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Top UN officials call on countries to boost cooperation against human trafficking

(Xinhua)

13:22, April 04, 2012

UNITED NATIONS, April 3 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the president of the UN General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, on Tuesday urged member states to increase their collaborative efforts to prevent human trafficking and protect its victims.

"Where traffickers use threats and weapons, we must respond with laws and prosecutions," the secretary-general said during an interactive dialogue meeting at the UN General Assembly, entitled "Fighting Human Trafficking: Partnership and Innovation to End Violence Against Women."

At any given time across the globe, some 2.4 million people are victims of human trafficking, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which adds that the crime generates 32 billion U.S. dollars annually, rivaling the profits reaped by the illicit trade in arms and drugs.

Every year, thousands of people fall into the hands of traffickers, in their own countries and abroad, with women comprise two thirds of trafficking victims.

The interactive dialogue was organized by the president of the General Assembly in conjunction with UNODC and the Group of Friends Against Human Trafficking in order to discuss how countries can coordinate policies to strengthen their measures to combat this issue.

Human trafficking is the illegal trade of human beings for the purposes of reproductive slavery, commercial sexual exploitation, forced labor, or a modern-day form of slavery.

In his remarks, the secretary-general emphasized that countries need to tackle the broad factors that lead to human trafficking, such as extreme poverty, which forces families to sell their children to traffickers.

He also noted that migration is also closely linked to this issue, requiring States to take action on relevant policies.

"Women are lured out of their homes and countries with false promises. They are stripped of their passports, their dignity and their personal security," Ban said. "To protect people from such exploitation, countries have to coordinate their labour and migration policies."

Ban called on countries to adhere to the treaties that aim to stop human trafficking, in particular the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children; and stressed that resources would be needed to tackle the problem.

The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, also known as the Trafficking Protocol, was adopted by the United Nations in Palermo, Italy, in 2000, and it is an international legal agreement attached to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

The Protocol is the first global, legally binding instrument on trafficking in more than half a century and the only one that sets out an agreed definition of trafficking in persons. The purpose of the Protocol is to facilitate convergence in national cooperation in investigating and prosecuting trafficking in persons.

"I welcome this dialogue's focus on closing the gap between commitments and actions. Far too many women and girls fall through the cracks and land in the unscrupulous arms of traffickers," Ban said. "But I have to be clear. It will take resources to build a bridge from words to deeds."

He encouraged all those in attendance to contribute to the UN Trust Fund on Human Trafficking, which provides humanitarian, legal and financial aid to victims of trafficking through a range of avenues, including governmental, inter-governmental and civil society organizations.

Echoing Ban's remarks, the president of the General Assembly, Al-Nasser, said the money received by the Fund so far was not enough.

"The Fund needs strong and continued support of Member States, and civil society, especially the private sector and the media, if it is to succeed as an engine for the delivery of assistance to victims," Al-Nasser said in his remarks to the meeting.

He noted that human trafficking represents an appalling form of human rights abuse, and underlined the importance of protecting those vulnerable to it: women, children and migrants.

"Human trafficking is also one of the fastest growing criminal industries, rivaling the trafficking of illicit drugs and arms," the president said, calling on individuals to back global strategic efforts that tackle this issue from all its aspects, including prevention, prosecution and victim assistance."

"Whether an individual, an organization, a State, I urge everyone to speak out against this terrible crime that does unspeakable damage," he said.

Referring to the UN Trust Fund on Human Trafficking, UNODC's executive director, Yury Fedotov, reported that since it was created, around 1 million U.S. dollars have been pledged, with around 470,000 dollars contributed.

He added that funds received so far have supported the provision of educational, medical and psycho social assistance to child victims of trafficking in Cambodia; assisted victims in Albania through a reintegration program, and supported a Nepalese NGO almost entirely staffed by the survivors of human trafficking.

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