Human trafficking is a heinous crime that affects every region of the world. Some 72 per cent of detected victims are women and girls, and the percentage of child victims has more than doubled from 2004 to 2016, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Most detected victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation; victims are also trafficked for forced labour, recruitment as child soldiers and other forms of exploitation and abuse.
Traffickers and terrorist groups prey on the vulnerable, from people in poverty to those caught up in war or who face discrimination. Nadia Murad, the first trafficking victim to serve as a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador, was justly co-awarded the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for galvanizing international action to stop trafficking and sexual violence in conflict.
Armed conflict, displacement, climate change, natural disasters and poverty exacerbate the vulnerabilities and desperation that enable trafficking to flourish. Migrants are being targeted. Thousands of people have died at sea, in deserts and in detention centres, at the hands of traffickers and migrant smugglers plying their monstrous, merciless trades.
But everyday indifference to abuse and exploitation around us also takes a heavy toll. Indeed, from construction to food production to consumer goods, countless businesses and enterprises benefit from the misery.
Multilateral action has generated progress, including through the Palermo Convention and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. Most countries have the necessary laws in place, and some countries recently recorded their first trafficking convictions. But more needs to be done to bring transnational trafficking networks to justice and, most of all, to ensure that victims are identified and can access the protection and services they need.
The Sustainable Development Goals include clear targets to prevent abuse and exploitation, to eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls, and to eradicate forced labour and child labour. On this World Day against Trafficking in Persons, let us reaffirm our commitment to stop criminals from ruthlessly exploiting people for profit and to help victims rebuild their lives.