It’s all about right to human dignity
On 18 December 2013, the UN General Assembly, on the initiative of Belarus adopted Resolution 68/192 of improving the coordination of efforts against trafficking. As a result, 30 July has been proclaimed as the World Day against Trafficking in Persons and will be marked this year for the first time.
The resolution was developed by Belarus, Russia, the United States, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan and proved to be a tremendous success. The resolution underlines the importance of United Nations Global Plan of Action to ‘Combat Trafficking in Persons’ initiated by Belarus and stated that its importance to ensure its full implementation.
Human trafficking is a pressing issue for the international community. Trafficking in persons, especially women and girls, is a major challenge. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of people annually become victims of trafficking. The Republic of Belarus was one of the first countries, among CIS member-states, that initiated large-scale activities to tackle trafficking in persons.
With due account of international experience the Republic of Belarus worked out comprehensive national legislation, aiming at elimination of trafficking in persons, as well as a number of large-scale measures were implemented in the framework of state programmes to increase the effectiveness in combating trafficking and ensuring national security.
In the Republic of Belarus actions against trafficking in persons has been set as a priority of national policy.
During the UN Summit 2005, President of the Republic of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko proposed to intensify international anti-trafficking efforts. To that end, Belarus put forward an idea of forging a global partnership against slavery and trafficking in the 21st century that would unite efforts and put forward best practices of all major stakeholders, actively involved in trafficking in tackling the issue, and foster a concerted UN response to this heinous crime.
As a first step towards global partnership, Belarus initiated the resolution ‘Improving the coordination of efforts against trafficking in persons’, which was adopted by consensus at the 61st UN session of the General Assembly in 2006 (A/res/61/180). Then, at the 63rd and 64th sessions of the UN General Assembly in 2008 (A/res/63/194) and 2009 (A/res/64/178) respectively, the resolutions on the same issue reconfirmed importance in promoting better anti-trafficking cooperation globally.
In 2007, Belarus organised an International Conference, ‘Trafficking in Women and Girls: Meeting the Challenge Together’. The first global and all-engaging forum on human trafficking ever held in the UN headquarters, the conference gathered over 400 participants from more than 90 member states, around 20 international organisations and over 100 NGOs. It focused on defining the factors that impede closer international anti-trafficking cooperation and outlining the actions the UN had to take to help improve international response to human trafficking. In partnership with International Organisation for Migration, an International Training Centre on Migration and Combating Trafficking in Human Beings was established in Minsk in 2007 in the premises of the Academy of the Ministry of Interior Affairs. The centre conducts seminars, round table conferences, workshops and training courses for law enforcement representatives and other experts from across the globe, in particular from CIS region and different Arab countries.
The 2008 UN Economic and Social Council resolution, ‘Strengthening coordination of the United Nations and other efforts in fighting trafficking in persons’ is yet another Belarusian initiative. The aim of which is to enhance the role of the ECOSOC as a major UN body in dealing with anti-trafficking. The Belarusian efforts in combating human trafficking were highly recognised by the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children of the UN Human Rights Council, who visited the Republic of Belarus in May 2009.
In the recent past Belarus hosted four high-level international conferences, regarding promotion of better coordination and interaction between countries, international organisations and NGOs in combating human trafficking. All actions, initiated by Belarus within UN in the sphere of combating trafficking in persons, were aimed at elaboration and adoption of the UN plan on combating human trafficking, that guarantees efficient coordination of actions of all international forces, including UN member states, international and local organisations, private sector, civil society and mass media.
In 2010, at the initiative of Belarus, a ‘Group of Friends United against Human Trafficking’. The initiative was taken in the United Nations, comprised of 22 states from all regions of the world, including India and Bangladesh. The Group of Friends gave an impetus to spur the process of consultations on the elaboration of the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, held in May-June 2010 in the UN headquarters.
The Group of Friends held its first ministerial meeting on the margins of the 65th session of the United Nations in September 2010, which was presided by Belarus as a coordinator of the Group. The Group of Friends adopted a final declaration, circulated as an official document of the 65th session of the General Assembly (A/65/497). Later, Belarus in its capacity as a coordinator of the Group of Friends, convened the second and third ministerial meetings on the margins of the UNGA sessions, which were circulated as official documents of the General Assembly (A/66/398) and (?/67/497).
As a crucial step forward in implementation of counter-trafficking initiative of the President of the Republic of Belarus, the UN Global Plan of Action to Combat Human Trafficking was adopted in consensus at the 64th session of the UN General Assembly on 30 July 2010 (A/res/64/293). The UN General Secretary, Ban Ki-moon, officially launched the Global Plan of Action on 31 August 2010.
One of its most significant elements is creation and operationalisation of a United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for victims of trafficking in persons, especially women and children, which aimed at protecting vulnerable people and providing humanitarian, legal and financial aid to victims. Belarus was one of the first countries that contributed to this Trust Fund. In 2011, the 20th session of the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, adopted a resolution ‘Implementation of the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons’ tabled by Belarus.
Our hope is to give voice to the continued plight of millions of enslaved people throughout the world by drawing attention to their suffering and bring hope for new ways to pursue their freedom. One way to accomplish this is through the designation of a day in which the world recognises these issues, and reminds the world of the need to protect the rights of victims of trafficking in persons. This day will be a reminder to the world to promote and protect the rights of victims of trafficking and reintegrate victims into the community. It will also provide services for the physical, psychological, social recovery of the victims.
The resolution also invites all member states, relevant agencies of the United Nations system and other international organisations, as well as civil society, to observe the World Day, and invited member states to address the social, economic, cultural, political and other factors that make people vulnerable to trafficking in persons. This includes factors such as poverty, unemployment, inequality, and humanitarian emergencies. It also includes armed conflicts and natural disasters, sexual violence, gender discrimination and social exclusion and marginalisation, as well as a culture of tolerance towards violence against women, youth and children.
The document also urged member states that have not yet done so to consider ratifying or acceding to, as a matter of priority, the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime, taking into consideration the central role of those instruments in the fight against trafficking in persons, and also urges states parties to those instruments to implement them fully and effectively.
The world will show their solidarity for victims of trafficking worldwide in the weeks leading up to the first World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, to be observed on 30 July 2014. Let us create a world in which every person has the right to human dignity!