Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Testimony :: Piero Bonadeo
Deputy Representative - United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime


On behalf of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, my sincere thanks to the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe for inviting me to speak. The cooperative spirit of the Commission as well as the one of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has often supported the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking.

Human trafficking is a truly global phenomenon and a crime which affects nearly every part of the world, whether as a source, transit or destination country. According to the UNODC, victims from at least 127 countries have been identified, and it is estimated that more than 2.4 million people are being exploited by criminals at any given time.

More than a decade after the adoption of the Protocol to Prevent Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime the largest majority of countries have criminalized most forms of human trafficking in their legislation. Nevertheless, the use of such laws to prosecute and convict traffickers remains limited. In the 2009 Global Report on Trafficking in persons, for instance, two out of every five countries covered in the report had never recorded a single conviction for trafficking offences.

The demand of trafficking victims, especially those related to sexual exploitation, remains high, particularly in Europe. According to the UNODC Organized Crime Threat Assessment, the majority of the victims detected in Europe come from the Balkans and the former Soviet Union, including countries such as Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, the Russian Federation, and the Republic of Moldova.

With regard to victims originated in South America, mostly from Brazil, they are being sent to destinations such as Spain, Italy, Portugal, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. African victims are sourced mainly in West Africa, although North African victims seem to be increasing. Finally, Asian victims are mainly originated in Thailand. Most recently, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Cambodian victims are increasing.

Traffickers remain using deception and coercion as their main instruments to recruit victims. As a recent trend,, women seem not to be only involved in recruiting other women, but also playing the role of guardians in the countries of destination of victims. Another trend is that in the case of Europe, the perpetrators are frequently not nationals of the country where they operate, but often nationals of the same country as their victims.

The International Labour Organization estimated that the minimum number of victims trafficked for all purposes in Europe and North America was 279,000 in 2005. Considering this, UNODC estimated that the number of trafficking victims in Europe would be around 140,000 if about one victim in 20 were detected. Following this figure and assuming that these victims could produce an estimate of 50 million sexual services, at EUR 50 per client, the market would be worth approximately US$3 billion.

Distinguished Commissioners, cooperation is fundamental to combat the exploitation of women, children and men by human traffickers. Let us start with the outcome of our own efforts to gather information from Member States: trafficking in persons for forced labour is the second most reported form of exploitation. But, we share with all of you a concern that this form of trafficking is less frequently detected and reported than trafficking in persons for sexual exploitation. Labour trafficking, just until recently, was started to be taken into consideration by the world community. Prosecution and criminalization for this particular type of trafficking also needs to be set in practice.

We must also challenge the lack of visibility of trafficking in persons for forced labour. Too often, forced labour is hidden from public view. This may happen because the instances in which labour trafficking occurs, may not bring a direct physical or psychological damage to the person. A victim of labour trafficking can be someone who is made to work long shifts, being paid less than what was promised in their contracts, or with less or no benefits than the ones migrant workers are usually entitled to. Victims are often convinced by their foreign employers that those are the conditions they are legally entitled to, being deceived by them. Therefore, they do not often report this situation, unless their working conditions become unbearable.

UNODC is helping to shine a powerful light on this crime. Working with others in particular the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), we are developing clear strategies to meet government and civil society concerns.

We should also not forget how human trafficking is related to instability. When social and political upheaval exists, as in North Africa at present, our work is even more important in such turbulent and disordered regions.

If we are to address human trafficking in these conditions, development and security are fundamental. For this reason, we should join forces and integrate our efforts into the wider agenda of multilateralism on development and stability. In this context UNODC is working with the policy committee to mainstream transnational organized crime into the wider agenda of the UN.

Trafficking in human beings is one of the most lucrative forms of organized crime, estimated to generate 32 billion US dollars in gross proceeds each year. Criminal assets arising from this grave violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms may be invested in legitimate and criminal activities, challenging economic security, fueling corruption and undermining the rule of law.

OSCE and UNODC have joint their forces for leveraging efforts to fight human trafficking through clamping down on money laundering. In the framework of the Alliance against Trafficking in Persons OSCE, participating States and Partners for Cooperation are harmonizing their actions and using the same decision-making aids. UNODC wholeheartedly endorses this approach and is proud to have joined the Alliance.

An added issue behind the legal aspects of human trafficking is a lack of knowledge and understanding at the global level. In those cases in which prosecutions have been undertaken, very little is currently known about them internationally. This often leaves open questions as to how practitioners use the respective laws and what, if any, the characteristics of successful prosecutions are.

In a bid to answer these questions, UNODC has developed a database of Human Trafficking case law to provide immediate, public access to officially documented instances of this crime. The database contains details on the nationalities of victims and perpetrators, trafficking routes, verdicts and other information related to prosecuted cases around the world. As such, it provides not only statistics on the number of prosecutions and convictions, but also the real-life stories of trafficked persons as documented by the courts.

The database is aimed at assisting judges, prosecutors, policymakers, media researchers and other interested parties by making available details of real cases with examples of how the respective national laws in place can be used to prosecute human trafficking.

At the time of the launch of the database, more than 150 selected cases from over 30 countries and two regional courts had been uploaded, with an additional 100 cases from over a dozen states to be added in the coming months.

A little over a year ago the General Assembly passed by consensus the UN Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons. Promoted universal ratification of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, as well as other relevant international instruments that address trafficking in persons, and reinforced the implementation of existing instruments against trafficking in persons and building on the relevant sub regional, regional and cross-regional mechanisms and initiatives.

In particular, Article 32 of the plan calls upon member states to Provide assistance and services for the physical, psychological and social recovery and rehabilitation of trafficked persons.

An important operationalization of the Global plan of action, and another mechanism promoting the right to an effective remedy for victims of trafficking is the “UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children” launched last November pursuant to Article 38 of the global plan of action. The fund managed by UNODC, provides humanitarian, legal and financial aid to victims of trafficking in persons through established channels of assistance, such as governments, Non Governmental Organizations and International Organizations.

The Fund operates with the advice of a five member board of trustees appointed by the Secretary General. Last week, the Fund released its first trances of funding for frontline organizations working with trafficking survivors, with close to $300,000 being disbursed under a Small Grants Facility to organizations that are at the forefront of providing services to victims.

The 12 selected projects for the first year of the Small Grants Facility cover all major regions of the world. Funded projects are set to be rolled out in Albania, Cambodia, Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, France, India, Israel, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Moldova and the US.

With projects running from ten months up to three years, the funding assists in several areas, with the ultimate aim of empowering trafficking victims to regain their lives. These services include legal support to allow victims to seek justice against those who enslaved them; facilities to register their identities and to return home; and much needed counselling, training and support to ensure they are in a position to rebuild their lives. To date about 1 million dollars has been pledged to this trust fund.

The realization of the right to an effective remedy hinges upon a variety of interrelated factors. Accurate identification of trafficked persons is a pre-requisite for trafficked persons to be able to exercise the right to an effective remedy. More prosecution is needed not only to remove offenders from further criminality, but to also allow for the confiscation of assets so that such resources can be used to compensate trafficked persons. UNODC’s assistance to Member states in training law enforcers in identifying, tracing, freezing and confiscating assets, as well as drafting legislation to allow such assets to be used for compensation, is therefore also key to an effective right to a remedy.

And pursuant to article 60 of the Global Plan of Action, in late 2012 UNODC will issue its first biennial report on patterns and flows of trafficking in persons at the national, regional and international levels in comprehensive manner, sharing best practices and lessons learned from various initiatives and mechanisms. This strengthening of information collection and reporting is also part of a comprehensive and holistic response aimed at the right to an effective remedy.

Distinguished Commissioners, Sixty three years ago, the General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In doing so they proclaimed that all humans are born free, that no one shall be held in slavery or servitude, and that slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Yet today, millions of people, the majority of them children and women, are victims of human modern day slavery. As we go about our work to end this scourge, may we be guided by the wisdom of the survivors as to what type of redress is most meaningful, and to be able to find creative ways to make this happen. We have come very far in the past 10 years; thanks to the support of MS and civil society we have an important protocol, and a promising global plan, as well as increased awareness. However, the traffickers are a clever and adaptable bunch - - in the end it is a battle of wills: theirs or ours. Until we seriously address the root causes of trafficking such as poverty, underdevelopment and lack of equal opportunity, traffickers will always have the upper hand.

Thank you.