Home » Posts tagged "HumanTraffic"

Sanctions, Harsh Rhetoric Eroding Human Rights in Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Expert Tells Third Committee, as Mandate-Holders Present Findings

Permanent Representatives of Eritrea, Belarus Decry ‘Misguided’ Country Reports

A corrosive international environment fuelled by sanctions and harsh rhetoric negatively impacted vital economic sectors and the enjoyment of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the United Nations expert monitoring that situation told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today, as it continued discussion of country reports and other human rights matters.

Tomás Ojea Quintana, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, called for a comprehensive assessment of Security Council sanctions put in place following Pyongyang’s firing of 19 ballistic missiles between January and September 2017.  Those measures might have prevented medical assistance and equipment from reaching the country.

Pursuing isolationist policies would harm the human rights situation, he asserted, calling for positive dialogue to ensure the crisis did not devolve into armed conflict.  Pyongyang appeared to be taking steps to enhance cooperation with human rights bodies and to be more open to discussing rights obligations.  Lamenting the absence of the country’s delegate in today’s dialogue, he said sanctions had reached their limits; they had yielded no improvements to the human rights situation.

During the dialogue, several Member States requested information about the effects of sanctions on civilians, with others expressing deep concern over detentions and abductions by Pyongyang.  The representative of the United States cited those acts as grave rights violations, while the Republic of Korea’s delegate pointed to an ongoing pattern of rights violations by Pyongyang.

In what would be a theme throughout the day, several delegates voiced their rejection of country-specific mandates to address human rights issues, with Cuba’s delegate calling for cooperation, rather than politicization to address the matter.

Sheila B. Keetharuth, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea, said rights violations ranging from extrajudicial executions to arbitrary detentions persisted in that country.  Consistent allegations and documented reports of abuses in border regions pointed to a “shoot-to-kill” policy being adopted by the Government.

Citing International Organization for Migration data, she said 100 people tried to flee Eritrea each day, with some 21,215 Eritrean refugees arriving in Ethiopia last year and another 20,000 thus far in 2017.  The human rights situation was further worsened by the absence of institutions capable of upholding the rule of law, she said.

Eritrea’s delegate said the Special Rapporteur was determined to demonize the country.  The Government was pursuing increased bilateral and multilateral cooperation, and had prioritized regional peace and development.

Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, told the Committee that smugglers and traffickers were inseparable from migrant flows.  No comprehensive data existed on how many refugees and migrants had been executed, drowned, starved to death or tortured across the world.  The current political climate appeared to tolerate high numbers of migrant deaths and militarized approaches to addressing migration issues, she said.

Miklós Haraszti, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Belarus, said the President of that country had built a State structure to consolidate and protect his power, with only token human rights gains having been made.  The Government failed to heed universal periodic review and treaty body report recommendations.

Moreover, he said ongoing crackdowns on civilians only served to protect the power of the President “at the price of denying the remaining vestiges of constitutional liberties”.  The Government’s “permission‑based” regime of civic initiatives and criminalization of unregistered activities reduced the occurrence of mass movements, he noted.

Responding, Belarus' representative said the Special Rapporteur’s work was the worst example of misguided efforts to address human rights issues.  He said several United Nations agencies had recognized his country’s improved human rights protections. The Special Rapporteur must end his selective monitoring and submit his resignation, he said.

Throughout the interactive dialogue, delegations voiced concern over the mistreatment of civil society groups, with Ireland’s representative asking what steps the Government must take to ensure free participation of the civic sector.

Also presenting before the Committee were Urmila Bhoola, Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, Including its Causes and its Consequences, and Fatsah Ouguergouz, Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi.

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 27 October, to continue its discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights.

Background

The Third Committee met today to continue its debate on the promotion and protection of human rights.  (For more information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/4205).

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

TOMÁS OJEA QUINTANA, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said that country continued to reject his mandate and requests for a visit.  However, visits to the Republic of Korea, Japan, Cambodia and the Holy See had allowed him to evaluate and cross-check data on the situation.  Security Council sanctions, put in place following Pyongyang’s firing of 19 ballistic missiles between January and September 2017, might have negatively impacted vital economic sectors and the enjoyment of human rights.  They also might have prevented access to chemotherapeutic medicine, and restricted the shipment of wheelchairs and other equipment for people with disabilities.  Humanitarian groups also faced difficulties sourcing supplies and carrying out financial transactions.  He called for a comprehensive assessment of the sanctions regime and, citing harsh rhetoric between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and other Governments, urged the international community to ensure the dispute did not result in armed conflict.

He said he did not believe a policy of isolation would improve the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  The Government ultimately had the utmost responsibility for protecting and promoting the rights of its citizens. However, grave rights violations against persons in detention, for example, continued to take place.  Turning to the issue of separated Korean families, he cited a recent wave of forced repatriations of citizens of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to China.  There was an urgent need to resume investigations into abductions by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea of citizens of the Republic of Korea and Japan, he said, also drawing attention to people from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea now living in the Republic of Korea but not allowed to return home.

He said corruption was a problem in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as increased marketization had led people to bribe public officials in hopes of improving their living standards.  Another issue was the strict surveillance of all forms of communication within the country.  Access with the outside world came at a high financial cost and with the risk of arrest and detention.  However, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had taken steps to enhance cooperation with United Nations human rights mechanisms, he said, and appeared to be more open to discussing ways to fulfil its human rights obligations, as the international community insisted on seeking justice and upholding universal rights principles.  The process of engagement and reporting was significant, he said, as it could lead to progressive changes to law, policies and decision-making.

The representative of Venezuela, speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, reaffirmed the commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms, which were inalienable and interrelated.  All such issues must be approached through a fair, objective manner with respect for territorial integrity.  Noting that the Human Rights Council was the body to consider human rights issues, he expressed deep concern over the selective use of country-specific resolutions in the Third Committee, referring to the practice as a political tool.

The representative of Argentina, noting that the defence and protection of human rights was State policy, asked how the international community could follow up on the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations.

The representative of Germany called the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea deplorable, and urged it to engage in meaningful dialogue.  He asked what the United Nations could do to raise awareness about the conditions of that country’s workers abroad.

A representative from the European Union noted that visits by many mandate holders to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had been blocked and asked how independent evidence gathering could be improved.

The representative of the Republic of Korea expressed concern over a pattern of serious human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and expressed hope that cooperation with the human rights community would increase.

The representative of the Russian Federation said a constructive approach based on cooperation and dialogue might not please all actors, yet it was the only approach that would yield results.  Discussion of matters in the Third Committee had no added value, he said, stressing the relevance of the universal periodic review process.

The representative of Japan said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continued diverting resources towards its nuclear ambitions.  He urged the Special Rapporteur to focus on holding people accountable for human rights violations and identifying examples of forced labour of that country’s workers abroad.

The representative of the United States expressed regret that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea failed to respect the rights of its people, citing such grave rights violations as detentions, abductions and mistreatment of women.  She asked what steps had been taken to ensure assistance would reach detainees.

The representative of Switzerland said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continued to deny access to the Special Rapporteur and asked about his efforts to strengthen implementation of human rights recommendations.

The representative of Ireland, associating himself with the European Union, asked how the international community could ensure sanctions on the country did not impact ordinary people.

The representative of Cuba said he did not support politically motivated, country-specific mandates, as such activities threatened human rights.  He called for cooperation, rather than politicization, to address human rights issues.

The representative of the United Kingdom said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had prioritized the pursuit of weapons over human rights and asked how that country could be held accountable, and further, how reliable information could be gathered.

The representative of Iran, associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the Third Committee’s practice of considering country-specific measures contravened the United Nations Charter.  He expressed concern over the effects of sanctions on civilians.

The representative of the Maldives urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to cooperate with the United Nations and to mobilize its resources for the advancement of its people.

The representative of Australia expressed concern over the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s use of resources for its nuclear ambitions.  She underscored the importance of recording human rights abuses in that country, including on the conditions of labourers abroad.

The representative of Syria, associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, expressed opposition to country-specific considerations.  The practice violated the principles of sovereignty and equality among States, he said, asking why the Special Rapporteur had ignored the negative effects of sanctions on the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The representative of the Czech Republic, associating himself with the European Union, asked what initiatives could be explored to promote cooperation between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and international agencies.

The representative of Algeria, associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, expressed concern over country-specific presentations in the Third Committee, pointing to the universal periodic review as the best suited mechanism to address such issues.

The representative of Lao People’s Democratic Republic said country-specific reports did not promote human rights and called on the international community to pursue positive dialogue with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Also speaking was the representative of Norway.

Mr. OJEA QUINTANA replied that he did not consider the discussion complete, as the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was absent.  Access to information was also a challenge, due to the difficulty obtaining cross-checked data on the human rights situation.  To questions on the negative impact of sanctions, he said that those measures had reached their limit, and there had been no progress on the human rights situation in Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. 

He had asked authorities in New York responsible for those sanctions to look into such adverse impacts, he said, noting that it was also the General Assembly’s responsibility to consider that matter.  More broadly, he said he was working with embassies that had a presence in Pyongyang on the issue of foreign detainees in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Also, it was crucial to ensure that the rights of people from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea working abroad were protected, he said, proposing that a regional dialogue be held, in a non‑confrontational manner, on human trafficking in North Asia.  He reiterated his call on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to engage in dialogue.

Eritrea

SHEILA B. KEETHARUTH, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea, congratulated the country for completing the costing phase of its pandemic preparedness and response plans.  However, human rights violations — including death in custody, extrajudicial executions and arbitrary detention — had not stopped.  Further, there were no institutions that could ensure checks and balances or prevent misuse of State power.  The Government had failed to heed recommendations to address past rights violations, and to ensure accountability of military personnel for gender-based violations.  Impunity stemmed from the absence of the rule of law.  Underscoring the effectiveness of universal jurisdiction in addressing violations, she said it was unlikely that Eritrea would provide investigators and prosecutors access to gather evidence or extradite suspects.

She said military involvement in extrajudicial executions of unarmed Eritreans attempting to cross the border occurred with impunity.  While the Government had denied having a “shoot‑to‑kill” policy along the border, allegations and documented cases of that practice persisted.  People were arrested without being given a reason or access to legal mechanisms, she said, stressing that Eritrea lacked the will to deal with arrests and detentions in conformity with international human rights law and citing deaths in custody as a major concern.  With Eritrea only officially recognizing four religions, followers of other faiths faced draconian regulations.

Turning to the plight of refugees, she said International Organization for Migration (IOM) data indicated an average 100 people tried to leave Eritrea each day, with some 21,215 Eritrean refugees arriving in Ethiopia last year and another 20,000 thus far in 2017. Eritreans were trafficked for economic reasons, extortion and sexual exploitation.  Noting that neighbouring countries were working to prevent the entry of Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers, she urged States not turn their back on the plight of those people.  Throughout her mandate, efforts to build relations with Eritrea had been inconclusive.  Eritrea could not rely on selective economic and social rights achievements to detract from other abuses. It must show genuine commitment to making progress, she said, pointing to key areas where efforts should be directed.  She concluded by reaffirming Eritrea’s need to strengthen the rule of law and fight institutionalized impunity.

The representative of Eritrea said the Special Rapporteur’s mandate had been tabled by States determined to demonize his country.  In the face of such hostilities, Eritrea had emerged a harmonious country.  It had stepped up to the demands of nation-building, yet its journey to human dignity was being attacked.  The Special Rapporteur had engaged in political activism to paint an unrealistic image of Eritrea.  Views that differed from those of the Special Rapporteur had been dismissed, he said, and her methodologies lacked rigour and professionalism.  Eritrea had repeatedly expressed concern over the Special Rapporteur’s work.

Eritrea’s bilateral and multilateral cooperation with other countries was growing, and regional peace and development was a clear priority, he stated, noting that human rights objectives were better addressed through cooperation and dialogue.  Faced with human rights challenges, Eritrea had submitted periodic reports to relevant treaty bodies, undergone the first and second rounds of universal periodic review, and put in place a strategic partnership framework with the United Nations.

Moreover, the supremacy of and respect for the law was underpinned by the principle of non‑discrimination, he said.  Guided by a new development strategy, Eritrea was implementing education and other development programmes to build cohesion and self-confidence.  It was committed to elevating the standards of all Eritreans and invited all States to help end Ethiopia’s occupation, noting the Special Rapporteur had disregarded that matter.  The country-specific mandate on Eritrea had been negotiated by Governments with egregious rights abuses, he said, stressing that the universal periodic review must address human rights issues.

The representative of Djibouti called for the release of its prisoners of war in Eritrea, stressing that his country would do its utmost to ensure their release.

The representative of the United States urged the Government to improve detention conditions and expressed concern over the detention of people based on religious belief.

The representative of the United Kingdom asked how the international community could work with the United Nations to improve the human rights situation in Eritrea.

The representative of Somalia expressed deep alarm about the rights violations in Eritrea and urged authorities to release prisoners of war from Djibouti.

The representative of the European Union called on Eritrea to put in place legal and constitutional reforms to improve the human rights situation.

The representative of Cuba said regional and subregional organizations should be involved in finding solutions to human rights challenges in Eritrea.

The representative of Nicaragua expressed regret over the decision to send Special Rapporteurs to specific countries, decrying that Eritrea’s efforts to improve the situation had not been recognized.

The representative of Belarus said country-specific mandates were counterproductive, noting that only constructive dialogue could lead to the protection of human rights.

The representative of Norway said his country was encouraged by Eritrea’s cooperation with the United Nations and renewed interest in certain areas in the follow up to the universal periodic review.  He asked how international partners could help improve human rights in the country.

The representative of Ireland asked the Special Rapporteur about progress made in building the capacity in Eritrea to protect human rights.

The representative of the Czech Republic, aligning herself with the European Union, said Eritrea had not held elections for 20 years and asked how dialogue with the Government could encourage political pluralism.

The representative of Switzerland asked the Special Rapporteur about her priorities for the universal periodic review.

The representative of China, noting that human rights should be viewed in an objective, fair manner, said stability in Eritrea would benefit countries in the region.

The representative of Burundi opposed country-specific mandates, stressing that the commission of inquiry had been counterproductive.

The representative of India said States had the primary responsibility for strengthening human rights.  Country-specific mandates were counterproductive and had been used for political ends.

The representative of Venezuela rejected country-specific mandates.  Instead, the universal period review should be used in an atmosphere of constructive dialogue.

The representative of Pakistan underscored the need for greater coherence between the Third Committee and the Human Rights Council so as to avoid duplication.

The representative of Egypt said the universal periodic review was the main intergovernmental body.  His country did not support the work of country-specific mandate-holders.

The representative of Zimbabwe opposed country-specific mandate holders and said universal periodic review was the appropriate mechanism.

The representative of Bangladesh said rights violations should be addressed legally and in an accountable, transparent manner.

The representative of Iran, associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said country-specific mandates undermined dialogue among Governments.  The universal periodic review was the right platform for such discussions.

The representative of the Russian Federation said human rights questions should be considered in a constructive manner in the universal periodic review.

Ms. KEETHARUTH, replying, agreed that bilateral cooperation with Eritrea was an improvement.  However, such meetings must include human rights issues, she said, urging all States engaging with Eritrea to remember the centrality of human rights.  Regarding visits by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to Eritrea, she said the Office’s role must include monitoring to provide “another set of eyes” on human rights in the country.

She identified religious freedom as a priority and said the release of religious detainees must be prioritized.  With her mandate soon ending, she described achievements in bringing human rights issues in Eritrea to global attention, pledged to pursue capacity-building efforts and expressed hope the Government would build a bridge to the mandate.  Turning to the universal periodic review, and objections to country-specific mandates, she said the mechanisms were not mutually exclusive.  The treaty body system provided the path forward.

She said many detained people still awaited their day in court and encouraged Eritrea to address related issues.  Institutional mechanisms needed for people to access justice and promote checks and balances were central to ensuring the protection of fundamental rights.  Responding to concerns from Eritrea’s delegate, she said that, had the Commission of Inquiry report not been endorsed by the Human Rights Council, she would not have a mandate.

The representative of Eritrea thanked all Member States who endorsed constructive dialogue as the correct approach to deal with human rights issues and said the Human Rights Council had simply “noted” the Commission of Inquiry report.  Djibouti had made it its business to attack Eritrea at the international level and had no moral authority to speak about human rights.  He called for an end to hypocrisy regarding human rights and concluded by asserting Eritrea’s willingness to engage in constructive cooperation.

The representative of Djibouti said his country had never been the subject of any commission concerning human rights and could not be compared to Eritrea, where human rights were systematically violated, including through “shoot-to-kill” policies.

Belarus

MIKLÓS HARASZTI, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Belarus, said his report explained how the President of the country had built a State structure to consolidate and protect his power, with token human rights gains made towards that end.  For example, the human rights action plan adopted one year ago had led to restrictions on civil life.  Authorities also had not implemented recommendations from the universal periodic review or from treaty bodies to improve civil and political rights.  “I have no good news to present,” he said.  The submission of Belarus’ report to the Human Rights Committee, after a 16‑year delay, testified to the speed of its compliance with treaty obligations.

Moreover, he said, the Government’s massive crackdowns on citizens had shown that it sought to protect the absolute power of the President “at the price of denying the remaining vestiges of constitutional liberties”.  There was no space for human rights or proper legal redress for violations, as Parliament was ineffective and the judiciary an extension of the executive branch.  In fact, the President had stated that Belarus did not need a national human rights institution, calling himself the Ombudsperson.  The Government had justified its “policy of rights deprivation” based on the need to protect itself from the “dangers” of civil activism.

He said Belarus continued to implement its “permission‑based” regime of civic initiatives and criminalize unregistered activities, thereby reducing the occurrence of mass movements.  Paradoxically, such centralized governance could work to improve the human rights situation, as the President could adjust the legal framework “with a stroke of a pen”.  He called on authorities to engage with the mandate, adding that he was ready to assist in moving towards their compliance with United Nations obligations.

The representative of Belarus said the Special Rapporteur’s work was the worst example of misguided efforts to address human rights issues.  The “colossal” resources devoted to his mandate had failed to identify all the progress being made in Belarus to improve human rights conditions, success that had already been documented by several United Nations agencies.  He said it was obvious that such contradictions pointed to a conflict of interests and the Special Rapporteur had set out to negatively portray Belarus as a means to justify his mandate.

Belarus was cooperating with relevant human rights mechanisms, he clarified, noting an action plan was in place to consolidate efforts by all relevant parties.  Belarus was up to date in its submission of reports to the treaty body system, he stressed, noting that human rights issues existed in every country.  He assured that Belarus was engaging in open dialogue with several international organizations.  The Special Rapporteur must end his selective monitoring, he said, and submit his resignation.

The representative of Switzerland expressed concern over the human rights violations in Belarus.

The representative of the European Union asked how Belarus could be encouraged to implement the universal periodic review recommendations and relevant treaty body commitments.

The representative of Eritrea said the universal periodic review was the best platform for discussing human rights and welcomed efforts by Belarus to improve its human rights situation.

The representative of Lithuania asked how the international community could assist civil society organizations in Belarus.

The representative of Syria called the country-specific mandate on Belarus a flagrant interference in the country’s affairs.

The representative of Uzbekistan said the situation in Belarus did not require monitoring or further action by the United Nations.

The representative of Poland, aligning herself with the European Union, asked the Special Rapporteur if he had seen hope for cooperation with Belarus during his visit.

The representative of the United Kingdom asked the Special Rapporteur for his impressions of the parliamentary session he had attended in Belarus.

The representative of Sudan said he opposed country-specific mandates.

The representative of Germany asked the Special Rapporteur to evaluate the potential of the national human rights plan in Belarus.

The representative of Burundi opposed country-specific mandates and expressed concern about use of the Third Committee for political purposes.

The representative of Pakistan commended Belarus’ cooperation with the universal periodic review.

The representative of Tajikistan said Belarus had improved its human rights situation by reforming its national legislation and cooperating with the United Nations.

The representative of Cuba said the universal periodic review was the best platform for discussing human rights.

The representative of the Russian Federation said the Special Rapporteur had not engaged in dialogue with Belarus.

The representative of Kazakhstan commended Belarus’ progress in the universal periodic review, and efforts to fulfil its treaty body commitments.

The representative of Azerbaijan said Belarus had changed its national legislation which had improved the protection of human rights.

The representative of Norway asked the Special Rapporteur about the steps needed to fulfil his mandate and called on Belarus to place a moratorium on the death penalty.

The representative of Venezuela said the selectivity and treatment of the human rights situation in Belarus violated the Charter of the United Nations.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said all country-specific mandates should be terminated.

The representative of India said country–specific mandates were not conducive to discussing the protection of human rights.  Rather, the universal periodic review was the most appropriate means of doing so.

The representative of Turkmenistan said the situation in Belarus did not require further review.

The representative of Ireland asked what steps the Government should take so that civil society could operate freely.

The representative of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic said country-specific mandates would not improve human rights situations and urged constructive international dialogue with Belarus.

The representative of China, noting progress made in Belarus, said human rights assessments should be conducted in a fair and objective manner.

The representative of Iran said the situation in Belarus did not warrant the need for a Special Rapporteur.

The representative of the Czech Republic asked the Special Rapporteur if he had had the opportunity to talk informally with Belarus.

The representative of the United States expressed concern over human rights violations in Belarus.

Mr. HARASZTI, responding, said his visit to Belarus did not receive official acknowledgement from the Government.  No official encounters had taken place and only one engagement with a deputy minister had been possible as part of a round-table meeting.  He expressed appreciation for the “tolerance” of his visit to the country.

He said universal periodic review and treaty body recommendations had been disregarded in Belarus’ action plan, especially those related to civil society engagement and decriminalization of certain public acts and media activities.  Assistance to civil society groups in Belarus required an end to the criminalization of support from other countries and international organizations as such legislation blatantly denied the universality of human rights.

Turning to the use of the death penalty, he said not enough had been done to address concerns.  He concluded by saying that if he had criticized the President in Belarus, he would be in jail.  His critiques had focused on the head of the executive branch for exercising absolute power.

Extrajudicial Executions

AGNES CALLAMARD, Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, presented her report to the Committee, stressing that her mandate’s two other work areas were sending written communications to States, and conducting country visits.  The thematic report she would present, on the unlawful deaths of refugees and migrants, included findings from visits to Italy and European Union institutions.  There was no reliable comprehensive data on how many refugees and migrants had been executed, drowned, starved to death or tortured.  The right not to be arbitrarily deprived of life was fundamental, from which no derogation was possible.  In the current global political climate, countries had implemented policies that implicitly or explicitly tolerated high risk of migrant deaths.  Those policies shared the troubling features of deterrence, extraterritoriality and militarization.

She said smugglers and traffickers were inseparable from migrant flows, and the risks migrants faced increased as more barriers went up.  One of the greatest dangers was death at the hands of criminal networks or armed groups.  The illegal deaths of refugees and migrants by State or non‑State actors were rarely the subject of investigations, she said.  Numerous migrants and refugees died each year at land and maritime borders.  Most names were unknown, their families could not be located, and their bodies ended up in unmarked graves.  Her report offered recommendations for the international community and States, she said, such as a suggestion that indicators for Sustainable Development Goal target 10.7 include the number of dead and missing migrants.  States should establish regional or international databases, so families could locate lost members.  The equal protection of all lives was central to the international human rights system, she said, and must be upheld in the context of the movement of people.

The representative of Algeria said migration would continue and countries must work together to organize movements of people.  Enhancing security would not address migration problems.  Instead, countries should focus on development, which was among the causes of migration.

The representative of the Philippines asked what measures the Special Rapporteur had taken to ensure that she worked within the boundaries of her mandate, and further, how Member States could help ensure that her work was fair and objective.

The representative of the United Kingdom said deterring migrants from taking dangerous journeys was crucial.  His country was committed to ensuring that the goal of safe and orderly migration would become a reality.

The representative of France asked what steps could be taken to gather and share data on refugees.

The representative of the European Union asked the Special Rapporteur how data on deaths and missing refugees could be collected.

The representative of Australia reiterated the Special Rapporteur’s call to punish criminal networks exploiting refugees and migrants.

The representative of Finland, also on behalf of Denmark, Norway and Iceland, asked the Special Rapporteur which migrant and refugee groups were particularly at risk of extrajudicial killing and how States could protect them.  He also inquired how States could better protect child migrants and refugees.

Ms. CALLAMARD, responding, agreed with observations that her report addressed only the symptoms of a deep crisis, saying she had not spoken about the causes because that was not her mandate.  Readers should refer to the reports of the Special Rapporteurs on migration, which made recommendations related to those causes.  Police and prosecutors faced many difficulties; the people responsible for deaths, and witnesses to those acts, could be in different countries.  If that situation was not prioritized, the international community would not make progress.  The solutions that would make a difference involved work on the small scale.  In the United States, for instance, she noted that people worked along the border to identify the dead, approaching the issue with humanity.  But there was no political will to make local initiatives become national policies.  She urged States declaring their interest in preventing death and responding to illegal death to prioritize those issues.  Small, local good practices should be scaled up and multiplied. 

Another problem was that while DNA might be collected from refugees and migrants who had died, that information could not be matched with families back home.  Finding ways of connecting those efforts would bring greater humanity to addressing the unlawful death of refugees and migrants.  The focus of her report was not to indict Governments for their migration policies, provided that policies were based on effectiveness.  Yet at the moment, the international community was on a slippery slope where it was justifying the deaths of refugees and migrants as a way to deter migration.  That was the abyss she had identified in her report.

Contemporary Forms of Slavery

URMILA BHOOLA, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, underscored that the continued prevalence of slavery was symptomatic of the weak global efforts to achieve inclusive, rights-oriented sustainable development.  A new approach was required, which looked beyond the lens of individual vulnerability to contemporary forms of slavery and Government responses.  The universal endorsement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development could guide actions and resources towards addressing the socioeconomic causes of forced labour, bonded labour, forced marriage, child labour, human trafficking and sexual exploitation.  However, including the eradication of modern slavery under the Agenda’s target for decent work and economic growth also created the risk that ending traditional forms of slavery was secondary to addressing labour market violations.  Also, the vulnerability of persons of slave descent was not recognised in the framework.

She said ending all contemporary forms of slavery was integral to the broader fight against poverty, underdevelopment, gender inequality and achieving human rights-based justice for all.  Her report recommended enhancing international collaboration and knowledge-sharing to eradicate modern slavery.  She called on States to provide technical and financial support, develop resource mobilization strategies, ensure policy coherence and establish indicators.  They should also improve their legislative and policy frameworks to ensure compliance with international conventions, and guarantee robust law enforcement to stop the illicit flow of funds and corruption.  It was also crucial to increase corporate accountability for contemporary forms of slavery in global supply chains.

When the floor opened, the representative of Qatar said his country had spared no effort in combating contemporary forms of slavery, adding that such work was integral to ending poverty.  He asked the Special Rapporteur what measures were available to countries aiming to end that practice.

The representative of the United Kingdom said the report had made it clear that, if the Sustainable Development Goals were to be reached, the causes of slavery must be addressed. 

The representative of South Africa agreed that slavery could only be comprehensively addressed by tackling its causes, asking the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on the effects of globalization.

The representative of Liechtenstein noted the existence of a customary norm against slavery, asking the Special Rapporteur where she saw potential for her mandate to address impunity.

A representative of the European Union said the 2030 Agenda could play a role in ensuring accountability for the crimes of slavery, also asking for details on the call for policy coherence in implementing the Goals.

The representative of Morocco asked for good practices in international cooperation to prevent and avoid modern forms of slavery.

The representative of Paraguay reiterated her country’s support for the Special Rapporteur’s mandate.

Ms. BHOOLA said greater cooperation through global initiatives such as the Alliance 8.7 and more coherence among State policies were crucial to ending modern slavery.  To how the United Nations could support State efforts, she said the International Labour Organization (ILO) collected baseline data on forced labour, which States could use to formulate polices.  She agreed that more must be done to ensure that all people benefited from globalization, pressing Governments to regulate transnational business so that it complied with human rights laws, which would protect people at the bottom of the supply chain.

To prevent migrants and refugees from being trapped in contemporary forms of slavery, she said an IOM report had found that two thirds of migrants were subjected to forced labour.  She called for greater efforts to criminalize such practices and better coordinate the work of labour inspectors and law enforcement officials.  While the issue of reparations was beyond the ambit of her report, it nonetheless noted that Governments must protect the rights of people of slave descent, as their livelihoods continued to be affected by the history of slavery.

FATSAH OUGUERGOUZ, Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, said grave human rights abuses were committed in Burundi, and some could be international law crimes.  The human rights crisis had now lasted two and a half years.  Contrary to what was stated by the Government, the human rights situation had “not at all” improved.  While the Commission had not been able to visit Burundi, it had conducted missions to neighbouring countries and held talks with people in Burundi.  It had gathered more than 500 pieces of evidence which it had analysed and corroborated.  While it was neither judge nor jury, it did come to conclusions, on the basis of which a reasonable person might conclude that an event had taken place.  It had carried out its mission in a rigorous and impartial manner.

From information gathered, the Commission had concluded that grave human rights violations and abuses had been committed in Burundi since April 2015, consisting of arrests and arbitrary detentions, extrajudicial executions, torture, rape and other sexual violence and enforced disappearances.  The Government had suspended or eliminated major independent media.  Documented abuses had involved opponents of the Government, he said.  Those primarily responsible for violations were the police, the army and the youth wing of the party in power, the Imbonerakure.

Some violations constituted crimes against humanity as defined by the Rome Statute, he said, stressing that persisting impunity had only worsened the crisis.  Noting that Burundi had been party to the Rome Statute since 2004, and that its withdrawal from the treaty took effect today at midnight, he said the International Criminal Court was competent to consider all crimes against international law committed between April 2015 and today.  Burundi should combat impunity by State authorities and Imbonerakure, and undertake far-reaching reforms of its judicial system.  In the face of violence and lives lost or ruined, the international community could not remain insensitive or inactive.  He urged States to support a lasting solution to the political crisis in Burundi and to guarantee protection of all human rights in that country.  He asked that the Commission’s report be submitted to the Security Council.

The representative of Burundi called the report part of a campaign to demonize and slander his country and a violation of its sovereignty.  Burundi had the right to sue its authors for slander.  The report was based on evidence from refugees who had fled after crimes committed during the coup d’état.  It incriminated the Government but covered up the crimes by opposition members who were acting under the influence of external actors.

Nor did the report highlight cases of rape, torture and live burnings of people by insurgents, he said.  It covered odious crimes by insurgents only as a way to protect certain individuals.  He urged the Commission not to be influenced by external actors and to maintain objectivity, pointing out that the Commission had used complacent language in describing the opposition, and harsh descriptions of the Government.  It also had called on the European Union to maintain its sanctions on Burundi, which was not part of its mandate.

He said it was not true that Burundi had favoured impunity during the prosecution of hundreds of criminals.  The country was committed to protecting human rights despite the challenges.  Dialogue, consensus and implementation of the universal periodic review were essential to ensuring improvements.

The representative of Venezuela, on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, said human rights were universal and discussions on human rights issues should be done in a non‑confrontational and objective way.

The representative of Botswana said the Commission was constrained because it had been refused access to Burundi by the Government.  He appealed to Burundi’s Government to cooperate with the Commission to allow it to execute its mandate.

The representative of Algeria said the two resolutions by the Human Rights Council on the same issue in Burundi were a source of concern.  He said the mandate of the Human Rights Council should be carried out in a consultative manner.  The universal periodic review should be the main platform of human rights discussions and country-specific mandates should not be used.

The representative of Morocco said the Commission of Inquiry was not objective and the two resolutions by the Human Rights Council on Burundi lacked consistency.

The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania asked the Commission how was it able to obtain credible information on the report since it was not able to gain access to the country.  He said the report should be declared void.

A representative of the European Union called the report’s conclusions serious.  In all cases where human rights were violated, those responsible should face justice, he said, asking the Chair what role the African Union might play in that regard.

The representative of China said stability in Burundi was conducive to peace in the Great Lakes region.  China supported the Government and the opposition in trying to reach an agreement through dialogue and consultation.  China was ready to work with the international community in that regard.

The representative of Syria associated himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and said the aim of the Commission was to interfere in State internal affairs, claiming it used human rights as a “weapon”.

The representative of Saudi Arabia reiterated his objection to selective reports.  He hailed regional efforts, especially by East African countries and the African Union.

The representative of Sudan supported efforts to resolve the situation in Burundi through dialogue, as well as the positions of the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement.  The United Nations should not depend on second-hand information.

The representative of Eritrea advocated making use of the universal periodic review, adding that it was an ineffective use of resources to bring country-specific situations to the General Assembly.

The representative of Egypt expressed concern about the context of confrontation, and explained certain efforts undertaken in Geneva through proposed draft resolutions.  The Human Rights Council should take advantage of the openness of the country concerned to ensure better protection of human rights.

The representative of the United States expressed concern over Burundi’s lack of cooperation with the international community.  As the Government had the primary responsibility to protect human rights, it should stop all violence and ensure those responsible for abuses were held accountable.  She asked the Commission what steps the international community should take to promote accountability.

The representative of Djibouti expressed deep concern about politicizing and selectively addressing human rights situations.  Burundi had made efforts, and its political will should be “compensated”, he said, expressing support for dialogue.

The representative of the United Kingdom expressed deep concern that the majority of reported cases of crimes against humanity had been carried out by Burundian forces.  He asked the Chair how the Commission would work with the experts to be appointed by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The representative of Belarus opposed special country procedures, adding that the Commission was a vivid example of how mandates were set up to accommodate the initiators.  Politically motivated procedures were ineffective, and distorted the real situation.

The representative of Cuba associated himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, stressing that the universal periodic review was the relevant body for considering such issues.  New means of cooperation and dialogue should involve regional African officials.

The representative of the Netherlands said all perpetrators of rights violations must be brought to justice.  The situation required the Security Council’s attention and an inclusive political solution.  He asked the Chair how the Commission and the three experts would cooperate.

The representative of Pakistan said human rights issues must be addressed through a non‑selective approach with respect for territorial integrity and non‑interference in internal State matters.  Pakistan emphasized the significance of the universal periodic review.

The representative of the Russian Federation said discussing the situation did not add value.  International efforts would only succeed if there was respect for Burundi’s territorial integrity.

The representative of Zimbabwe reiterated his objection to country-specific reports, stressing that the universal periodic review was the appropriate forum, and that both Burundi and the Human Rights Council should find modalities for dialogue.

The representative of Rwanda commended the United Nations efforts, and expressed support for international efforts to resolve the crisis.

The representative of Equatorial Guinea asked how the Commission could objectively describe the human rights situation in Burundi when the Government did not cooperate with it.

The representative of Mauritius, aligning herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the naming and shaming of countries was not constructive to promoting human rights.  She expressed concern that while the Human Rights Council had tabled two resolutions on Burundi, the report had not included the Government’s views.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea rejected the report on Burundi and cautioned the Commission against being influenced by motivations and selectivity.  The universal periodic review should be the main platform for such discussions.

The representative of Iran said dialogue and consultation would work better to achieve progress on human rights.

The representative of India, associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said country-specific mandates must be balanced and transparent and avoid polarization.  The universal periodic review was the most appropriate instrument for discussions on human rights.

Mr. OUGUERGOUZ said he had taken note of the representative of Burundi’s threat to sue the Commission for defamation, adding that its members were protected by the United Nations and that he would not give into any attempt at intimidation.  All the report’s recommendations were in‑depth and objective.

To comments that the report was not objective, he said the Commission had written five letters to the Government requesting information on human rights violations.  However, it had not received a reply.  It was difficult to document abuses by the Government because victims and witnesses of State-sponsored violence were afraid to speak up.  He said he would gather information on such violations by non‑State actors in the second phase of his mandate.

To questions on the Commission’s priorities, he said it would go further into its inquiry and corroborate more information.  It would also focus on allegations which had arisen after the report’s drafting, and continue its investigation into non‑State actors and the violation of economic, cultural and social rights.  The Commission was ready to work with the experts to be appointed by OHCHR.

The representative of Burundi said the country did not need lessons from Rwanda, which had committed genocide.  He told the Chair it was the sovereign right of his country to sue the Commission for defamation, noting that 23 out of 28 delegations had rejected the report.

The representative of Rwanda said Burundi should stop externalising problems, and own them instead.  If Burundi was going to deny the genocide which had happened in Rwanda, that country’s representative could not invoke the suffering of the Rwandan people in the Third Committee.

Read More

General Assembly Adopts Political Declaration Affirming Commitment to End Human Trafficking, Amid Calls for Victim-Centred Approaches

‘I Didn’t Have Any Identity’, Survivor Recalls, Stressing that Outcome Document Must Come to Life in Communities Across Globe

Survivors of human trafficking today recounted painful stories of kidnapping, violence and rape — often the result of criminals exploiting their hopes for a better life — as the General Assembly adopted a Political Declaration aimed at combating that brutal practice.

The Assembly endorsed the “political declaration on the implementation of the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons” by consensus at the outset of its two‑day high‑level meeting on human trafficking, which many speakers described as “modern-day slavery”.  Member States reaffirmed their commitment to that instrument, and to the related 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  In particular, they agreed to address the many social, economic, cultural and political factors that increased people’s vulnerability to trafficking, including poverty, unemployment, inequality, conflict, humanitarian emergencies and gender discrimination.

“It is so important to hear the voice of survivors,” emphasized Grizelda Grootboom, a civil society representative from South Africa, as she described her emotional personal experience.  Having grown up in Cape Town in the Nelson Mandela era, she recalled that her expectations for a better life had been exploited by a friend who forced her into sexual slavery in Johannesburg.  “My journey ended up in the hands of someone who knew I was desperate for hope and for freedom,” she said, recalling that upon her arrival the traffickers had injected her with drugs, duct‑taped her mouth and undressed her.  When the first client arrived, he was told that “fresh meat is on the market”.

After years spent working from brothel to brothel, and later as a drug trafficker for her pimps, she said she eventually escaped after a beating landed her in hospital.  However, she continued to be stigmatized for having been a sex slave.  “I didn’t have any identity,” she said.  Even today, it hurt to see headlines reporting that trafficking persisted.  “Sex slavery is just another form of oppression, especially for the black child,” she emphasized, expressing hope that the Global Plan of Action would not exist merely on paper, but in every community, township and city across the globe.

Secretary-General António Guterres said tens of millions of people around the world were victims of forced labour, sexual servitude, recruitment as child soldiers and other forms of exploitation, with such abuse gripping the weakest and most vulnerable.  Countless businesses in both the global North and South benefited from that misery, he said, adding that in recent years, conflict, insecurity and economic uncertainty had brought new tests, with millions of people spilling out of their countries towards safety.  While thousands died at sea, in deserts and detention centres, many others found themselves “at the mercy of merciless people”, he said.

General Assembly President Miroslav Lajčák (Slovakia), stressing that the will to fight human trafficking must be manifested in action, said the horrors and complexity of that abuse affected people everywhere.  Echoing calls for a victim‑ and survivor‑centred approach, he said the United Nations had a duty to be a voice for victims.  For people to live freely and peacefully, they must be free from the threat of trafficking.  “Prevention is better than cure,” he asserted, urging States to prioritize efforts to starve traffickers of benefits, while also addressing both demand‑ and supply‑side problems.

Mira Sorvino, actress and Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said words must be transformed into meaningful, robust action to help those tormented by trafficking.  Member States could not look away from the plight of victims.  Conflict, climate change and the resulting migration patterns were creating massive displacement, she said, describing those factors as a “direct pipeline” to victimhood.  Calling for private sector cooperation and the involvement of survivors at all levels of policymaking, she said law enforcement efforts must take a child‑centred, evidence‑based approach, and investigators must work to ensure that the testimony of victims was not their only hope of justice.

Yuri Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, said today’s Political Declaration would help sharpen responses to an “odious crime” that exploited and victimized the most vulnerable.  Since the adoption of the landmark Plan of Action in 2010, much had been done to reverse the phenomenon.  Nevertheless, enforcement gaps remained, with more action required in prosecuting trafficking lords in particular.  Calling for victim‑centred criminal justice responses and better evidence collection, he echoed calls to address root causes and urged States to support the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons.

Speakers throughout the morning’s plenary session voiced support for both the new Political Declaration and the original 2010 Action Plan, while also outlining national laws and strategies to combat human trafficking.  Some raised concerns about at‑risk populations — including refugees fleeing crises in Syria and other hotspots — while others warned that global instruments would do little to address the horrors of human trafficking if States failed to implement them.

Anifah Aman, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Malaysia, noted that his was both a transit and destination country, and that its citizens were often targeted as victims.  In response, the Government had aligned its national anti-trafficking strategy with the 2010 Action Plan, and was engaged in bilateral and regional cooperation efforts under the auspices of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).  Expressing concern that the Rohingya people fleeing Myanmar could easily become victims, he repeated Malaysia’s calls to that country to end the violence, expressing hope that the measures outlined in today’s political declaration would serve as a strong basis for action going forward.

The European Union representative said the bloc had put in place a framework to address trafficking in a victims‑focused, human rights‑based, gender‑specific and child‑sensitive manner.  As the world’s largest donor of aid and funding for related projects, the European Union was working with partners to build capacities and promote standards.  She called for greater efforts to address trafficking in the context of migration and the refugee crisis, and for the purposes of sexual abuse and exploitation — including of children and online.  “We must step up our efforts to discourage the demand that fosters all forms of exploitation in both legal and illegal economies,” she asserted.

Andrei Dapkiunas, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belarus, asking whether the United Nations meeting would ignite the “fire of hope” in the hearts of victims, said “we all know the answer to that question”.  Indeed, words would only matter if they took the form of practical action.  Urging all States to place efforts to combat trafficking above national interests, he warned against attempts to use the issue to pursue narrow political aims.  All countries, along with United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations, must adopt an open, honest approach.  “Until we do that, the human traffickers will sleep soundly,” he stressed.

In the afternoon, the Assembly held two panel discussions featuring United Nations officials, civil society representatives and survivors of human trafficking, among others.  The first addressed themes related to the Global Plan of Action and effective partnerships for the prevention and prosecution of trafficking in persons, with a focus on achievements, gaps and challenges.  The second discussed the Global Plan of Action and effective partnerships, with a focus on the role of the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons.

Also speaking during the plenary session were Ministers from Luxembourg, Indonesia, Eritrea, South Africa, Qatar, Zimbabwe, Panama (also speaking on behalf of the Human Security Network), Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt (also speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends United against Human Trafficking), Guyana, Namibia, Dominican Republic, Ukraine and Malawi, as did the Secretary for Relations with States of the Holy See.

Representatives of Sudan, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Israel and Turkey also participated.

The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 28 September, to conclude the high-level meeting.

Opening Remarks

MIROSLAV LAJČÁK (Slovakia), President of the General Assembly, said the will to fight human trafficking must be manifested in action.  Human trafficking understood no borders.  The horrors and complexity of trafficking in persons affected people everywhere.  While today’s meeting would track progress made in the fight against human trafficking, it also must recognize how much work remained ahead.  He pledged the Assembly’s recommitment to fight all forms of human trafficking and called for respect of human rights and the “dignity of our people”.

Stressing that mitigation efforts required a victim‑ and survivor‑centred approach, and a multi‑stakeholder perspective, he said the United Nations had a duty to be a voice for victims.  For people to live freely and peacefully, they must be free from the threat of trafficking.  Prevention efforts must be strengthened, he said, recognizing that peace and security challenges amplified the threat of human trafficking.  Thus, preventing conflict would help to prevent human trafficking.  “Prevention is better than cure,” he asserted.  The priority must be to starve human traffickers of benefits while addressing demand‑ and supply‑side problems.  Traffickers’ focus on women and children threatened to unravel the fabric of society, he warned.

Indeed, human trafficking was a “complex and many-sided” problem, he said, and to best address it, Member States must concentrate on existing plans while recognizing the new political declaration as an important instrument.  He called for continued contribution to the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Human Trafficking, which was an important tool to assist victims in recovering, reclaiming dignity and minimizing the risk of revictimization.  The scale of human trafficking also required resources that matched the scale of the problem, he said.

ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said tens of millions of people around the world were victims of forced labour, sexual servitude, recruitment as child soldiers and other forms of exploitation and abuse.  “Human trafficking is all around us,” he said, adding:  “It grips the weakest and most vulnerable — women, girls and boys cruelly exploited for sex and vital organs, children forced into endless begging and men into brutal labour.”  Countless businesses in both the global North and South benefited from that misery and the phenomenon was often intertwined with racial, gender and other forms of discrimination.  In recent years, conflict, insecurity and economic uncertainty had brought new tests, as millions of people spilled out of their countries towards safety and often found themselves “at the mercy of merciless people”.

Indeed, he said, thousands of people had died at sea, in deserts and detention centres, and at the hands of traffickers.  Criminal networks had used that disorder and despair to expand their brutality and reach.  Terrorist groups including Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and Boko Haram continued to attempt to capture and enslave women, girls and boys.  “These gangs and groups are global,” he stressed.  They were well organized, technologically savvy and highly proficient at exploiting gaps in governance and weak institutions.  “We must be equally determined in countering this menace,” he said, emphasizing that too often human traffickers operated with impunity and received less attention than traffickers in drugs.

Fighting human trafficking required making greater use of the United Nation Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children — also known as the Palermo Protocol or Trafficking in Persons Protocol — among other instruments.  The New York Declaration adopted in 2016 was a welcome step, and the Assembly’s seventy-third session would convene a conference to adopt a global compact on safe, orderly and regular migration, which would provide an additional milestone.  Recalling that, as Prime Minister of Portugal, he had viewed the threat of drugs as a possible threat to his own children, he said he had not sufficiently recognized or acted on the risk posed by human trafficking.  It was the responsibility of all world leaders to address that phenomenon.  As refugees and migrants were especially vulnerable — and their plight was compounded when they were treated as criminals by host Governments and communities — the international community must create legal and safe migration channels, while also upholding the rights of refugees to asylum.

YURI FEDOTOV, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said today’s political declaration would help sharpen responses to an “odious crime” that exploited and victimized the most vulnerable.  Since the adoption of the landmark Plan of Action in 2010, much had been done to reverse the phenomenon, with 171 Member States having acceded to the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, and most aligning their national policies to its provisions.  Nevertheless, enforcement gaps remained, with more action required in prosecuting trafficking lords in particular.  The UNODC was engaged in those activities, he said, calling on Member States to make better use of the established legal framework to protect victims and hold perpetrators accountable.

Calling for more victim‑centred criminal justice responses, better evidence collection and greater common efforts were needed to achieve the anti‑trafficking targets under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. He said stronger inter‑agency and cross‑border cooperation was also critical.  The root factors that made people more vulnerable to trafficking must also be tackled.  Urging States to support the United Nations Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking, he said those efforts would help victims become survivors.

Action

The Assembly then adopted, without a vote, a draft resolution titled, “political declaration on the implementation of the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons” (document A/72/L.1).

Statements

MIRA SORVINO, actress and Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, called for words to be transformed into meaningful, robust action to help those tormented by trafficking, stressing that failure to protect the most vulnerable segments of society was unacceptable.  Member States could not look away from the plight of victims, she said, adding that the scale of the problem required that everyone work to uplift victims and survivors in order to foster a freer and more prosperous world.  Conflict, climate change and the resulting migration patterns were creating displacement on a massive scale, she said, describing those factors as a “direct pipeline” to victimhood.

She went on to call for private-sector cooperation in the fight against trafficking and for the involvement of survivors at all levels of policymaking.  Law‑enforcement efforts must take a child‑centred, evidence‑based approach, and investigators must work to ensure that the testimony of victims was not their only hope of justice.  Human trafficking called for a vigorous attack on the root causes of vulnerability, she emphasized.  Donations to the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Human Trafficking was a direct way to help victims, she said, noting Italy had recently donated $1 million to the Fund.  She called upon all Member States to match or add to that gift.

GRIZELDA GROOTBOOM, civil society representative and human trafficking victim from South Africa, said that being a street kid in Cape Town during the Nelson Mandela era had meant expectations of hope and freedom.  However, a friend had exploited that hope.  “My journey ended up in the hands of someone who knew I was desperate for hope and for freedom,” she said.  That hope had turned into a nightmare as she was trafficked all the way to Johannesburg.  Entering a home in that city, she had lain down for a nap, only to be awakened by a punch to the stomach.  The traffickers had then injected her with drugs behind the knees, duct‑taped her mouth and undressed her, she recounted.  The first client had been told upon arrival that “fresh meat is on the market”.

The rapes had continued for two weeks, she continued, adding that she had then been replaced by younger girls and kicked out into the Johannesburg streets.  From that day onwards, she had worked from one brothel to another, raped by all kinds of men — old, young, black, white, rich, poor.  She had fallen pregnant, and after six months, her madam had told her that her child’s “breed” was not welcome in the industry.  An in‑house abortion had been conducted and she had returned to work just hours later.  “In that minute, I knew that the life I thought I was going to have was taken from me,” she said, recalling that she had finally decided to say “no”.  However, when she had refused the next client, she had been beaten badly and had ended up in hospital, marking the beginning of her exit journey.

“I didn’t have any identity,” she continued.  Even after leaving the industry she had been stigmatized for having been a sex slave.  She had returned to the pimps and then had become their drug trafficker, working from one city to another until she had found herself back in her home city of Cape Town.  “Today I stand here with images of girls that I’ve lost through the 18 years,” she said, adding:  “I’m blessed to be alive.”  However, it hurt to see headlines reporting that trafficking continued unabated, she added, noting that today, serious health problems constantly reminded her of her past.

Welcoming the fact that the United Nations were gathered to address human trafficking — and that Member States had committed to implementing the Global Plan — she pointed out that women and girls made up 96 per cent of trafficking victims.  “Sex slavery is just another form of oppression, especially for the black child,” she said.  “It is so important to hear the voice of survivors,” she said, adding that it was also important for victims and survivors to see the commitment of the United Nations to helping them.  She stressed that she was not speaking because she wished to be an activist, but because she understood the true pain of being a sex slave.  She concluded by expressing hope that the Plan of Action would not take action merely on paper, but in every community, township and city across the globe.

FÉLIX BRAZ, Minister for Justice of Luxembourg, said human trafficking was a serious crime and gross violation of fundamental rights.  His country combatted the phenomenon through a multidisciplinary approach focused on prevention, protection and promotion of victims’ rights, and prosecution of the perpetrators and co-perpetrators.  Policies also focused on providing adequate training for law enforcement authorities.

RETNO LESTARI PRIANSARI MARSUDI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, reiterated the importance of partnership and cooperation in curbing trafficking, particularly with source, transit and destination countries.  Indonesia adhered to the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol on Trafficking in Persons, and had taken actions to prevent crime, prosecute perpetrators and protect victims.  Effective measures included imposing a minimum threshold to identify trafficking cases, increasing consular officers as first responders, creating an e‑platform for data collection, enhancing law enforcement to help the prosecution process, and compensating victims.  Regionally, Indonesia supported efforts to implement the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Convention on Trafficking in Persons especially Women and Children, and the Bali Declaration on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime.  In that context, she highlighted the situation in Rakhine State, which required measures to prevent refugees from being exploited by traffickers.

ANIFAH AMAN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Malaysia, strongly condemning the phenomenon of human trafficking, said his country was both a transit and destination country, and that its citizens were also often targeted as victims.  In response, the Government had put in place a national plan to combat human trafficking, which was aligned with the 2010 United Nations Plan of Action, and was engaged in many bilateral and regional cooperation efforts on that issue.  For example, Malaysia was a party to the 2015 ASEAN Convention against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, along with other regional instruments.  “We believe in a comprehensive approach with an emphasis on victims,” and addressing the phenomenon’s root causes, he said.  Expressing concern that the Rohingya people currently fleeing Myanmar could easily become victims to human trafficking, he repeated Malaysia’s calls to that country to end the violence against the Rohingya, and expressed hope that the measures outlined in the political declaration would serve as a strong basis for action going forward.

OSMAN MOHAMMED SALEH, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Eritrea, noting that his country was at the forefront of the fight against human trafficking, called for focused international cooperation to eradicate that phenomenon.  If efforts did not address the root causes of trafficking, any future appraisal meetings would only expose gaps and not show progress.  Human trafficking and smuggling of migrants were great causes of instability in Africa, he said, with young people most affected, facing abduction, torture and death.  The problem had deepened as impunity persisted in the region.  A clear assessment of human trafficking in the Horn of Africa was needed to bring an end to injustice and ensure those responsible faced punishment.  No case could go unprosecuted, he said, adding that Eritrea would continue its fight against trafficking and expose its sponsors.

MICHAEL MASUTHA, Minister for Justice and Correctional Services of South Africa, said today’s political declaration demonstrated the global political will to end human trafficking.  South Africa’s law enforcement and criminal justice systems were engaged in the constant fight against that phenomenon, having arrested, tried and convicted many perpetrators.  South Africa also provided support to victims.  Relevant laws had been consolidated under the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act, which centred on prevention and prosecution, and was in line with the Protocol.  To ensure nationwide participation, the Government had established an intersectional committee comprising representatives from civil society, faith-based organizations, traditional leaders and others, which were working directly with communities.  However, the transnational nature of trafficking required cooperation with and mutual assistance from both other countries and intergovernmental organizations.

ISSA BIN SAAD AL-JAFAKU AL-NUAIMI, Minister for Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs of Qatar, said efforts to tackle human trafficking should focus on causes, such as social, economic, cultural, political and ideological factors or the lack of the rule of law.  The inability to find just and decisive settlements to conflict had led to the rise of terrorism and armed groups, which engaged in trafficking.  Qatar had put anti-trafficking legislative measures in place and established a national committee to consolidate the work of State institutions and civil society.  Regionally, Qatar worked in cooperation with UNODC and the League of Arab States to build and rehabilitate national capacities to combat trafficking.  On the international level, Qatar was a member of the Group of Friends United against Human Trafficking and the Group of Friends to End Modern Slavery.  It was also a major donor to the United Nations Trust Fund.

PRISCAH MUPFUMIRA, Minister for Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare of Zimbabwe, said her country was a source, transit and destination country for trafficking in human beings.  For that reason, it had ratified the Convention, and the Palermo Protocol.  Zimbabwe’s response strategy was anchored on “the four Ps”:  prevention, protection, prosecution and partnership.  Anti-trafficking programs had been decentralized to local levels for greater effectiveness, she added.  Under the protection pillar, the Government had facilitated and funded the repatriation of 138 victims since 2016.  Zimbabwe was also working with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to establish income-generating projects for victims.  Thus far, 100 women had each received up to $1,500, she added.

ALEXIS BETHANCOURT YAU, Minister of Public Security of Panama, speaking on behalf of the Human Security Network, recognized efforts taken by the United Nations to tackle human trafficking and include the issue in both the 2030 Agenda, and the Global Plan of Action.  He emphasized the need for universal ratification and implementation of all international legally binding instruments addressing that crime.  A holistic approach to combating trafficking, by including the “human security” aspect, offered the most balanced solution to protect vulnerable groups, including women and children.  He urged Member States to contribute to the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund.

Speaking in his national capacity, he said Panama had aligned its national anti-trafficking plans with the United Nations Convention, dismantling 14 trafficking networks and achieving three important convictions.  Among other steps, it was working to bring perpetrators to justice, protect victims and establish partnerships.  Panama had also established a National Commission against Trafficking in Persons, comprising private sector representatives, and was putting in place relevant laws.  In October, the National Commission would meet to establish five strategic lines of actions, he said, adding that efforts were under way to raise public awareness and bolster prevention.  As Vice-President of the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund, he urged Member States to offer support, and cited his country’s shelter for victims as the only one in the region.

EMMANUEL ILUNGA NGOIE KASONGO, Minister in Charge of Congolese Nationals Abroad of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said Africa faced an acute migrant crisis that was exacerbating issues of human trafficking.  Trafficking was a cross‑cutting threat with global implications, he said, stressing that the Democratic Republic of the Congo was a transit and destination country, and that Congolese girls were trafficked for sexual exploitation.  Legal measures had been taken to prevent trafficking, he said, drawing attention to an upcoming forum aimed at developing strategies in that regard.  Preventive work and assistance was being offered to victims.  Such efforts sought to help re‑establish peace in the east of the country and end cycles of war.  He welcomed the expertise of all partners in efforts to implement relevant recommendations.

NAELA GABR MOHAMED GABR ALI (Egypt), on behalf of the Group of Friends United against Human Trafficking, welcomed the political declaration as a meaningful supplement to the Global Plan of Action.  The 2030 Agenda and the related Goals served as reminders to end this “heinous crime”, notably by reducing poverty and inequality.  “The international community has to bring forward a better, more just, more equitable and more comprehensive response to tackle this scourge,” she declared.  To that end, the Group of Friends would work with partners around the world, and recognized the role of the Inter-Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons.  She invited all stakeholders to take part in the forthcoming review of the Global Plan of Action, and to the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund.

Speaking in her national capacity, she said Egypt had been fighting trafficking since 2007, with a national strategy based on prevention, protection and prosecution.  The national action plan and related legislation were closely aligned with the 2010 United Nations Plan of Action, and sought to raise awareness, support victims’ rights, accelerate development in slums and other poor areas and underscore the close connection between trafficking and illegal migration.  Regional cooperation was also critical, she said, as was respecting the human rights dimension of trafficking.  Noting that Egypt was working with non‑governmental organizations to raise awareness, she also cited the country’s participation in the “Aware Migrant” campaign, alongside Italy and IOM.

CARL GREENIDGE, Vice-President and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Guyana, said trafficking in persons had become the second most profitable criminal enterprise in the world.  Combating it called for a focus on awareness efforts, effective prosecution and assistance for victims.  The fight against human trafficking also must be grounded in the principles of prevention, protection and prosecution.  Guyana’s Ministerial Task Force on Trafficking in Persons had begun to engage in awareness‑raising efforts with law enforcement and civil society, while awareness campaigns encouraged civil society to assume responsibilities pivotal to mitigating trafficking in persons, he said.

ERASTUS AMUTENYA UUTONI, Deputy Minister of Home Affairs and Immigration of Namibia, said traffickers had taken advantage of an imbalanced global economy.  “As long as there is a rich global North and a poor global South, traffickers will continue to take advantage of the need for labour in rich countries,” he said, where laws providing labour migration favoured highly skilled workers and prevented semi-skilled personnel.  In Namibia, “some suspects” had been acquitted due to a lack of evidence.  Although trafficking was criminalized under the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, efforts were underway to enact a law to specifically address that crime.  A manual also was provided to immigration and law enforcement officers, and joint trainings carried out for border officials, police and immigration officials.  He called for training migration officials, providing shelter for trafficking victims, enhancing cooperation between the North and South, facilitating lawful migration, and respecting the human rights of migrants.

ANDREI DAPKIUNAS, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belarus, asking whether the fact that the United Nations was meeting to address the crime of human trafficking would ignite the “fire of hope” in the hearts of its victims, said “we all know the answer to that question”.  Indeed, the Organization’s words would only matter if they took the form of practical action.  Urging all States to place efforts to combat trafficking above national interests, he warned against attempts to use the issue to pursue narrow political aims.  All nations, along with United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations, must adopt an open, honest approach.  “Until we do that, the human traffickers will sleep soundly,” he stressed.  Participation in the Convention and its Protocol was a moral imperative, he said, noting that the global community remained divided.  Belarus had recently made its third contribution to the Trust Fund and he urged others to do the same, also calling on States to take “decisive and uncompromising” action against trafficking at the national level.

MARJORIE ESPINOSA, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Dominican Republic, said that following her country’s ratification of the Convention and its Protocols, and the 2010 Global Action Plan, it had begun to align its national laws and policies with those instruments.  The Foreign Ministry had held several meetings to develop and implement a national plan against trafficking and migrant smuggling, and now was devising a second such plan for the period 2017‑2020, bringing together Government agencies and various sectors.  The Dominican Republic was developing campaigns to prevent the exploitation of children and teenagers in particular, with the help of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and IOM.  She also cited the creation of a victims assistance unit and the building of shelters for victims, stressing that efforts to combat trafficking must include countries of origin, transit and destination, both through bilateral agreements and regional instruments to exchange information.

NATALIA FEDOROVYCH, Deputy Minister for Social Affairs of Ukraine, expressed support for commitments in the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants to combat trafficking, noting that Ukraine had set up a counter-trafficking response and a national referral mechanism to identify, assist and protect victims.  While Ukraine had ratified the Convention, the Palermo Protocol and the Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Beings instruments could not be implemented in non-Government controlled areas.  Three years of Russian aggression against Ukraine had led to numerous cases of trafficking and forced labour in areas outside Government control.  They had been largely unaddressed due to lack of safe access of monitoring missions.  She pointed out that the Russian Federation did not have comprehensive mechanisms for effective investigation, prosecution and punishment of perpetrators.

ABD ELGHANI AWAD ELKARIM, Under-Secretary, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Sudan, said his country supported all international efforts to prevent and restrict trafficking.  Economic and social dimensions, particularly poverty, must be taken into account when tackling its root causes.  Sudan was a transit country that had made tireless efforts to fight organized crime, including police operations that had freed hundreds of trafficking victims, most of them women and children.  Emphasizing the need for integrated action and a holistic approach, he called on the international community to meet its commitments under the European Union-Horn of Africa Migration Route Initiative (Khartoum Process).

JEAN KALILANI, Minister for Home Affairs and Internal Security of Malawi, called for stronger efforts to end the “degrading modern day slavery” of human trafficking, whose barbarism had no place in the world.  Noting that the Global Plan of Action was now complemented by the 2030 Agenda’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals — three of whose targets specifically addressed human trafficking — she recalled that Malawi had ratified the United Nations Convention and two of its Protocols in 2005.  Today, the national Trafficking in Persons Act provided a legislative framework for prevention, based on a human rights approach, and sought to provide victims with care and support.  Noting that Malawi’s implementation efforts included specific and time-bound measures, she nevertheless said more support was needed.  She called for greater efforts to mobilize resources and create more effective partnerships.

MYRIA VASSILIADOU, Anti-Trafficking Coordinator of the European Union, said the bloc had put in place a comprehensive framework to address trafficking in a victims‑focused, human-rights‑based, gender‑specific and child‑sensitive manner.  The European Union had demonstrated its commitment to implement the Global Plan of Action and to uphold the legal standards enshrined in the United Nations Convention, its Protocols and other international legal instruments.  As the world’s largest donor of aid and finances for projects promoting anti‑trafficking, the European Union was working with partners to build capacities and promote anti‑trafficking standards.

She said greater efforts were needed to address trafficking in the context of migration and the refugee crisis, the nexus between conflict and trafficking, the risk of trafficking in supply chains and trafficking for the purposes of sexual abuse and exploitation — including of children and online.  The factors that made people vulnerable also required attention, and the European Union would work towards achieving its 2030 Agenda commitments in that regard.  While it was crucial that traffickers were legally punished, she said prevention and partnerships were also essential.  “We must step up our efforts to discourage the demand that fosters all forms of exploitation in both legal and illegal economies,” she asserted.

IGOR DJUNDEV, Director for Multilateral Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, associating himself with the European Union, said combating trafficking in human beings should be set in the context of the two compacts regarding migrants and refugees.  Special attention should be also given to prevention through awareness‑raising initiatives at all levels.  Further, a more resolute and comprehensive approach on the ground was needed to protect and assist victims, and prosecute criminal groups.

NOA FURMAN (Israel), noting that the Israelite people had been slaves in biblical Egypt, said their past had informed current efforts to end trafficking and all forms of modern slavery.  Israel had two national plans aligned with a range of ministries, and had enacted legislation covering all forms of trafficking.  As a result, the United States Department of State had classified Israel as a “tier 1” country in the battle against trafficking.  Further, Israel had reduced the most severe form of trafficking of women for prostitution, thanks primarily to a focus on prevention, prosecution, protection and partnership.  Israel also had established shelters for victims, and through the appointment of an Anti-Trafficking Coordinator, expanded its partnerships with civil society.  She called on all countries to ratify the Palermo Protocol and to transcend borders in the fight against human trafficking.

MEHMET SAMSAR (Turkey) said the four pillars of prevention, prosecution, protection and partnership were critical to fighting trafficking, as were inclusive, human rights-based approaches.  As existing international humanitarian systems had failed to respond properly to the needs of people affected by catastrophes and emergencies, criminal networks had found fertile ground and exploited the vulnerabilities of migrants.  Regrettably, trafficking had become a profitable business for such terrorist groups as Da’esh, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).  Recalling that the activities of the latter had been underlined in the United States 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report, he said that, as the country hosting the most refugees in the world — including 3.1 million Syrians — Turkey would undertake all necessary measures to prevent human trafficking, forced labour and slavery among those fleeing conflict.  Underscoring the importance of ensuring legal pathways for migrants seeking a decent life, he also called for breaking down barriers to safe, regular and orderly migration, including through the 2018 adoption of the two Global Compacts on migration and for refugees.

PAUL RICHARD GALLAGHER, Secretary for Relations with States of the Holy See, said addressing the demand that fostered trafficking, especially of women and girls, would require a frank and courageous examination of practices which encouraged sexually addictive behaviour and the dehumanization of people as objects of gratification.  There must be long-term investment in rehabilitation for victims, he said, emphasizing also the positive role to be played by partnerships between law enforcement agencies and faith‑based groups.

Panel Discussion I

The Assembly’s first panel discussion was titled “The Global Plan of Action and effective partnerships for the prevention and prosecution of trafficking in persons: achievements, gaps and challenges, also taking into consideration the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals”.  Chaired by Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve (Belgium), it featured presentations by Purna Sen, Director of the Policy Division, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women); Kevin Cassidy, Senior Communications and External Relations Officer, International Labour Organization (ILO); and Rani Hong, Chief Executive Officer, The Tronie Foundation.

Mr. PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE said interventions during the high‑level meeting had highlighted the emergence of new crises involving armed groups and the use of trafficked persons by terrorist groups in pursuit of their goals.  While the Political Declaration took migration into consideration, it was now time to move from words to action.  Human trafficking took place every day and everywhere in the world, and the international community must focus on establishing and enhancing effective partnerships to prevent it, as well as to ensure the effective prosecution of culprits and the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda in strengthening anti‑trafficking efforts.

Ms. SEN said the Global Plan of Action and the Political Declaration renewed the commitment to combat trafficking, a manifestation of the violence and discrimination that women and girls faced around the world.  Its eradication would require comprehensive approaches.  Noting that women and girls accounted for 71 per cent of victims, she said that clearly demonstrated that trafficking was a gender‑based problem and should be addressed as such.  In order to eliminate all forms of violence, the international community must address the sexual exploitation of women and girls in all contexts, she emphasized.  Additionally, it must address the root causes, including poverty, unemployment, migration and labour laws.  Greater attention should be given to the linkages connecting trafficking, migration and gender, as there were numerous gender‑specific vulnerabilities and risks that made women especially susceptible.  Member States must ensure specific responses to the gender dimensions of trafficking, including tailored health‑care services for victims, efforts to address stigmatization and providing economic empowerment programmes.  Member States should also create conditions in which victims would feel safe enough to discuss their experiences, including by ensuring the availability of female police officers, building trust with high‑risk groups, establishing support centres and working with officials and other relevant personnel.  Describing trafficking as a human rights violation, she stressed that victims must not be criminalized.  Human rights must be recognized, and the safety of victims prioritized through trust, supportive policies and practices, assistance with reintegrating into society and supporting the prosecution of perpetrators, she said, highlighting the latest brief on the gender dimension of trafficking by the Inter-Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons, of which UN‑Women was a member.

Mr. CASSIDY said the appraisal of the Global Plan of Action had come at a timely moment as ILO released new global estimates.  Of the 25 million people trapped in forced labour, 16 million were female, 9 million male and 4.3 million children located across the globe, he said, adding that those numbers could not be ignored.  The ILO was working across multiple fronts to end human trafficking, supporting partnerships at the national, bilateral, regional and sub‑regional levels, as well with Governments, civil society, media, the private sector and NGOs, including Alliance 8.7, which was committed to eradicating forced labour and child slavery.  No single actor could solve the problem alone, he emphasized, adding: “We must work together.”  Alliance 8.7 objectives also included accelerating the end of human trafficking, boosting research and innovation capacities, and increasing and sharing funding resources.  In cooperation with the United Kingdom, Alliance 8.7 and the United Nations had created a knowledge platform that would be hosted at United Nations University, he said, encouraging everyone to share data sets and draw from that platform once it became operational.

Ms. HONG, sharing her experiences as a former victim, said that she had been trafficked as a little girl, and had lived in a cage for months before being sold into the international adoption black market.  There were 40 million slaves in the world today, but everybody forgot “the one,” she said.  “Beneath all of us, there is a human being just like you, and we look for somebody to love us and take care of us,” she added.  The way forward should be guided by the reinforced political will that States had pledged at the launch of the Global Plan of Action, she said, noting that she had partnered with local communities to bring tangible solutions on the ground.  The Tronie Foundation had created the Freedom Seal as a symbol that could represent freedom in the workplace, she said, urging companies to be transparent and prevent slavery in the entire supply chain.

In the ensuing discussion, delegates underlined the need to address root causes, appealed for enhanced cooperation and suggested possible measures.

MICHAEL MASUTHA, Minister for Justice and Correctional Services of South Africa, emphasized the need to look at underlying factors, including inequality within and between nations, organized crime, drug trafficking, illicit capital transfers and illegal migration.  He also stressed the importance of cooperation between Government and civil society, as well as among States.

PRAMILA PATTEN, Special Representative of the Secretary‑General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, said that for hybrid terrorist‑criminal networks, girls were currency in their political economy of war, noting that trafficking by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Boko Haram and other such groups had sent shockwaves around the world.  Whether it occurred during or after conflict, trafficking was a gender‑based human rights violation as well as a criminal act, she said, underlining that no isolated response could end it.  She recommended, among other measures, the enforcement of relevant legal instruments, increased awareness of conflict‑related trafficking, and rehabilitation programmes for trafficking survivors, in collaboration with grass-roots women’s organizations.  Prosecution of traffickers would also help prevention, she said, emphasizing that vulnerable populations would be empowered if trafficking was confronted head‑on.

KATALIN ANNAMÁRIA BOGYAY (Hungary) described trafficking in women and girls as an open wound on the body of humanity, the transnational nature of which called for enhanced international cooperation.  The 2030 Agenda represented the best chance to address and hopefully eliminate that deeply rooted challenge, she said, adding that survivors must be empowered and feel safe to speak out about their experiences.

YASMEEN HASSAN, Coalition against Trafficking in Women, said it was critical to invest in gender‑specific approaches and to address root causes.  The Coalition welcomed partnership with Member States to incorporate the Global Plan of Action where trafficking existed, she said.  Any knowledge platform must include disaggregated data on gender, age and type of exploitation, she added.

The representative of Ethiopia emphasized the need to recognize the positive role of migration, asking the panel about measures to expand legal channels for fair migration and ethical recruitment, and about ways to address legislative or administrative gaps.

The representative of the International Centre for Migration Policy Development said that a better understanding of the demand side of trafficking was needed in order to inform policy decisions.

The representative of Morocco emphasized the close links connecting trafficking, terrorism and transnational organized crime.  More must be done to dismantle such networks, he said, emphasizing that effective responses must go beyond criminal sanctions to include preventative measures.

Ms. HONG said recommendations would be directed where gaps remained.  She encouraged participants to take the comments and recommendations from today’s discussion to their national civil society organizations, and to seek partners who could help them advance the anti‑trafficking movement.

Mr. CASSIDY said the Political Declaration and the ongoing Global Compact for Migration process would require a large, systematic approach.  The general principles and guidelines of ILO addressed fair recruitment, while numerous conventions signed by Member States addressed migration and trafficking as well as the profits gained from them.  The structures are there and we must make use of them, he said.  The ILO looked forward to working in the General Assembly’s Second and Third Committees, and to strengthening their resolutions and language.  Alliance 8.7 had been created to complement that important work, he said, encouraging all participants to join it.

Ms. SEN said the 2016 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons provided numerous recommendations and remained available on the General Assembly website.  The recommendations of UN-Women on the gender perspective of the Global Compact for Migration were available on the UN-Women website and on other valuable resources.  She encouraged participants to consider carefully the connections between migration and trafficking, and to note where they overlapped and diverged.  She also encouraged pursuit of partnerships with NGOs and survivors in order effectively to combat trafficking in persons.

Also speaking were representatives of the Dominican Republic and Egypt, as well as the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Europe.

Panel II

The Assembly’s second panel discussion addressed the theme, “the Global Plan of Action and effective partnerships for the protection of and assistance to victims, including through the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, also taking into consideration the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals”.  Chaired by Alya Ahmed Saif al‑Thani (Qatar), it featured three panellists:  Benita Ferrero‑Waldner, Chair of the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons; Andrew Gilmour, Assistant Secretary‑General for Human Rights and Head of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in New York; and Joy Ezeilo, Executive Director of Women Aid Collective.

Ms. SAIF AL‑THANI said today’s Political Declaration spotlighted the importance of respecting the human rights of victims and survivors, and of incorporating their voices into anti‑trafficking policies.  It also stressed the need to ensure that survivors were not criminalized for having been trafficked, and encouraged States to support established channels of assistance.  She urged participants to provide examples of good practice and lessons learned, especially from partnerships.  Other questions should address how the Voluntary Trust Fund could increase strategic support to victims, how to better incorporate a human rights approach, and how those issues related to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Ms. FERRERO‑WALDNER, recalling that this morning, a survivor from South Africa had shown the courage to share her story, said 40 million victims existed around the world, and much more must be done.  The United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund was instrumental in that regard, and she urged Member States not to forget that hands‑on aid should be provided through the grassroots.  The Trust Fund had assisted an average 2,500 victims per year, “but that is not enough”.  Efforts must help victims reunite with loved ones, repatriate if necessary, and find appropriate redress in court.  The work of non‑governmental organizations (NGOs) supported by the Trust Fund was closely coordinated with national efforts, she said, adding that it provided strategic legislative support.  Describing examples of good practice — including by NGOs in Mexico and Canada — she stressed that those efforts required money, and urged all States to contribute to the Trust Fund.

Mr. GILMOUR said that growing threats to human rights called for greater awareness of the scourge of trafficking in persons.  Acknowledging links between security, human rights and development was crucial to mitigating the drivers of human trafficking and modern slavery.  Conflicts and the desire for economic stability had resulted in increased migration, he noted, adding that people forced to migrate could easily be targeted by traffickers.  He pointed to the positive shift towards a human‑rights‑based approach in combating trafficking and assisting victims.  By grounding mitigation efforts in human rights, the causes of trafficking could be targeted, he said, urging Member States to implement non‑discriminatory assistance mechanisms for victims.  He called for consolidating the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Human Trafficking and that for Contemporary Forms of Slavery as a means to provide life‑saving support.

Ms. EZEILO said economic resources did not match the political will to eradicate trafficking.  For every four trafficked persons, one was from Africa and two were from Asia, with the rest from other parts of the world.  Africa was a major source of trafficking due to intertwining problems of poverty, conflict, ease of travel and demand for cheap labour.  She advocated moving from one-size-fits-all to tailor‑made solutions that facilitated the recovery and reintegration of victims.  However, the bulk of assistance for victims was borne by NGOs, civil society and faith-based groups, all of which received little support and faced fundraising constraints.  Other issues requiring attention related to partnerships, cooperation and funding, as well as victims‑centred and gender‑centred approaches, and the provision of technical assistance to victims organizations.  Reiterating the need for resources, she said the multi-billion-dollar trafficking business could not be combated with a few million dollars.  “The world can no longer pretend to be deaf to the cries of victims,” she said.

In the ensuing discussion, many speakers emphasized that the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund and its support to grass‑roots and community anti‑trafficking efforts was critical.  Many highlighted the importance of both prevention and partnerships and outlined national strategies and policies in that regard.

Others, including the representative of Sudan, described particular challenges faced by their countries in combating human trafficking.  Noting that hers was both a source and transit country, she said internal displacement, migration, foreign debt, the effects of climate change and unemployment — all of which threatened the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals — affected some countries more than others.

Many speakers also drew attention to the massive profits resulting from human trafficking around the world, underscoring the need to address both supply- and demand‑side issues and calling for the involvement of both formal and informal economies in that regard.  With that in mind, the representative of Mexico called for better engagement with the private sector.

Meanwhile, the representative of the Netherlands emphasized the importance of identifying “hidden” victims.  “Not all victims are the same,” he said, urging stakeholders to provide a variety of support services.

The representative of Thailand was among the speakers voicing concern that political will to fight human trafficking was not being matched by financial resources.  Noting that his country had contributed to the Trust Fund, he called for deepened partnerships between origin and transit countries, as well as efforts to address the root causes of trafficking.

The representative of Namibia, describing the practice of luring trafficking victims online, said many who were offered marriage and a better life instead found themselves trafficked, enslaved or forced into criminal activities.  He proposed that the United Nations and Governments use social media channels to raise awareness.

The representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) joined other speakers in stressing that children must be placed at the centre of anti‑trafficking efforts.  Noting that almost a third of trafficking victims were boys and girls, and 8 out of 10 young migrants in the Mediterranean route had reported exploitation, she said all children were entitled to protection under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Social workers must be in place on the ground and officials must be closely linked to child protection services, she stressed.

The representative of the civil society organization Smile of the Child, striking a similar tone, expressed hope that today’s Political Declaration would give an extra boost to efforts to benchmark national anti‑trafficking legislation and the training of magistrates, police, airline staff, border guards and other critical personnel.

Some speakers, including the representative of the Holy See, emphasized the important work of faith‑based organizations around the world.

The representative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), pointing to the Political Declaration’s references to the special risks faced by refugees and migrants, recommended that all persons be provided, upon their arrival in a new country, with instructions on how to report trafficking.  Registration of all new arrivals should be prompt, comprehensive and accurate in order to identify those in special need of protection, while guardians should be appointed to unaccompanied minors.  Young people also should be provided with safe and confidential spaces to meet with caseworkers, she said, as persons who were trafficked across international borders might be legally entitled to status as refugees or asylum‑seekers.

Responding to a question by the representative of the United Kingdom on how to better support victims, Ms. FERRERO-WALDNER said it was crucial first to identify victims, and then to provide them with financial and legal resources.

Mr. GILMOUR said a human‑rights‑based approach was critical, and required training at many levels.

Ms. EZEILO reiterated that “there is no one-size-fits-all” support for victims.  “We are dealing with human beings who have gone through tremendous crises and trauma,” she stressed, also urging developing nations not to “play victims” but to address such push factors as poverty and poor governance.

Also participating were the representatives of Qatar and Kiribati, as well as the civil society groups Good Shepherd International and Apne Aap Women Worldwide.

Read More

Subcribe to my feed Follow on Twitter Like On Facebook Pinterest

Search News

Calendar

December 2021
M T W T F S S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

Archives

December 2021
M T W T F S S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031