UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Friday warned human trafficking is a horrific crime and “an all-out assault on people’s rights, safety and dignity” and is a worldwide problem that is growing worse.
The UN chief made the remarks on the eve of World Day Against Trafficking in Persons as he urged governments, businesses and civil society to step up protection for the most vulnerable.
“Tragically, it is also a problem that is growing worse – especially for women and girls, who represent the majority of detected trafficked persons globally,” Guterres added.
Conflicts, forced displacement, climate change, inequality and poverty, have left tens of millions of people around the world destitute, isolated and vulnerable.
And the Covid-19 pandemic has separated children and young people in general from their friends and peers, pushing them into spending more time alone and online.
“Human traffickers are taking advantage of these vulnerabilities, using sophisticated technology to identify, track, control and exploit victims,” explained the UN chief.
Often using the so-called “dark web”, online platforms allow criminals to recruit people with false promises.
And technology anonymously allows dangerous and degrading content that fuels human trafficking, including the sexual exploitation of children.
This year’s theme – Use and Abuse of Technology – reminds everyone that while it can enable human trafficking, technology can also be a critical tool in fighting it.
The Secretary-General underscored the need for governments, businesses and civil society to invest in policies, laws and technology-based solutions that can identify and support victims, locate and punish perpetrators, and ensure a safe, open and secure internet.
“As part of 2023’s Summit of the Future, I have proposed a Global Digital Compact to rally the world around the need to bring good governance to the digital space,” he said, calling on everyone to “give this issue the attention and action it deserves and work to end the scourge of human trafficking once and for all”.
In her message for the day, the head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Ghada Waly, spoke more about the theme.
Acknowledging that digital technology has been “a vital lifeline” during pandemic restrictions, she warned that they are “being increasingly exploited by criminals”.
The borderless nature of information and communications technologies (ICT) enables traffickers to expand their reach and profits with even greater impunity.
More than 60% of known human trafficking victims over the last 15 years have been women and girls, most of them trafficked for sexual exploitation.
And as conflicts and crises increase misery, countless others are in danger of being targeted with false promises of opportunities, jobs, and a better life.
To protect people, digital spaces must be shielded from criminal abuse by harnessing technologies for good.
“Partnerships with tech companies and the private sector can keep traffickers from preying on the vulnerable and stop the circulation of online content that amplifies the suffering of trafficking victims,” said Ms. Waly.
With the right support, law enforcement can use artificial intelligence, data mining and other tools to detect and investigate trafficking networks.
“On this World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, let us commit to preventing online exploitation and promoting the power of tech to better protect children, women and men, and support victims,” she concluded. (Source: UN News)