September 27, 2017
Protection of and assistance to trafficking victims

Statement of H. E. Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher
Secretary for Relations with States,
Head of the Delegation of the Holy See to the
High-Level Meeting of the General Assembly on the appraisal of the

United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons
during the Interactive Panel Discussion 2 dedicated to addressing the theme of
“The Global Plan of Action and effective partnerships
for the protection of and assistance to victims, including through the
United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons,
 Especially Women and Children, also taking into consideration the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals”

 United Nations Headquarters, New York, 27 September 2017

Mr. Moderator,

In the Political Declaration on the Implementation of the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons adopted at the start of this High-Level Meeting, the international community expresses its “solidarity with and compassion for victims and survivors,” calls for “full respect of their human rights,” and commits itself to providing “appropriate care, assistance and services for their recovery and rehabilitation, working with civil society and other relevant partners.”[1]  Among such partnerships, it specifically mentions those with and among faith-based organizations.[2]

In line with this, the Holy See would like to highlight, at least, some of the recent partnerships that the Catholic Church and Catholic organizations have sought to form in order to protect and assist victims of human trafficking and help combat the larger context of this dark and revolting global scourge.

An essential collaboration is that among the leaders and faithful of different religions in various parts of the world. In December 2014, the Vatican hosted a meeting of religious leaders that led to a Universal Declaration of Faith Leaders Against Slavery, in which all pledged to “do all in our power, within our faith communities and beyond, to work together for the freedom of all those who are enslaved and trafficked so that their future may be restored.”[3] At that meeting, Pope Francis thanked his fellow religious leaders “for their commitment in favor of the survivors of human trafficking” and expressed the conviction that “sustained by the ideals of our confessions of faith and by our shared values, we all can and must raise the standard of spiritual values, common effort and the vision of freedom to eradicate slavery from our planet.” He also shared his hope that the example of joint interreligious commitment would summon “all people of faith, leaders, governments, businesses, all men and women of good will, to give their strong support and join in the action against modern slavery in all its forms.”[4]

Another important form of partnership is among Catholic institutions and organizations. The fight against trafficking in persons remains a very high pastoral priority of Pope Francis, as it was for his predecessors, and Catholic institutions and organizations are in alignment with this fight. I wish to underline in particular the role of women religious, who are on the front line in helping those caught in the snare of human trafficking, especially women and girls, to escape from situations of slavery. With loving concern, they patiently accompany the victims on the long road back to a life lived again in freedom. These women religious work in very difficult situations, mostly dominated by violence. They form networks at multiple levels to coordinate their efforts and share best practices and resources, thus maximizing their impact. The Talitha Kum network brings together 22 associations across 70 countries in 5 continents. It helps victims “to rise” to a life of restored dignity, recalling the Aramaic words of Jesus to a young girl who was lifeless: “Young girl, I say to you, arise” (Mark 5:41). While members of the South Asian movement of religious against trafficking now comprise about 200 nuns from 63 congregations working in various countries,[5] the RENATE association coordinates the efforts of women religious in 27 countries of Europe.

The third form of collaboration we would like to mention is the alliance between the Church and the law enforcement authorities called “The Santa Marta Group”, after the residence of Pope Francis in which it was founded. The reality is that many trafficking survivors struggle to trust law enforcement, making their liberation and the prosecution of their traffickers much more difficult. Experience has shown that it is much easier for them to grow to trust religious sisters, and other Church personnel, who can build up their trust in the legal process and provide them safe haven and other forms of assistance.

Mr. Moderator,

The Political Declaration emphasizes “in the strongest terms possible the importance of strengthening collective action … to end trafficking in persons.”[6] The global nature of the trafficking problem and the vile forms of collusion that are involved in perpetrating this crime against people in the most vulnerable situations, require a commensurate response of collaboration, fraternity and solidarity. This is what those enslaved by traffickers urgently and desperately need and what this Panel, this High-Level Meeting, the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, and the 2030 Agenda are all hoping to foster.

Thank you, Mr. Moderator.

1. Political Declaration on the Implementation of the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, paragraph 8.
2. Ibidem, paragraph 24.
3. Faith Leaders’ Universal Declaration Against Slavery (2014). See
4. Pope Francis, At the Ceremony for the Signing of the Faith Leaders’ Universal Declaration against Slavery, 2 December 2014.
6. Political Declaration on the Implementation of the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, paragraph 24.