1 September 2005

High Commissioner for Human Rights Urges Closer Partnerships to Combat Human Trafficking

(Reissued as received.)

BEIJING/GENEVA, 30 August (UN Information Service) -- United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour today opened an Asia-Pacific regional human rights conference with a call for ever closer partnerships to combat human trafficking.

Addressing the thirteenth annual workshop on Regional Cooperation for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in the Asia-Pacific Region, which this year is focusing on human trafficking, the High Commissioner said that although the human rights dimensions of the problem are evident, it continues to be addressed primarily as a "law and order" issue.

"All too often, those who are trafficked are criminalized, for example as illegal migrants or prostitutes, when they should be receiving assistance as victims", she said.

Ms. Arbour welcomed the mechanisms and initiatives in place to address human trafficking in the Asia-Pacific region, making that part of the world a leader in the fight to stem this gross form of human rights abuse.  "But this is a struggle that will only be overcome through ever closer partnerships at the international, regional, and subregional levels", she added.

The High Commissioner highlighted the role regional mechanisms could play in tackling cross-border problems like trafficking.  Their importance lies in the fact that they seek to "flesh out a common approach to a complex problem, one that seeks to assist States, from a position of shared regional values, to address shortcomings in their national frameworks to allow individuals both the means to obtain their rights in full, and seek effective redress when those rights are denied".

The Workshop is being hosted by China, and it was jointly opened this morning by Tang Jiaxuan, State Councillor of China. Some 150 delegates from member States, national human rights institutions, subregional organizations, non-governmental organizations and United Nations agencies are taking part in the Workshop.

Participants will hold in-depth discussions on the future of the Asia-Pacific Framework and review progress achieved in the four areas identified within a framework for technical cooperation in human rights in the region, namely national human rights institutions; national human rights action plans; human rights education, and the realization of the right to development and of economic, social and cultural rights.

For more information, please contact Jose Diaz, Spokesperson, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, e-mail:, tel.:  +41 79 217 3009.

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