When the General Assembly designated July 30th of each year, beginning in 2014, as World Day against Trafficking in Persons, it put the spotlight on one of the most heinous crimes. The General Assembly gave as rationale for this new international day “the need for raising awareness of the situation of victims of human trafficking and for the promotion and protection of their rights.” (General Assembly Resolution A/RES/68/192). Why? Because trafficking in persons today is a global phenomenon. According to the 2014 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, in the years between 2010 and 2012, victims from at least 152 countries were identified in 124 countries worldwide, with trafficking flows criss-crossing the globe.
But what constitutes ‘trafficking in persons’ and what are some of its causes?
The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, commonly referred to as the “Palermo Protocol,” states in Article 3(a) that
“Trafficking in persons” shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs;
As for some of the causes of trafficking, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated in his message for the first observance of this day in 2014:
Enforcement, cross-border cooperation and information-sharing can all be effective, but ending human trafficking also means tackling the root causes. Extreme poverty, entrenched inequality and a lack of education and opportunity create the vulnerabilities that traffickers exploit. Ultimately, the best protection is to accelerate development for all.
In many countries our members and partners in mission are already engaged in working against trafficking, be it by prayer, in direct service, consciousness raising or policy making. The following two resources are meant to deepen our engagement and come in addition to the more general UN website for the World Day against Trafficking in Persons.
Global Report on Trafficking in Persons – this report is published every two years (beginning in 2012) by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and collects information about trafficking in persons. The report includes an Executive Summary, which is available in multiple languages on the website, as well as country profiles.
Blue Heart Campaign against Human Trafficking – the objective of this international campaign is to raise awareness about human trafficking and its impact on society, as well as to inspire action to help stop the crime of human trafficking. Individual countries can join the campaign which Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Spain have already done.
Lastly, the message of Pope Francis on January 1, 2015, for the celebration of the Church's World Day of Peace, is entitled No Longer Slaves, but Brothers and Sisters.
Cecile Meijer, rscj