7898th Security Council Meeting: Human Trafficking in Conflict Situation - Part 3

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SIX OFFICIAL 15-Mar-2017 01:41:01
Prevention, protection, prosecution stressed as Security Council holds open debate on human trafficking, modern slavery and forced labour in conflict situations, at 7898th meeting.
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Some Delegates Question Whether Topic Falls under 15-Member Organ’s Purview

With conflict driving the desperation and disorder that enabled human traffickers to thrive, the Security Council should pursue cooperation on cross-border prevention, protection and prosecution in fighting the widespread impunity they enjoyed amid the mass displacement of vulnerable millions, speakers said today.

As the Council considered trafficking in persons, forced labour, slavery and other similar conflict-situation practices, Secretary-General António Guterres said 21 million people around the world faced forced labour and extreme exploitation, while the perpetrators reaped annual profits estimated at $150 billion. Beyond numbers was the human toll of lives cut short and families and societies torn apart amid gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian.

In many cases, he continued, people smugglers coerced individuals for profit yet impunity prevailed, with hardly any convictions for trafficking-related crimes, either in conflict situations or elsewhere. Emphasizing that much more could be done to prevent or punish the crime, he said that, since trafficking did not respect borders, Member States must strengthen cooperation on law enforcement, investigations and intelligence-sharing. Meanwhile, underlying vulnerabilities must be addressed by empowering girls through education, ensuring respect for the rights of minorities and establishing safe and legal migration channels.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development could help to break the chains of exploitation, he said, noting that three of the Agenda’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals explicitly addressed human trafficking. The United Nations would remain committed to supporting victims and incorporating their views and voices when developing and implementing anti-trafficking interventions, the Secretary-General stressed. “At a time of divisions in so many areas, this should be an issue that can unite us.”

Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), delivered a briefing by video link from Vienna, explaining that criminals saw a clear, low-risk, high-reward business opportunity as conflict displaced countless people and the rule of law broke down. They used human trafficking to exploit instability and vulnerability, thriving where the rule of law was weak. Armed groups preyed on children while organized crime networks exploited many thousands of people on the move. There was a clear need to make the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol against Trafficking in Persons more effective, he emphasized.

Member States must devote greater resources to identifying and helping victims, he continued. The international community must continue to build the capacities to improve criminal-justice actions such as detecting, investigating and successfully prosecuting human trafficking cases. UNODC, for its part remained engaged in helping Member States improve responses, helping to identify and protect victims, as well as in building capacities to disrupt organized crime and terrorist groups, he said. “The best way we can swiftly improve action against trafficking and protect the vulnerable is to fully implement and make use of the frameworks we have worked so hard to build and more effectively deploy the tools we have painstakingly crafted to confront human trafficking in all its forms.”

Ilwad Elman of the Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre in Mogadishu spoke by video link from Somalia, describing the scale of human trafficking in her country as overwhelming. She said she had helped those living in squalor during the 2011 famine, particularly those in refugee camps, and shared stories about people who had travelled for days just to reach safety. Yet, upon reaching the camp for the internally displaced in Mogadishu, they had found rampant sexual exploitation, she said. Forced marriage was another major issue in the camps, she said, recounting the story of a young woman forced to marry a man who had then charged other men to have sex with her. She urged the Council to denounce human trafficking in conflict situations and to counter narratives intended to normalize it, while underlining the need to strengthen civil society organizations working to combat the crime.

In the ensuing discussion, Member States emphasized the need to stamp out criminal networks and terrorist groups involved in human trafficking, whether it was Boko Haram, Al-Qaida in the Maghreb or Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh).

Ethiopia’s Minister for Women and Children’s Affairs said kidnapping was a typical means of extortion, and that criminal and terrorist groups were adept at using mobile money-transfer systems to collect ransom. There must be enhanced cooperation among origin, transit and destination countries, she emphasized.

Luxembourg’s Minister for Equal Opportunities said her country was working with its regional partners to disrupt and dismantle the economic model of traffickers in the Mediterranean area. Stronger cooperation with neighbouring countries had brought together actors on the ground, including non-governmental organizations.

Spain’s Minister for Health, Social Services and Equality described human trafficking as the commercialization of bodies and the reincarnation of slavery. Victims must be placed at the centre of efforts to find a solution, she said, adding that the next five years would provide a historic opportunity to place the fight against modern slavery at the heart of United Nations efforts to that end.

With delegates noting that women and girls were disproportionately vulnerable to human trafficking and sexual exploitation, Senegal’s representative said gender violence was simply compounded in conflict situations, and the resurgence of human trafficking had led to the enslavement and sexual exploitation of millions of women and girls.

Bolivia’s representative said that oppression, capitalism and conflict had taken away the rights of many and left them extremely vulnerable to organized crime. Some countries had not only promoted human trafficking through their policies, they now also promoted xenophobia and racism as they closed borders and built walls. Universal citizenship would allow all people to move freely and thereby dismantle human trafficking networks, he said.

Meanwhile, several speakers questioned whether trafficking matters fell under the Council’s purview, with the Deputy Foreign Minister of Belarus underlining that the General Assembly would be the most appropriate forum for developing and coordinating efforts to combat the smuggling of people. The Russian Federation’s representative, while recognizing the heinous nature of human trafficking, urged the Council to consider the topic as it reviewed conflict situations and questions of international peace and security.

Thailand’s representative emphasized that United Nations peacekeeping and all other personnel deployed in conflict and post-conflict areas must be properly trained to identify victims as well as those vulnerable to trafficking.

Also participating today were speakers representing the United Kingdom, France, Sweden, United States, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, China, Japan, Italy, Egypt, Uruguay, United Kingdom, Argentina, Australia (on behalf of Canada and New Zealand), Indonesia, Romania, Czech Republic, Turkey, Norway, Colombia, Portugal, Brazil, Liechtenstein, Iran, Estonia, Hungary, Pakistan, Germany, Austria, Peru, Bangladesh, Poland, Belgium, Cambodia, South Africa, Albania, Namibia, Bulgaria, Georgia, Morocco, Venezuela, Slovakia, Panama, Iraq, Syria, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Ireland, Republic of Korea, Djibouti, Philippines, Greece, Myanmar, Israel, Malaysia, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Azerbaijan, Uganda, Netherlands, Holy See, African Union, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Union.

Also speaking was participants representing the United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) and the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 5:10 p.m.
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