Date of Meeting: 25 September 2017

Meeting Organizer: Permanent Mission of Guatemala, Permanent Mission of Cyprus

ISJC Staff Present: Dr Laurelle Smith

Reporter: Dr Laurelle Smith

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

Type of meeting: 

Brief summary of presentation of information made

H.E. Kornelios S. Korneliou - Ambassador of Cyprus

  • The government of Cyprus is committed to promoting research and training for the detection of victims of human trafficking
  • There is a link between migration an conflict
  • Children on the move are migrants and homeless children
  • There needs to be a focus on preventative action
  • Children are the future we need to protect them



Yu Ping Chan - Special Policy Advisor UN Office on Drugs and Crime

Trafficking is a crime and has to be addressed. There are three targets specifically related to trafficking - 5.2, 8.7, 16.2. The challenge is turning the SDGs into action.

Data is essential. We need to have a holistic and a broken down picture; genders, ages, situations where children are being trafficked. However a lot of data is estimated and it is informing policy making.

The data we are working with are all estimates but the SDG indicators ask for very specific data. All the current statistics are based on victims which have been detected by agencies or governments however there are many more victims which have not been identified.

There are some interview data on children but with children it is hard to know if they are reporting fully, especially if the interview is in the presence of a family member. We need better data so we can advocate to governments. We are not just looking for data points but it needs to be people centred, data that shows the way that people interact with society.

In the Netherlands a study was conducted using multi-systems evaluation – repeated samples of a population in order to identify how many people are repeated in each sample to get a more accurate picture of the undetected population. We need to look for victims who are not reported to the government but access other help and agencies. We all say more needs to be done but we don’t have the scientific based ways to do it.

There are areas of human trafficking that we haven’t addressed within the UN – especially around humanitarian crisis and human rights.

How can the UN best address the civil society? UN grant for NGOs working on the ground with survivors and victims. These are the people doing the work.



Mr. Kieran Gorman-Best - Senior Policy and Liaison Officer, IOM

There has been a recommitment to address human trafficking by world leaders. This is a follow up to the New York Declaration ( which has many good recommendations.

We need to move beyond political commitments and make sure there is improvement on the ground. There is a lot of room for improvement and there are a lot of gaps. We need to address these gaps – promoting birth certificates, increase access to education, strengthen child protection systems, and expand opportunities for employment and family income.

We need to focus on addressing human trafficking in humanitarian crisis, especially children.

Many we see are children and they have different vulnerabilities.

There is a need for more data.

A survey of 11,000 youth crossing the Mediterranean showed

  • 8 out of 10 reported exploitation on the route
  • A link to higher exploitation to youth
  • The risk of trafficking is 4x higher in Sub-Saharan Africa
  • There is an importance for education – the risk of trafficking is two thirds higher for those who not educated

The agriculture sector has the largest amount of child labour – 71%. We need to look at the root causes and how we can address them

After children have completed their movement what is happening?



Dr. Vasileia Digidki - Visiting Scholar, Harvard University FXB Center for Health and Human Rights

Why are so many children at risk of sexual exploitation after they have moved safely?

Trafficking is thriving in the majority of countries involved in the migration crisis. But why is this happening when we have all pledged our commitment to child protection?

8/10 children who migrated in one year reported exploitation – not including displaced children or children who have already died.

Why are states unable to protect children? They see them as legal non-citizens and their status of children is overlooked.

Children’s desire for safety, security and hope for a better future ends up increasing their likelihood of being trafficked. This is the paradox. They are more susceptible to substance abuse and victimisation which hinders their development.

It is immigration policies and our failure to prioritise children’s needs that lead to this.

It is virtually impossible to be able to measure the effect of child exploitation. But if children are being trafficked in full daylight it is clear that a failure in society has occurred. Instead we somehow attribute some of the blame to the victim.

It is time to asses our role as citizens. Fifty million children are on the move stripped of basic human rights, education, healthcare and their right to lead a normal life.

If we don’t protect children’s rights we will all pay the price. We deprive them of a chance to a better life.

Sex trafficking and exploitation is seen as evidence of a crisis. We need to educate people how to stand by victims and build a more involved society of people who will not be tolerant and who will fight.



Ms. Jayne Bigelsen - Director of Anti Trafficking Initiatives, Covenant House New York

Children under 18 years cannot sell sex – there is no such thing as a child prostitute. It is sexual exploitation. If over the age of 18 there needs to be proof of coercion. Even if someone at first is willing because, for example, they needed a place to stay, if anyone then threatens them to keep doing it, it becomes human trafficking.

We have started a study because there is a huge lack of reliable data.

It is known that pimps target homeless youth but there is no data on this because youth don’t turn up to authorities and tell them that they have been trafficked.

The study found that the things that help prevent sex trafficking of children are

  • One person who cares about them
  • A safe place to stay
  • Job training and education

The study has now been replicated in 13 cities across USA and Canada and the results are very consistent across the board.

  • 15% of children are trafficked
  • Another 8% are trafficked but cannot prove coercion

In 2017 no young person should have to make the choice between being homeless and selling sex. LGBT youth are at a much higher risk.

Trafficking looks very different in the US than abroad.

  • Victims are not usually kidnapped or locked up instead it is usually psychological (eg. the first person who gives them a hug is their pimp – they become traumatically bonded)
  • Multiple foster parents and prior sexual abuse leads to trafficking

Have also raised a significant amount of funding and opened a safe house able to serve 5-7 trafficking survivors for a stay of 18 months at a time. There is a lot of going back to the pimp but 2 have now graduated as nurses, 2 are going to college, all are working in jobs, and there are 2 babies living there. We have an understanding that it will take time and there will be a lot of hard times.

We need to do a better job at identifying and helping victims. If you are in the US then work with at risk youth, be that one person who cares, be a foster parent. Be the person to bond in a positive way.

The power of one can make a difference in lives- for bad or for good!



Sr. Angela Reed - RSM Mercy Global Action, Sisters of Mercy 

  1. Prevention is key

We must adopt a human rights approach – it’s not popular because it demands of nation states a long-term investment. The prominent response has been criminalisation and prosecution. Many resources have been put into border protection and law enforcement. But resources need to be put in to human rights. Nothing informs us more than real life stories. We need upstream solutions – what are the root causes that are leading to vulnerability?

  1. The experience of those who are being trafficked must inform policy and action

In order for us to understand we need to listen to and learn from personal accounts. Trafficking can take place within nations not just between countries. Rather than a random act it’s a slow process of exploitation usually beginning in childhood - educational limitations, economic deprivation, gender violence, and marginalisation. Over their life course these people are not given the opportunity to flourish which leads to vulnerability.  

  1. The optimal life course decisions – how to counter vulnerabilities

Optimal life course conditions

  • Adequate standard of living (SDGs 1, 2, 3)
  • Human attachment and belonging (SDGs 3, 5, 8, 11)
  • Quality education (SDG 4)
  • Safety, security and emotional well being
  • Social and community connectedness
  • Gender equality

It is a multi-disciplinary approach. Vulnerability will be reduced if these are all put into place but it is not a quick solution, it is long term action.

  1. The relationship to the 2030 agenda

Prevention is not very strong in the global plan of action. We have to engage the SDGs with the Global Plan of Action. We can’t look at trafficking without ALL the SDGs.

We need investment in early childhood. With particular attention on adequate standard of living, human attachment and belonging, quality education, safety, security and emotional well-being, social and community connectedness and gender equality.

Trafficking prevention needs to be seen as a long term strategy. The Global Plan of Action has to be closely aligned to the SDGs. We need to upturn economic and political systems that put economics about human rights.



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

As The Salvation Army has many services where children attend or are present at, it is essential that all frontline staff are trained to recognise the signs and indicators of trafficking. We need to make sure that children are forming positive bonds with the adults they interact with and have access to safe spaces (both physically and emotionally) and opportunities. We need to be working towards ensuring all children have access to quality education, an adequate standard of living and that all are treated equally. We also need to work towards helping collect accurate data which can be used to help inform policy and to advocate for better standards of care and protection for children.


Web links for more information

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