime is no longer on the periphery of building sustainable development,” he said. A forthcoming UNODC report reveals that much of human trafficking follows major migratory routes. In most cases, trafficking victims are foreign to the country in which the trafficking takes place, and nearly 80 per cent of all victims are women and children.

“The fate of people, trapped by inhuman traffickers in a net of violence, abuse, and exploitation, strongly motivates our work. As a catalyst for these efforts, countries need to ensure the clear and unambiguous implementation of the Palermo Convention and its human trafficking protocol,” he underscored.

While there is a nearly universal ratification of the Convention – 187 countries have adopted it – challenges in implementation persist. Mr. Fedotov called upon countries to apply the Convention and to create a “solid and efficient network of operations, information sharing and mutual legal assistance designed to eliminate human trafficking.”

He outlined three immediate responses that countries should take:

  • Develop new strategies at the national level that can be integrated into the wider regional and global approaches;
  • Pursue effective and timely investigations and pursue prosecutions against human traffickers, and;
  • Lend support to collaboration, coordination, and cooperation at all levels.

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Treaties against human trafficking key to fighting scourge, supporting victims – UN anti-crime official

With current armed conflicts and humanitarian crises driving massive population movements – and not just in Europe, though the continent has been heavily challenged – an upcoming United Nations report will confirm the troubling fact that human trafficking generally follows the overall migratory flows, a senior UN anti-crime official said today, urging States to back the Trafficking in Persons Protocol and other international tools to address the evolving and complex situation.