In Strong Partnership and Better Coordination of Efforts to Stop Human Trafficking: Eradicating Modern-Day Slavery Through Sustainable Development | High Level Event organized by the Group of Friends United Against Human Trafficking, & UNODC

Published Date: 
Tuesday, February 9, 2016
Permanent Observer Mr Ashraf El Nour



Full webcast available here


Thank you, Madam Moderator. It is my pleasure to contribute a few remarks on behalf of IOM. Human trafficking is indeed our equivalent of modern day slavery. It is a gross violation of the human rights and dignity of victims. It is a crime that subjects many, women and children in particular, to various forms of humiliation and exploitation. And it is the world’s most profitable criminal business – after illicit arms and drugs – generating billions of dollars annually.

Yet we don’t seem to know much about it because of its clandestine and secretive nature, which does not allow us to assess the full scale of the problem and its impact on the victims. The Palermo Protocol is the main instrument to suppress, prevent and banish trafficking in persons, under the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. Since it came into force more than a decade ago, more than 90 per cent of the countries have domesticated national legislations. There is also a UN Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, which is due for second appraisal in 2017. Despite all these concerted efforts, we still have a long way to go to combat and eradicate human trafficking.

From the migration perspective, I would like to speak briefly about some forms of human trafficking that involve people mobility. The first one is trafficking in situations of crisis, and IOM recent research shows that the humanitarian crises attributed to manmade or natural disasters have a direct impact on trafficking in persons. They exacerbate vulnerabilities and they push many people into the hands of traffickers. But smugglers will also take advantage of the breakdown of law and order in emergency situations to run their business. What needs to be done here is to prioritize counter human trafficking activities as life-saving measures that come upfront in the humanitarian response, and not later on.

The other situation is of large-scale movements of refugees and migrants, which have been defined as by IOM as complex population movements that involve asylum seekers, refugees, migrants and many others who are in irregular situations. They travel without proper documentation, they comprise large groups of migrants with different categories and degrees and vulnerabilities, and again in such situations it is important to prioritize counter-human trafficking – especially for children who are on the move, as we heard earlier, but also women and girls.

The other situation that requires attention is human trafficking for forced labour. This is the one that receives less attention and recognition, despite the fact that recent statistics from the ILO suggest more than 21 million people globally are trafficked for forced labour – which means that one in every three of them is actually a child also. It is important that states take leadership and responsibility, but that businesses stand up to their social responsibility and try to change that situation.

The other form of human trafficking – which is least mentioned – is human trafficking at sea, which involves the seafarers and the fishing industry. This is the kind of human trafficking that is often very hard to reach because of the mobility of the victims involved in it, and because it’s also different from one region to another. And despite that, we should note that this is the form of trafficking that puts people at high levels of physical danger and risks of exploitation. It does not lend itself to easy solutions, but it needs to be brought into the limelight and it needs to be worked out and sorted, also in collaboration with the shipping industries and the states involved.

Having said that, the 2030 development agenda certainly provides us with an excellent opportunity to provide a more effective fight against human trafficking. It gives a new moral imperative to combat human trafficking as a real crime against humanity – these are the words of Bob Francis. It does so because:

The SDGs are comprehensive. With 17 goals and 169 targets, they allow for a more well-rounded strategy to be developed and to tackle the problem at all angles – economically, socially and legally.

They are also specific, and Target 8.7 talks about eradicating all forms of human trafficking for labour and child labour trafficking. Target 5.2 talks about putting an end to violence against women and girls, and Target 16.2 talks about ending abuse, exploitation and torture of children. So as such, they are specific and they would allow for concrete measures to be taken.

More so about the SDGs, they are also cross-cutting in nature, and as such they allow for in-roads to provide a more comprehensive response involving other targets – like Target 1, which talks about eradication of poverty; Target 5, about women’s empowerment and gender equality; Target 8, which talks about employment and decent work; Target 10, which speaks about reducing inequality; and Target 16, which is about access to justice.

So put together they provide better opportunity for not only enabling environments, but providing more robust partnerships against human trafficking.

IOM has been on the frontline. Through our field presence in more than 440 locations, and some of the experiences that we have gained working not only in the fight against human trafficking but also assisting victims, such would allow us to make three more suggestions:

  1. Improve the fight against human trafficking and prevention at all levels through better advocacy, better prevention; but also better execution and partnership.
  2. Secondly, there is a need to have better insight into the human trafficking situations, to try to draw from lessons and best practices. Here we commend the initiative by the ICAT interagency group against human trafficking to commission an evaluation that takes stock of these different situations, and presents some ideas that we hope will also go into the UN Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons’ appraisal that will take place in 2017.
  3. The third one is on the measures related to the SDGs – and the fact that, now, we are working together to create the indicators that will work for the SDGs and recognize that when it comes to human trafficking data, it is rare, there is a need for quality data, there is a need for a constant flow of reviews to the situation. And we can take advantage of the SDGs to do exactly that.

Let me end by again emphasising the importance of partnership. The SDGs provide an excellent opportunity for all of us to do more – we should take advantage of that. It shouldn’t be business as usual. It should be really innovative and come with new ideas, making use of the next review in 2017 but also of the evaluations that ICAT and others are doing. And we stand ready as IOM to work with all of you towards that.

Thank you very much.