Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations, called on November 21, 2017, for the international community to work towards the eradication of slavery by confronting all of its economic, environmental, political and ethical root causes, emphasizing the importance of preventing and ending the wars and conflicts that create conditions for traffickers to exploit victims.
His statement came during the Security Council Open Debate on “Maintenance of International Peace and Security: Trafficking in Persons in Conflict Situations,” at the United Nations in New York.
As long as wars and conflicts rage, trafficking in persons for sexual exploitation, forced labor and similar crimes will continue to flourish, according to Archbishop Auza. The Holy See said that migrants and refugees are particularly vulnerable targets of traffickers. It called on States and religious organizations to work in collaboration to eradicate human trafficking and modern slavery in all its forms, and expressed appreciation for the leaders and followers of various religions who care for those who are forced to live in slave-like conditions.
The statement follows.
Intervention of H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the
United Nations Security Council Open Debate on
Maintenance of international peace and security:
Trafficking in Persons in Conflict Situations
New York, 21 November 2017
The Holy See thanks the Presidency of Italy for convening today’s debate and keeping the issue of trafficking in persons in conflict situations high on the Security Council’s agenda.
Security Council Resolution 2331 (2016), which was adopted a year after the landmark Presidential Statement 2015/25 issued in this Council’s first-ever meeting on trafficking in persons, refers to a correlation between trafficking in persons, sexual violence, armed conflict, terrorism and transnational organized crime. The Council has underscored that acts or offences associated with trafficking in persons in conflict may constitute war crimes. The full potential of international criminal justice, however, needs to be exhausted if we are to be effective in our fight against this heinous crime.
To eradicate trafficking in persons, we must confront all its economic, environmental, political, and ethical causes, but it is particularly important to prevent and end the wars and conflicts that make people especially vulnerable to being trafficked. Wars and violent conflicts have become the biggest driving force of forced human displacement.  This situation is an enabling environment for human traffickers, who increasingly exploit this tragic humanitarian situation to target refugees, forced migrants and internally displaced persons themselves in their criminal enterprises. As long as wars and conflicts rage, trafficking in persons for sexual exploitation, forced labor and similar crimes will continue to flourish. One of the most effective ways to eradicate trafficking in persons is therefore to prevent conflicts and put an end to wars.
Efforts to end violent conflict, moreover, should be accompanied by measures to protect affected populations from traffickers, in particular those most vulnerable, like women and children. In this regard, the Holy See would like to highlight the importance of the implementation of the Responsibility to Protect in the context of the migration and refugee crises that facilitate trafficking in persons. When States and the international community have failed to protect people from war and atrocities such that people have felt compelled to flee their homes, we all have a great and urgent responsibility to protect them from further harm, including falling into the hands of human traffickers. The criminalization of forced migrants, and of undocumented and irregular migrants in general, exacerbates their vulnerabilities, drives them further into the clutches of traffickers and other extreme forms of exploitation, and renders them less likely to collaborate with the law enforcement
authorities to catch and punish the traffickers.
Achieving the specific targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aimed at ending trafficking in persons is an integral part of our efforts. Target 5.2 aims to eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls… including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation; Target 8.7 seeks to take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labor, end modern slavery and human trafficking; and 16.2 on the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies, aims to end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children.
Like the Sustainable Development Agenda as a whole, these targets are immense challenges that no individual, organization or State can achieve alone. But, up until now, the response to these targets and to trafficking in persons in general has not been commensurate to the challenge. Despite significant progress and efforts, like the High-Level Meeting on the UN Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons held on September 27-28 this year, much more still needs to be done to achieve better coordination among governments, the judiciary, law enforcement officials and civil society.
Likewise, leaders and followers of various religions around the world must do all in their power, within their respective communities and beyond, to save the millions of children, women and men who are forced to live in slave-like conditions. In this context, my Delegation wishes to thank all faith-based organizations and religious communities, in particular women religious, who have long been at the forefront in the fight against trafficking in persons, and in the commitment to accompany survivors with loving concern on the long journey back to living a life in freedom and dignity.
On the World Day against Trafficking in Persons this July, Pope Francis warned us all against “getting used” to trafficking in persons, treating it as if it were a “normal thing,” when in reality it is, he said, “ugly, cruel, criminal, an aberrant plague, a modern form of slavery, a crime against humanity”.  In his name, my Delegation renews the appeal for a universal commitment to ending this heinous crime.
Thank you, Mr. President.
1. The UN High Commission for Refugees annual Global Trends report says an unprecedented 65.6 million people, the highest levels since the Second World War, have been uprooted from their homes by wars, conflicts and persecutions at the end of 2016.
2. Pope Francis, World Day against Trafficking in Persons, 30 July 2017, and his Address to the Participants in the International Conference on Human Trafficking, Vatican City, 10 April 2014.
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