The Holy See continued to press for global action to stop human trafficking during the April 23-24, 2018, at the 18th Alliance Against Trafficking in Persons Conference in Vienne. The event was sponsored by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
Speaking of human trafficking, Monsignor Janusz Urbanczyk, permanent representation of the Holy See to the OSCE, said a review of the situation has shown that the situation continues to worsen.
“…it has emerged with extreme clarity that this phenomenon is much more widespread and entrenched in our societies than we imagined even only a few years ago,” according to the monsignor. “The attempts made to fight human trafficking and its deleterious consequences on adults and minors, as well as on the human and cultural fabric of different societies, despite some positive results, are still insufficient to adequately counteract this phenomenon. Much still remains to be done also to increase awareness of the problem, its magnitude and connections.”
The Monsignor’s Full Statement
1: Review of current co-operation mechanisms in combating trafficking in human beings
The Delegation of the Holy See welcomes the opportunity to join the previous speakers in expressing its gratitude to the current Italian Presidency of the OSCE, to the OSCE Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, and to all those who have contributed to the organizing of this Conference. My Delegation will present some brief points during each of the 3 Panels in order to contribute to the discussion of the crucial topics before us.
With reference to the questions proposed in the present Panel, I would like to observe the following. In these years, when the Alliance had the opportunity to study in depth the phenomenon of the trafficking of human beings and to verify the progress of the fight against it, it has emerged with extreme clarity that this phenomenon is much more widespread and entrenched in our societies than we imagined even only a few years ago. The attempts made to fight human trafficking and its deleterious consequences on adults and minors, as well as on the human and cultural fabric of different societies, despite some positive results, are still insufficient to adequately counteract this phenomenon. Much still remains to be done also to increase awareness of the problem, its magnitude, and connections.
For this reason, the Holy See would consider it important to reflect on the various levels of involvement with human trafficking: how various sections and strata of our societies, in one way or another, knowingly or unknowingly, interact with the trafficking of human beings. Only a complete picture, a complete understanding of the problem, will allow us to address it fully. I conclude, therefore, by inviting the panelists to comment on the unseen, and unaddressed, linkage between society and governments and human trafficking. Those are often the supporting nets of this heinous scourge.
Panel 2: Towards more inclusive partnerships
Last year, during the 17th Conference of the Alliance, on “Trafficking in Children and the Best interest of the Child”, the Holy See, in its opening address, underlined the fact that “the creation of efficacious networks to prevent the commerce, protect the victim and prosecute the traffickers is a true key to the success” of this fight against human trafficking.
The Catholic Church, through its various forms of concrete presence, intends to take action in every phase of the fight against trafficking, in order to protect every human being from fraud, to free them from the various forms of exploitation and slavery, and to assist all the victims of this horrific crime.
The Holy See and many Catholic institutions and organizations collaborate with Governments and partners at various levels and in many initiatives in the efforts to eradicate trafficking in persons. In respecting each one’s characteristics and in the name of subsidiarity, this may make a concrete difference in this struggle.
One such partnership is the Santa Marta Group, whose effectiveness lies in the close collaboration between law enforcement authorities and Church institutions. This kind of co-operative and collaborative work leads to broad-based interventions, in several countries, and results not only in freeing victims and protecting potential victims but also in strengthening broader efforts and intensive common action. Furthermore, this kind of action makes it possible to collect information that can constantly increase our knowledge of related problems, so that such problems may be met in a better and more concrete way.
Experience has shown that many victims are wary of trusting law enforcement authorities, and they confide their stories more easily with religious people, who can build up their trust for the legal process and provide them safe haven and other forms of assistance. That is the work of many Catholic institutions and organizations, often on the front line in helping the victims, especially women and girls, to escape from the situation of slavery to gain true personal and social rehabilitation and freedom. We should mention the international network of women’s institutions with its worldwide coordinated assistance at multiple levels to victims of trafficking in persons, in situations often dominated by violence.
Allow me to ask the Panelists to dwell on the importance of working effectively “together”, particularly through the inclusion of all stakeholders – governments, civil society organizations, including those of religious inspiration, and academia – to put truly an end to human trafficking, without arbitrary or ideologically excluding some from this collaboration.
Panel 3: Looking forward: Recommendations for Policy Implementation
Looking to the future, in advancing the implementation of the commitments on which participating States have agreed, it is necessary – as today’s Conference reminds us – to “make the difference together”.
There is still much to do in terms of knowledge as well as in concrete actions. We should never underestimate the fact that there are still many gaps in our knowledge of this phenomenon, especially related to labor exploitation and the traffic of minors with regard to begging and the commerce of organs, since little data is available to us (the estimates offered by governments often do not agree one with the other). To work together also means to render more efficacious the instruments needed to contribute to limiting this drama. And this not only involves goodwill but also the capacity to use the limited economic resources at our disposal in a better way.
The safeguarding of the victims and their defense (a fundamental question in this tragedy) becomes, in a system of cooperation and subsidiarity, not only more effective but also more incisive for the whole system of prevention and prosecution.
To succeed with courage, together, consolidating the protection of the victims and harmonizing effectively the national legislation would be a great step forward. We should not forget the significant capacity of the networks of international criminal groups to cross barriers and avoid legal consequences.
In confronting the question of human trafficking, there is an absolute need to undertake unified efforts in responding to the problem of poverty in the world (which is the basic environment where criminals find their victims), to the vulnerability of some sectors of the population (in a special way, women and children), to cases of discrimination, conflicts and the effects of –conflicts, and to inequalities that foster trafficking.
At the end of our common in-depth examination, in order to put an end to the traffic of human beings, my Delegation would like to share a crucial point. The response -as Pope Francis suggests- “is to create opportunities for an integral human development, starting with a quality education in early childhood, and creating subsequent opportunities for growth through employment. These two modalities of growth, [the Pope continues] in the various phases of life, are antidotes to vulnerability and to trafficking”1.
My Delegation is convinced that this consideration is also the objective of the meetings of the Alliance, for which we reaffirm the strong support of the Holy See, which would also like to express its profound gratitude to those who have participated actively in this event and those who have done so much for its successful outcome.
Thank you, Madame Moderator.
1 Pope Francis, Address to participants in the IV World Day of Prayer, “Reflection and action against human trafficking”, 12 February 2018.
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