UNGA Adopts Political Declaration Combating Trafficking in Persons
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
story highlights

The UN General Assembly adopted the 'Political Declaration on the Implementation of the UN Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons'.

The UNGA President called for contributions to the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Human Trafficking, as tool to assist victims in recovering, reclaiming dignity and minimizing the risk of revictimization.

The EU, Macedonia and Turkey said combating trafficking in human beings should be set in the context of the two global compacts regarding migrants and refugees.

28 September 2017: The UN General Assembly (UNGA) adopted the ‘Political Declaration on the Implementation of the UN Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons’ during a two‑day high‑level meeting on human trafficking. By the Declaration, Member States reaffirmed their commitment to the Global Plan of Action and to the related 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, while agreeing to address the root causes of trafficking such as poverty, unemployment, inequality, conflict, humanitarian emergencies and gender discrimination.

The high-level NGA meeting on the appraisal of the UN Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons was held from 27-28 September 2017, in New York, US.

Opening the meeting, Miroslav Lajčák, UNGA President, underlined that mitigation efforts require a victim‑ and survivor‑centered approach, and a multi‑stakeholder perspective. Noting that the UN has a duty to be a voice for victims, he called for contributions to the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Human Trafficking, as a tool to assist victims in recovering, reclaiming dignity and minimizing the risk of revictimization.

António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, noted that the phenomenon is often intertwined with racial, gender and other forms of discrimination. He cautioned that the trafficking groups are highly proficient at exploiting gaps in governance and weak institutions. Noting that refugees and migrants are especially vulnerable, he added that the international community must create legal and safe migration channels, while upholding the rights of refugees to asylum.

Fedotov called for common efforts to achieve the anti‑trafficking targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Yuri Fedotov, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), observed that “much had been done to reverse the phenomenon” since the adoption of the Plan of Action in 2010, with 171 Member States having adhered to the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, and consequently aligning their national policies to its provisions. However, he stressed, there are still enforcement gaps that require, inter alia, more action in prosecuting trafficking lords. Fedotov called for common efforts to achieve the anti‑trafficking targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Mira Sorvino, UNODC Goodwill Ambassador for the global fight against human trafficking, said conflict, climate change and the resulting migration patterns are creating displacement on a massive scale, which acts as a “direct pipeline” to victimhood. Once a victim herself, Grizelda Grootboom, civil society representative, stressed that women and girls made up 96% of trafficking victims and that sex slavery is just “another form of oppression, especially for the black child.” She added that it would be important for victims and survivors to see the commitment of the UN to help them.

Purna Sen, UN Women, said Member States should ensure specific responses to the gender dimensions of trafficking, including: tailored health‑care services for victims; efforts to address stigmatization; economic empowerment programmes; ensuring the availability of female police officers; building trust with high‑risk groups; and establishing support centers.

Kevin Cassidy, International Labour Organization (ILO), announced that ILO Alliance 8.7, in cooperation with the UK and the UN, created a knowledge platform that will be hosted by the UN University (UNU). He invited everyone to share data sets and draw from that platform when it becomes operational.

Joy Ezeilo, Executive Director of Women Aid Collective, highlighted that economic resources do not match the political will to eradicate trafficking, adding that “a multi-billion-dollar trafficking business cannot be combated with a few US$ million.” She lamented that the bulk of assistance for victims is borne by NGOs, civil society and faith-based groups, which receive little support and face fundraising constraints. Also on finance, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Chair of the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons, called for all Member States to contribute to the Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Human Trafficking. Finally, Andrew Gilmour, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Head of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), called for implementing non‑discriminatory assistance mechanisms for victims and for consolidating the Trust Fund and the Trust Fund for Contemporary Forms of Slavery as a means to provide life‑saving support.

In the two-day discussion, Member States addressed, inter alia: multidisciplinary approaches focused on prevention, protection and promotion of victims’ rights, and prosecution of the perpetrators and co-perpetrators; the importance of partnerships and cooperation in curbing trafficking, particularly with source, transit and destination countries; imposing a minimum threshold to identify trafficking cases; multistakeholder mechanisms such as intersectional committees comprising representatives from civil society, faith-based organizations, traditional leaders and others, working directly with communities; and using social media channels to raise awareness.

Other issues approached by participants in the discussions included: the decentralization of anti-trafficking programs at the local level for increased effectiveness; the need for universal ratification and implementation of all international legally binding instruments addressing trafficking; partnerships with the private sector; addressing trafficking in the context of migration and the refugee crisis; the implementation of the 2030 Agenda as means to address the root causes of trafficking; ways to address legislative and administrative gaps; and placing children at the center of anti‑trafficking efforts.

Member States also welcomed the Political Declaration as a “meaningful supplement” to the Global Plan of Action. The EU, Macedonia and Turkey said combating trafficking in human beings should be set in the context of the two global compacts regarding migrants and refugees. [UN Press Release] [Secretary-General Remarks] [Meeting Website] [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources]


related events