17 November 2003

UN to Hold Meeting of Experts and Key Officials to  Discuss Issue of Trafficking in Persons

Strengthening Regional Cooperation and Developing Agreements to Enhance International Judicial and Police Cooperation Among Key Issues for Discussion

VIENNA, 17 November (UN Information Service) -- Experts from Latin America and the Caribbean will discuss strategies against trafficking in persons and transnational organized crime and how to strengthen regional collaboration, in a three-day conference on "Trafficking in Persons: Theory and Practice in Regional and International Cooperation". The conference will be held from 19-21 November 2003 in Bogotá, Colombia, and is being organised by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Country Offices for Colombia and Ecuador.

Trafficking in persons in Colombia and in Latin America is on the rise.  Indicators show that other forms of transnational organized crime such as drugs and arms trafficking as well as money laundering are related to and increase this type of crime. However, the modalities and purposes of human trafficking differ within the region. Colombia is mostly affected by sexual exploitation and Bolivia, by forced labour.

Key senior government officials from the Andean countries as well as Panama, Brazil, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Sweden and the Czech Republic will attend the conference.  They will be joined by UNODC experts from Latin America, Africa and Asia, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), as well as by Colombian national governmental agencies, research institutes and academics.

The conference will discuss how to develop agreements to enhance international judicial and police cooperation. Participants will consider how to make use of best practices, identified in the UNODC ECOWAS (Economic Community for West African States) initiative, the Czech Republic and the Thailand Mekong Sub-Region projects. Experts from the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law (Germany) and Damasio de Jesus (Brazil) will present other tools and strategies to combat trafficking in persons and transnational organized crime in the region.

The conference will also promote the ratification and implementation of the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, which entered into force on 29 September 2003, and its additional protocols, the "Protocol against Trafficking in Persons" and the "Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants", which will enter into force on 25 December 2003 and 28 January 2004 respectively.

The conference is the first major event organised within the framework of the project "Combating Trafficking in Persons in Colombia" signed between UNODC and the Ministry of Interior and Justice of Colombia on 1 October 2003. This project aims at strengthening regional cooperation and establishing an overview of the trafficking situation and its transnational trends, besides developing an integrated National Strategy against trafficking in persons, including a Victims Statute.

This project is strongly supported by the Government of Sweden, which is a key donor, and is being carried out within the framework of the UNODC Global Programme against Trafficking in Human Beings.

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