Press Releases

    12 February 2008

    First Global Forum on Human Trafficking to Launch United Campaign to Fight the Crime

    Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Antonio Maria Costa says:
    "The blood, sweat and tears of trafficking victims are on the hands of consumers all over the world"

    VIENNA, 12 February (UN Information Service) - The first-ever global Forum to fight human trafficking will take place in Vienna from 13-15 February 2008. Bringing together 1,200 experts, legislators, law enforcement teams, business leaders, NGO representatives and trafficking victims from 116 countries, the Forum will provide the platform for a new campaign of co-ordinated action to tackle the crime.

    In a rallying call to raise international awareness on the eve of the Forum, Executive Director,  United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Antonio Maria Costa, said that the crime is so widespread within the global economic system that we have all become complicit in it: "The blood, sweat and tears of trafficking victims are on the hands of consumers all over the world. This is a crime that shames us all."

    Thus far, lack of information and a disjointed response have enabled human trafficking to flourish in our midst. Mr. Costa described the problem as "a monster whose shape, size and ferocity we can only guess." It takes many forms, always in collusion with other unlawful activities like illegal migration, forced labour, paedophilia, child exploitation, civil conflicts and organized prostitution. "It's time for the world to open its eyes to this form of modern slavery", said Mr. Costa.

    Forum participants will discuss practical measures to increase the effectiveness of preventing human trafficking and bringing the perpetrators to justice. "Moral outrage is not going to stop the traffickers", warned Mr. Costa. "We need high impact law enforcement measures to make human trafficking a riskier business."

    Among the measures to be discussed are: tracking and blocking Internet payments for human trafficking transactions; innovative technology to pinpoint frequently used trafficking routes; help-lines to report suspected child prostitution or sex slavery; codes of conduct to curb sex tourism; improved controls on supply chain management; and, ways to stop the forced removal and trade of human organs. 

    "If law enforcement, the private sector, NGOs, the media, and the general public work together, we can fight back", said Mr. Costa. "Massive campaigns have been waged against the trade in blood diamonds, fur, and illegal timber. Efforts to stop the trade in people lag behind."

    The Vienna Forum to Fight Human Trafficking will focus on the three key elements of human trafficking - its root causes, its social and economic impact, and the actions needed to eradicate it:

    Root causes: the Forum will analyse the "push and pull" factors which make people vulnerable to human trafficking, like poverty, gender-based violence, ethnic, racial and religious marginalization, conflict situations, and discrimination.

    Impact: the Forum will explore the impact of human trafficking on the lives of individuals and their communities including the violence to which they are often subjected, threats to health such as HIV/AIDS, psychological and emotional trauma and social stigmatization.

    Actions to eradicate human trafficking: the Forum will push for the universal ratification of the UN anti-trafficking Protocol that entered into force in December 2005. This will include working to make sure that the necessary laws are in place, that law enforcement officials are aware of their responsibilities to prosecute traffickers, and that the punishment fits the crime.  

    The Vienna Forum is being convened by the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT) which was established in recognition of the fact that human trafficking takes many forms and that a coordinated and united approach is required. UN.GIFT was launched in March 2007 by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) together with the International Labour Organization (ILO); the International Organization for Migration (IOM); the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF); the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

    Celebrities and public figures from across the world - including Suzanne Mubarak, the First Lady of Egypt; Emma Thompson, the Oscar-winning British actress; and Ricky Martin, Grammy Award-winning Puerto Rican pop star - will be participating in the Forum.

    Artists against trafficking

    A unique art installation that maps the journey of a victim of human trafficking will be unveiled in Vienna at the start of the Forum. " The Journey", which is being championed by Emma Thompson, will use seven transport containers to illustrate the brutal and harrowing experiences of women sold into the sex trade. A Film Forum on human trafficking, open to the public, will feature 58 films and documentaries on the theme "Let us not close our eyes".

    A crime that shames us all

    The true extent of human trafficking remains unknown, but the evidence shows that there are millions of victims across every region of the world, in an industry generating tens of billions of dollars each year. Human trafficking takes many different forms: boys or girls coerced into illicit adoption, begging, sexual exploitation or being child soldiers; women and girls trafficked for exploitation - forced into domestic labour, marriage or the sex trade; men, trapped by debt, coerced into working in mines, plantations, or sweatshops.  

    In many countries, either the necessary laws to tackle human trafficking are not in place, or they are not properly enforced. There is widespread ignorance of the crime, lack of policy and capacity to respond, and limited international cooperation.

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    Information Officers

    United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
    Walter Kemp 
     Tel.: (+43-1) 260 605629

    International Labour Organization
    Houtan Homayounpour
     Tel.: (+41) 79 593 1558

    International Organization for Migration
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    Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
    Yvon Edoumou
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    Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe
    Blanca Tapia
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    United Nations Children's Fund
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