June 23, 2017
survivor-Centered Approach To Trafficking in Persons

Intervention of H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the
United Nations

Informal Multi-stakeholder Hearing in support of the
preparatory process towards the
High-level Plenary Meeting to Review the
Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons
Panel 1: A Human-rights-based, survivor-centered
approach to Trafficking in Persons

New York, 23 June 2017

Madame Moderator,

The Holy See is grateful for this hearing in support of the preparations for this September’s High Level review of the Global Plan of Action to combat trafficking in persons and for this panel, which provides an opportunity to focus on the human rights and needs of those presently and formerly ensnared within one of the darkest and most appalling realities in the world today. We would like to make two points.

The first is about the violation of human rights that takes place in the trafficking of human beings for sexual slavery and exploitation, forced labor, organ removal, and other forms of modern slavery. There are many factors that abet these atrocious crimes against human dignity— poverty, lack of adequate employment, the migration and refugee crisis, and other economic, environmental, and political components — but those factors just describe the context in which the exploitation of other human beings is able to take place. The root cause is fundamentally the dehumanization of other persons as objects to be commodified and abused by traffickers holding them in physical or psychological bondage. In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis spoke forthrightly about this anthropological and ethical root, challenging the culture that “drives one person to take advantage of another, to treat others as mere objects, imposing forced labor on them or enslaving them … [for] sexual exploitation.” He says this culture flows from a corrupted human ecology in which human beings are treated as instruments for the exploiters’ gain or pleasure, “like things to be used and thrown away” (LS 123). Even before the physical trampling of people’s dignity in human trafficking, there is an intentional violation, as traffickers and purchasers regard other persons merely as commodities. If we are serious about defending the human rights of those sexually, economically and otherwise exploited in human trafficking, then we must address honestly and resolutely the demand, namely the antecedent dehumanization present in the hearts of traffickers and buyers as well as the indifferent cultural conditions that the traffickers exploit before exploiting victims.

The second point is that defending the human rights of victims and survivors is important but it is not enough. We must also care for their needs, in accordance with their human dignity and with enduring compassion for the trauma they have suffered. We need to do everything possible to liberate them from the situation of slavery. We must address the legal, economic, educational, medical and psychological needs that result in their exploitation, which requires far more than providing adequate safe houses and regularized immigration status. It demands competent, committed assistance to help them slowly rediscover and recover their dignity and hope and to accompany them as they wake up from the long nightmare, begin to dream and to believe that a better life is possible. The Catholic Church, through the Santa Marta Group, and especially through the dedicated work of so many women religious, such as those associated in Talitha Kum and RENATE, and other religious networks against trafficking and exploitation, is committed to helping to meet these basic needs so that those whose rights have been treated with such contempt may have a chance to be treated according to their inherent dignity.

Madame Moderator,

As we move forward to the review of the Global Plan of Action and strive to keep the survivors and their rights front and center, let us remember and confront what precedes and catalyzes the violation of their human rights and let us commit ourselves with greater resources and resolve to their full rehabilitation and reintegration.

Thank you, Madame Moderator.