My delegation thanks the UK Presidency for convening this debate.
This debate is taking place in the backdrop of the annual session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), which gives this issue added importance.
According to UNODC, 79% of victims of trafficking are women and children, which is why combatting this menace is both urgent and critical.
The scourge of slavery is an abomination, for it perpetuates the domination and degradation of human life. Modern slavery, unlike its traditional form, does not seek to ‘own’ people. Rather, it aims to ‘control’ them by exploiting their lives or the fruits of their labour.
Sexual slavery in conflict situations, trafficking of women and girls, and bonded and forced labour, are all manifestations of this evil.
Trans-national organized criminal gangs have become the primary purveyors of perpetuating this human misery for financial gain. Their growing nexus with terrorists is a cause of global concern, not least because this has a direct bearing on international peace and security.
Conflict situations, through their confluence of circumstance and opportunity, provide an ideal environment for such unholy alliances.
Heinous crimes like the enslavement of women and children, their sexual exploitation and their recruitment in armed groups are an outrage not only to all norms of international law, but also to humanity itself. We must work together to find an end to this perversion.
Security Council Resolution 2331 of December 2016 was significant, not only as an unequivocal affirmation by the international community to confront this menace, but also as a call for immediate action, to prevent, criminalize and prosecute those engaged in trafficking in persons.
While eradication of contemporary forms of slavery is an end in itself, interdiction of trafficking-based financial flows to terrorist groups, must also be addressed.
The UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, and its protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children, have served as a centerpiece of the existing global framework on transnational organized crime. They, in turn, have also inspired and informed domestic policies. As a party to the Convention, Pakistan has taken a number of legislative and administrative steps to address human trafficking.
The international community is currently witnessing human displacement on an unprecedented scale. A pervasive sense of despondency and lack of prospects, induced by protracted conflict and insecurity, lies at the core of this phenomenon-one of the greatest tragedies of our times and a defining challenge of our era.
Large sections of the respective populations, especially women and children remain particularly vulnerable.
As the international community seeks to evolve cohesive and coordinated strategies to manage these movements, the interest and well-being of the most vulnerable must remain paramount in our policy responses.
We must, in particular, ensure that victims of circumstance, in their quest to find safety and protection beyond their borders, do not become fresh prey to trafficking and abuse.
In Pakistan, we have lived this ideal by generously hosting our Afghan brethren for almost four decades, ensuring their safety in their temporary homes.
As these threats are increasingly being seen as emanating from terrorist and trans-national criminal groups, this creates an urgent imperative to evolve a better and more coordinated global response. Close collaboration between states will underpin the success of this approach.
Going forward, a fundamental challenge for the international community would be to strike the right balance between human rights and the law enforcement aspects of anti-trafficking policies. Victims of trafficking must be protected, not penalized.
Concerted efforts should also be made to address the underlying root causes. Unless we resolutely put out the fires of wars and conflicts that breed and fuel these phenomena, our efforts will at best be spasmodic and insufficient.
I thank you.