Statement by H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See
At the Side Event entitled
“Social Protection Systems and Access to Public Services
In the Fight Against Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery”
United Nations, New York, 12 March 2019
Your Excellencies, Distinguished Panelists, Dear Friends,
I am very happy to welcome you to this morning’s event on social protection systems and access to public services in the fight against human trafficking and modern slavery, which the Holy See is honored to be sponsoring together with the Arise Foundation.
This year’s 63rd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women focuses on social protection systems and access to public services and sustainable infrastructure in order to prosper the equality and advancement of women and girls.
It’s a basic, straightforward but highly important theme. Without social protections and access to services, integral development cannot take place, for women, for men, for children, for anyone. That’s why the question of access plays such a large role in the Sustainable Development Goals.
With the 2030 Agenda, the international community committed itself, among other things, to ensuring that “all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services, ownership, … land and other forms of property, inheritance, natural resources, appropriate new technology and financial services, including microfinance” (SDG 1.4).
It pledged to provide “health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines” (SDG 3.8).
It promised to make possible “quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education” (SDG 4.2) and “affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university” (SDG 4.3).
It undertook to provide “public services, infrastructure and social protection policies” for those involved in unpaid care and domestic work” (SDG 5.4).
It committed itself to make available “full and productive employment and decent work for all … including for young people and persons with disabilities” (SDG 8.5).
It promised to secure “equal access to justice for all” (SDG 16.3) as well as “appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, [particularly] the poor and the vulnerable” (1.3).
When access and protection such as those specified in the sustainable development goals are not available, not only is the integral development of persons hindered, but their absence leaves people vulnerable.
Those of us who are committed to the fight against human trafficking and all forms of modern slavery, when hearing the numbers of the targets I just listed — for example 5.4, 8.5 and 16.3 — likely heard a connection to other closely-related targets with which we are very familiar, 5.2, 8.7 and 16.2: the targets that commit us, respectively, to fight “trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation,” to “take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labor, end modern slavery and human trafficking,” and “end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children.”
The point of the close connection is obvious: without access to the basics of development, without basic social protections, the vulnerability of people, especially women and girls, to exploitation and trafficking is much higher.
Therefore, one of the priorities in the prevention of trafficking and modern slavery is ensuring access and social protection to education, to jobs, to health care, to the justice system, because the lack or inadequacy of each of those is often exploited by traffickers to recruit new victims. Likewise survivors, for their rescue, rehabilitation and reintegration, similarly need access to physical and mental health services, education, training programs and employment opportunities that will allow them a new start, and to the protection of the law against those who would compel them back into slavery.
In today’s event we will explore together this important connection between access to public services and social protections and the successful fight against trafficking. Luke de Pulford will give an overview of the whole problem. Sr. Sherly Joseph, FMM, will speak about the importance of access to education in trafficking prevention and rehabilitation. Dr. Ludy Green will tackle access to employment. Sabjola Bregu will discuss access to health care. And Kevin Hyland will speak about access to justice.
This access is a priority in the fight against trafficking and a particular priority of the Holy See.
Two months ago, the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development published some “Pastoral Orientations on Human Trafficking” to guide the work of the Catholic Church across the globe in the fight against this scourge. I would encourage you to download a copy of it from migrants-refugees.va and read it, because it provides a good synthesis of the multiple issues needing to be confronted at the grass roots.
The document stresses, with regard to the question of access: “The practical challenges are many. Victims require help to pay off debts, secure accommodation, learn new skills, and find and keep decent employment. Yet human trafficking survivors tend to be overlooked, rejected, punished, or even scapegoated, as if the degrading things they were forced to do were in fact their own fault.”
It continues, “Appropriate shelter and decent work are important priorities, as well as access to the services of social workers, psychologists, therapists, lawyers, medical practitioners, hospital emergency department personnel and other professionals. … When survivors prefer to stay in the country of destination, they will need access to quality education and programs aiming at their social and occupational integration. … Special attention is needed,” it underlines, “for survivors with long-term emotional or mental health disorders or substance abuse.”
It concludes with an important reminder: “Above all, no matter what the practical measures taken, these survivors are human beings and should always feel that they are being treated with the greatest respect.”
It’s to those human beings, deserving of the greatest respect, whom we turn our attention today, committed not to leave any of them behind, and desirous to help each of them move forward.
Thank you for coming to be part of this conversation.