Date of Meeting: 20 Dec 2016

Meeting Organizer: United Nations Security Council

ISJC Staff Present: Joseph Halliday, Dr Laurelle Smith

Reporter: Joseph Halliday

Which SDG does this topic cover? 5, 10, 16

Type of meeting: United Nations Security Council

Brief summary of presentation of information made

Mr Mariano Rajoy, Prime Minister of Spain, opened the meeting as President of the Security Council. In his opening remarks, he acknowledged the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey in Ankara and the attack on the Christmas market in Berlin - there followed a minute’s silence in respect. Following this, he laid out the agenda and welcomed the speakers. The main purpose of this meeting of the Security Council was to discuss report 5/2016/949 on measures to counter trafficking in persons.

Mr Ban-ki Moon, UN Secretary-General, stated that the victims of trafficking are women, children, refugees and that war and conflicts fuel the problem. He said that terror groups use trafficking as a tool, and described how victims are treated ‘as if things not people.’ Syrian children, for example, are forced to work instead of playing and learning. Solving this problem reduces funding for terror groups. The UN, he said, seeks to reduce sexual violence and increase training on reducing trafficking. He stated that trafficking is an international problem and therefore needs an international response, calling for justice and accountability, for international law to be respected and for all states to adopt dedicated anti-trafficking laws. Some states have targeted money-laundering and criminal proceeds to reduce the problem. ‘All perpetrators must be brought to justice.’ He urged support from all countries, with contributions made to UN Voluntary Trust Funds which provide support for victims.  He stated that human rights were important along with the SDGs in providing dignity of life and issued a call to support these programmes in addition to gender-sensitive and rights-based domestic laws. He ended by urging a commitment to peace from countries – ‘prevention should be at the forefront.’

Mr. Yury Fedotov, Executive-Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, took the floor. He echoed earlier comments condemning the aforementioned attacks. Fedotov expressed gratitude to the Security Council for its attention to human trafficking issues, and to Nadia Murad (see below) in particular for her work in raising awareness. He states: ‘human trafficking is pervasive and transnational with victims everywhere.’ Tackling it requires a shared responsibility – there is no one solution to it. A total of 158 states have criminalised most forms of human trafficking, but existing frameworks still need to be strengthened. Reference was made to the upcoming 2016 global report on trafficked persons. There is an urgent need for countries to improve the identification and protection of victims – with ‘upstream’ targeting of criminals (through laws, investigations etc.).

Ms Zainab Bangura, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, addressed the Security Council. She spoke of the momentum building with legislation on human trafficking, but there are new threats – particularly the use of sexual violence as a tactic of terror. She provided examples about specific cases to demonstrate the impact of the problem. ‘Women and children are used as currency’ she stated, describing it as ‘blood money’ used to sustain Da’esh (IS). Tens of thousands of dollars are raised in this way, used to advance ideology, the terror economy and to achieve territorial objectives. The crime of sexual violence has been downplayed in the past, because it has not been viewed through the eyes of its victims. She said that by accepting its role in terror, we can no longer continue to ignore it. The system has become increasingly complex however, Sexual violence facilitates terror through its use of sex as money, sex as terror, and it ‘harms victims’. She listed the ways for which sexual violence should be seen as an act or terror: When it is deliberately used to spread terror, when it is used to finance and sustain terrorist groups, when the targets are ethnic or religious groups, when used to recruit or reward fighters and when women’s bodies are controlled to produce children. The resolution being examined today, she argued, is an important step in targeting the problem. Grassroots women ‘must not be ignored,’ she concluded. This is ‘a fight for values and ideals that shape our common future.’

Ms Ameena Saeed Hasan, Yezidi Kurd, former member of the Iraqi Council of Representatives, spoke. She shared a message she received from one human trafficking victim – ‘if you cannot free us, bomb us.’ This demonstrated the feelings of hopelessness about the situation. Hasan described it as ‘one of the worst situations in human history’ because Da’esh is returning us to a time of human slavery. She described how many women are given the choice of ‘rape or witnessing the rape of their children.’ Virgins are treated as ‘presents.’ Hasan believed there was a lack of condemnation of Da’esh by Islamic leaders and a lack of sympathy. She implored states to ‘eliminate terror and its source of finance’ and described how terror groups rely on the countries who allow it to continue. Genocide is being committed, mass graves are being found; protection must be offered by the international community or human trafficking will get worse. ‘Where is justice?’ she asked. Reintegration is important and current efforts are appreciated, she said, but more must be done to support victims, we need to treat them as prisoners of war. Sympathy from states is acknowledged but protection is important.

Nadia Murad, IS survivor, UNODC Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking, took the floor. She referred to her previous testimony in 2015, in which she described the impact of IS in her life: the destruction of her village, the murder of her family, the 700 men killed in one day. She was forced into sexual slavery where she experienced multiple rapes each day under IS. Some of her family is still under IS capture. She gave a plea to states to do more: ‘I don’t know what it will take you to move… to prosecute… I don’t understand how IS is allowed to move forward. My fight is a fight for all Iraqis.’

Rajoy, UN Security Council president, moved to vote on resolution which was approved by all 15 members. It became Resolution 2331 (2016).

Rajoy then addressed the Council as the Prime Minister of Spain. ‘Human trafficking is a clear threat to human dignity but also to global security.’ He stated that it is the reintroduction of human slavery. He proposed a normative structure where human trafficking is unacceptable, and an improved framework for tackling the issue. This requires the effort of all states and parties. Human trafficking is a part of the war economy. IS defies elemental laws of the international community by actively promoting sexual violence and this must be stopped.

Following this vote and Rajoy’s comments each member of the Security Council responds, condemning human trafficking and particularly as a tool of terror groups.

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

  • Frequent mention was made of the need to support victims and to reintegrate them into society. The Salvation Army, as an organization working with these victims, clearly has an important role to play in this way.
  • The Salvation Army should recognize the effects of human trafficking even beyond the key impact on human dignity - it helps to support terror groups. This is a further motivation to continue its work in helping to end human trafficking and support victims.

Web links for more information – UN Resolution 2331 (2016), approved at this meeting.

Tags: United Nations, SDG10: Reduced Inequalities, SDG16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, SDG5: Gender Equality