Statement by H.E. Archbishop
Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent
Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations
UN High-level Meeting of the
General Assembly on the
Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons
New York, 13-14 May 2013
Today’s meeting presents the international community with an opportunity
not only to assess the progress achieved since the adoption of the United
Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons in 2010, but also to renew our commitment to work
together and to condemn with one voice the abhorrent and immoral practice of
trafficking in human beings.
The Global Plan of Action has provided the United Nations with a resource
for working together to combat all forms of human trafficking and for ensuring
that confronting human trafficking remains one of the top issues of concern for
the international community. However, such political commitments must be backed
by concrete actions on the ground, so as to
ensure that victims are freed from this repugnant form
of contemporary slavery, and are given
the necessary assistance to rebuild their lives.
The mobility of people
across national boundaries is a human experience affecting
all countries and regions of the world. It is
a reality which presents opportunities to foster greater understanding between
peoples and jointly to improve the social and
economic well-being of migrants and their families. For
too many, however, the
reality of migration is no longer a matter of
free choice, but rather has become a necessity. This sense of desperation provides human traffickers the opportunity to prey
on migrants and has contributed to making human trafficking one of the fastest
growing criminal activities in today’s
Trafficking in persons constitutes a
shameful crime against human dignity and a grave violation of fundamental human
rights. Those who commit such crimes debase themselves and poison human
solidarity. People are never to be used or treated as instruments for
unscrupulous profit-mongering through being forced into slavery, which always constitutes an affront
to the dignity of human nature and to fundamental values shared by humanity.
juridical instruments are crucial to cease this abominable trade in human beings,
to prosecute its profiteers, and to assist the rehabilitation and reintegration
of its victims. To this end, the creation of the United Nations
Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women
and Children by the Global Plan of Action provides a tangible means for
ensuring support for those who suffer the dehumanizing impact of being
While political, social and legal protections are indispensable to
combating the scourge of human trafficking, we must also work to address those societal factors which foster the environment that makes human trafficking possible. One such overriding factor is the increasing
commodification of human life. Such
commodification can be seen in the women and girls who are trafficked each year
for the sole purpose of making money from the sale of their bodies. There is
indeed an urgent need here to challenge lifestyles and models of behavior,
particularly with regard to the image of women, which have
generated what has become a veritable industry
of sexual exploitation.
Trafficking in women for the purpose of sexual exploitation
accounts for 58 per cent of all cases reported
globally and demonstrates how increased demand fuels this market for human
slavery and tolerates its immense human costs.
It is a grim reminder that prostitution and consumers
of so-called “sexual services” not only
contribute to the trafficking of women and girls but also disrespect their
Commodification of human beings unfortunately does not lie solely in the realm
of sexual exploitation, but can also be seen
in unrelenting consumerist tendencies that
demand more for less without due regard for the rights of workers. Around the
world, forced labor accounts for more than a quarter of victims of trafficking.
This is a stark reminder that participating in
a globalized economy requires adequate regulations to ensure that the qualitative, subjective value of human work is given precedence over purely quantifiable, objective product. In so doing, we can help foster a deeper and richer ethical understanding of
the value and dignity of human labor and fashion
economic and social systems that respect human rights.
Addressing human trafficking remains an
elusive goal if the courage to address the dark reality of consumerism feeding the exploitation of vulnerable human beings is lacking. In this regard, it is necessary to
recognize that it is extreme poverty which often drives those desirous of
a better future into the hands of those preying
upon the vulnerability of the poor and the defenseless. These individuals, prompted by a genuine
desire to provide for themselves and their needy families, too easily become unsuspecting victims of those who
make false promises of a better future in another country or community. Our
efforts to address human trafficking are inherently linked, therefore, to our determination to address poverty
eradication and lack of equal economic opportunity.
This link recognizes that economic poverty inherently opens the door to
exclusion and exploitation by those whose moral and spiritual poverty no longer
allows them to see people in need as brothers
and sisters to be respected, protected and cared for,
but merely as a means to an end.
The Catholic Church, through its institutions and agencies around the world, is providing assistance, care and
support to thousands of survivors of human trafficking. These institutions and their courageous individuals place themselves in
harm’s way on a daily basis to help those who have become victims to this
modern plague of human trafficking. Many of these individuals have paid dearly
in their endeavours to provide assistance to victims or expose the victimizers.
The Holy See regards
today’s debate and assessment of the
Global Plan of Action as a good
opportunity to reinvigorate our efforts to address the evil of human
trafficking so that men and women who fall prey to such trafficking will know
that we stand in solidarity with them and that we
will not cease in our efforts to ensure that today’s victims of human
trafficking become tomorrow’s survivors.
UNODC, Global Report on Trafficking
in Persons 2012, p. 11.