Every day, in every country in the world, human traffickers exploit people for profit. The poor and the vulnerable are most at risk. Over 70 per cent of detected trafficking victims are women and girls, while nearly one third are children.
COVID-19 has amplified trafficking dangers. Loss of jobs, growing poverty, school closures and a rise in online interactions are increasing vulnerabilities and opening up opportunities for organized crime groups.
The crisis has overwhelmed social and public services, impacted the work of law enforcement and criminal justice systems, and made it harder for victims to seek help.
And yet in these difficult times, we see the best of humanity: frontline heroes, men and women risking their lives and going above and beyond to provide essential support for human trafficking victims.
The theme of this year’s World Day Against Trafficking in Persons focuses on the first responders – the social workers, labour inspectors, law enforcement officers and prosecutors, health workers and NGO staff who identify victims, help them on their path to justice and with rebuilding their lives.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime supports the first responders’ mission by channelling funding to help victims; providing protective equipment to anti-trafficking units and shelters; and assisting Member States to mitigate the pandemic’s impact on anti-trafficking responses.
UNODC also manages the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, which supports NGOs to provide direct assistance to 3,500 victims a year in more than 40 countries.
I invite governments and the private sector to donate to the Trust Fund, and I call on all people to show their support by joining UNODC’s Blue Heart campaign against human trafficking.
On the 2020 World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, and in the COVID response and recovery, I salute and support the first responders who provide a lifeline to trafficking victims. By reaffirming the rights and dignity of all people, we can recover better, more inclusively and more sustainably.