Date of Meeting: 02 Feb 2016

Meeting Organizer: Group of Friends United against Human Trafficking

ISJC Staff Present: Captain Kathy Crombie, Robert Docter, Luke Cozens

Reporter: Robert Docter, Luke Cozens

Which SDG does this topic cover? 5, 8, 16

Type of meeting: UN High Level Meeting

Brief summary of presentation of information made

Ms Simone Monasebian, Director of the UNODC Office in New York, moderated the event. In introducing the session Ms Monasebian noted that many men, women and children were victims of Human Trafficking despite its violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She noted also that three of the Sustainable Development Goals explicitly mention human trafficking (5, 8; 16). She highlighted General Assembly resolution 70/179 and the convening of a high-level meeting in 2017 to review the Global Plan of Action against trafficking. She remarked that civil society (of which The Salvation Army is considered part) has been “a most valuable partner” in the fight against trafficking.

A musical performance of “Yesterday” by the Beatles followed. It was arranged and performed by Chloe Flower (piano) as the completion of a promise she had made to Korean survivors of human trafficking. Ms. Flower was accompanied by Patmore Lewis of the New York Metropolitan Orchestra (violin). Ms Monasebian thanked the performers for an excellent rendition.

H.E. Mr. Mogens Lykketoft, President of the seventieth session of the United Nations General Assembly said that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development focused on the most vulnerable and, in particular, a focus on not just the systems, but the root causes of poverty, injustice and, environmental degradation. He said that there is an urgent need for an international legal system which can tackle human trafficking. He remarked that the world is currently facing the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II and that there is a need to bring conflict to an end, to bring humanitarian support, and to reassert the importance of Human Rights, humanitarianism, and international law. He highlighted a high-level meeting to take place in September and said that the Sustainable Development Goals demand that we join together to support people and communities everywhere.

Secretary General of the United Nations, H.E. Mr. Ban-Ki Moon was introduced by the moderator who noted that the Secretary General has never missed a high-level meeting nor on any occasion refused to give advice to the Group of Friends United against Human Trafficking when requested. The Secretary General began by thanking the organisers and noting that the purpose of the meeting was to strengthen partnership and cooperation, remarking that “unity of action is essential”. He noted that Europol had recently reported that as many as 10,000 children travelling to Europe had simply disappeared. He noted similarly troubling issues around the world and said that no region was immune to these problems. He suggested that the promotion of human rights is essential to the United Nations’s strategy in this area. He urged support and ratification of the UN conventions against transnational crime, on discrimination against women, and on the rights of the child. He highlighted the Global Plan of Action to combat human trafficking and concluded saying “Let us make good on our pledge to leave no one behind and build a life of dignity for all”.

H.E. Oh Joon, President of ECOSOC (UN Economic and Social Council) reiterated the importance of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and goals 5, 8 and 16 which include specific targets aimed at eliminating human trafficking. He suggested that there is a need for a more comprehensive approach to this issue with a focus on strengthening the rule of law and reducing corruption. He asked that the assembled continue their efforts to tackle the root causes of the problem. He also talked about a need in focusing on the root causes of human trafficking - i.e. income inequality, lack of social protection, poverty, etc.

H.E. Yury Fedotov, UN Under-Secretary-General, Executive Director of UNODC (UN Office on Drugs and Crime) remarked that through the refugee crisis vulnerable men, women and children are falling victims of human trafficking, and in particular ISIS and Boko Haram are exploiting very large numbers of people. He restated the Europol report noting that 10,000 children are missing in Europe and suggested that they may be falling into the hands of traffickers. He remarked that many countries are not using the laws that are already in place and that there are very low conviction rates for trafficking. He highlighted the UN trust fund for trafficking which has supported 30 projects in 26 countries and the work of ICAT which brings together 16 entities in the fight against trafficking. He observed that as of this year ICAT has a zero budget. He suggested that fresh funding was needed, noting that 50 projects remain on the reserve list and saying that immediate funding needs to be received this year. He remarked that UNODC have well established frameworks, tools, experience and expertise which can be used but that there needs to be more international cooperation.

H.E. Valentin Rybakov, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belarus spoke next with the moderator noting that Belarus are the sponsor of General Assembly resolution 70/179, one of two key resolutions against trafficking which come out every two years, the other being sponsored by the Philippines. He noted that human trafficking ruthlessly exploits men, women, and children with approximately 30 million victims. He cited the UNODC saying that there are at least 510 trafficking flows identified in official data and called this figure “the tip of the iceberg”. He said that we need to seek a common vision of practical measures to combat trafficking, particularly as part of the 2030 Agenda. He called such a vision crucial to the creation of a sustainable mechanism to end human trafficking. He highlighted the need for international communication and a need to intensify efforts at statistical analysis, particularly in developing countries. He suggested that energy and resources be put into solving war and conflict. He said there was a need to exchange best practices and respect victims’ human rights. He noted that Minsk (capital of Belarus) has a training center in international law including trafficking.

H.E. Sarah Mendelson, United States Representative to ECOSOC spoke about the new advisory board the President Obama had set up which is constituted of survivors of trafficking. She noted the need for partnership, collaboration and better data for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. She highlighted the work between the US and the Vatican and said we need 21st Century approaches and partnerships.

H.E. Madina Jarbussynova, OSCE Special Representative and Coordinator for Combatting Trafficking in Human Beings noted that the economic crisis may cause dangers in trafficking particularly with unscrupulous businesses. H.E. suggested that only a holistic approach to combatting trafficking could be successful working from root causes through transit to work at destinations. She noted the increasing connections between migration and trafficking, as well as connections between trafficking and conflict. She highlighted the ongoing conflict and displacement in Ukraine and alleged trafficking to recruit soldiers.

Ms Mira Sorvino, United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for Global Fight against Human Trafficking said that trafficking should not be tolerated any longer and that victims and survivors should always be kept at the center of our efforts. She noted the great urgency of the problem for people who are currently victims who need rescue two years ago, not in two years’ time and contrasted this with the estimated $150 billion in profit made by the trafficking industry. She highlighted the increased vulnerability created by poverty and a lack of education and suggested that programs to fight trafficking cannot be only about law and order but must include cultural issues such as patriarchal societies that make buying women acceptable. She called for unity in the fight noting that the battle is not between the agencies working against trafficking but against trafficking itself. She remarked that “currently the world runs on a slave economy” and recommended that the United Nations set up an independent third party accreditor to check companies’ supply chains. She also highlighted the importance of investing in services for human trafficking survivors.

Ms. Rani Hong, trafficking survivor was introduced by the moderator who noted that only 1 in 100 victims of trafficking are ever rescued. She provided a statistic - that "90% of contemporary forms of forced labor occurs in the private sectors - most of which are American/western corporations." She also highlighted the importance of education and public awareness - for instance she shared about the need of the "Freedom Seal", a label notifying consumers that products are produced safely, that they are not made my trafficked/enslaved peoples. Ms. Hong said she was looking forward to working with the Vatican on this issue and called on local official to outline how businesses can work against trafficking. She noted that Millennials are looking for ethical businesses.

Ms. Virna Luque Ferro, Board of Trustees, UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking introduced the trust fund which was established by the General Assembly in 2010 to provide humanitarian, legal, and financial aid to victims of trafficking. She gave examples of work the trust fund had done including prosecution, micro-enterprise, repatriation, reintegration, and medical and legal aid. She remarked, however, that currently the fund has only $32,000 suggesting that greater partnership and collaboration is needed to fund the 50 projects on their reserve list. She noted that the experience of the trust fund gives added value to their financial aid.​

Closing remarks were given by representatives from international organizations, Ambassadors, and Deputy Permanent Representatives.

What was of particular significance to share with The Salvation Army globally?

  • Partnership and collaboration are seen as essential tools for combatting trafficking. This includes partnership across borders with national governments, transnational organizations, law enforcement, and non-governmental or faith-based organizations such as The Salvation Army.

  • There are several international frameworks, including multiple groups in the UN, which provide collaboration, funding and other resources to fight trafficking.

  • There is a need to tackle trafficking holistically particularly a need to focus on the root causes of trafficking in culture and business ethics as well as a need to provide services to survivors of trafficking once they have escaped.

Web links for more information

Video of event

Programme and List of Speakers

Full remarks of the President of the General Assembly

Full remarks of the Secretary General                                         

Full remarks of the Director General of UNODC

Tags: United Nations, SDG16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, SDG8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, SDG5: Gender Equality