UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed has called for renewed global action against human trafficking.
"Renewed and reinvigorated global action against this crime (of human trafficking) is needed more than ever, as economic hardship, conflict, and health and climate emergencies are increasing and compounding vulnerabilities to trafficking, exploitation and abuse," she told a high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the appraisal of the UN Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons on Monday.
Global crises, including the continuing Covid-19 pandemic, have set back progress on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including important targets on preventing and combatting all forms of trafficking in persons. This is increasing the suffering of victims, Xinhua news agency quoted her as saying.
Trafficking survivors in many countries have encountered greater difficulties in accessing shelter, food, health care, legal aid and other essential services. At the same time, law enforcement authorities face additional challenges in detecting human trafficking, in view of pandemic-related restrictions on travel and movement, she noted.
"Human trafficking, a crime that is often hidden in plain sight, has retreated further into the shadows of our global economy and the dark corners of the Internet. Information and communication technologies, which have also become increasingly important in the pandemic, are being misused by traffickers to facilitate recruitment, control and exploitation of victims," said Mohammed.
Women and girls are disproportionately targeted by traffickers and forced into marriage and domestic servitude and forced labour. More and more children are being targeted by traffickers using social media to recruit new victims and profiting from the demand for child sexual exploitation materials. Refugees and migrants are especially vulnerable to traffickers, she said.
Trafficking in global supply chains continues to be under-detected and unpunished due to a lack of appropriate frameworks and reporting mechanisms to tackle this complex issue, she added.
"To end this suffering and injustice, we need to support all countries to build strong legal institutions and frameworks to respond to this crime. Survivors should be at the center of policies to prevent and counter human trafficking, to bring perpetrators to justice and provide effective access to remedies, including compensation," she said.
There are strong tools for international cooperation in preventing and ending human trafficking. However, practical responses to human trafficking continue to vary widely. There is a need for increased technical assistance and support to strengthen common action. Better responses require improved cooperation among member states, on information-sharing, joint criminal justice operations and more. And more needs to be done to protect vulnerable migrants from falling prey to trafficking, she said.
"We need to strengthen coordination between UN entities and others to detect and respond to this crime in emergency situations and humanitarian crises. We also need to strengthen private sector engagement, so that companies can manage their procurement processes in an ethical and transparent way. ... And finally, we need to develop and promote partnerships with civil society. Survivor-led organisations can support a shift to holistic anti-trafficking responses, as well as victim support and services," said Mohammed.