World Day against Trafficking in Persons (July 30, 2022) – Interview with Jean Claude Brunet, Goodwill Ambassador on transnational criminal threats and the fight against the illicit trafficking of SALW

Is human trafficking a growing threat to our societies?

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the International Labor Office (ILO), there are currently nearly 25 million victims – women, men and children – of this traffic worldwide in for purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labour. Human trafficking is a flagrant violation of human dignity and fundamental rights, and targets vulnerable populations such as migrants and refugees in particular. One of the most worrying trends is the growing proportion of children among victims, which has tripled in 15 years, according to UNODC. This crime would generate more than 150 billion dollars per year in the world. It is increasingly seen as a global security issue as it fuels corruption, irregular migration and terrorism.

With the spread of technology across the globe, intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic and the proliferation of online platforms, human trafficking has seeped into cyberspace. The internet and digital platforms provide traffickers with many tools to recruit, exploit and monitor their victims. Traffickers can now easily arrange transport and accommodation, trick victims and contact potential customers online, as well as communicate with other traffickers.

What is France doing internationally?

The Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs undertakes to develop close cooperation with the regions most affected by trafficking. For example, it is working on a project to support human trafficking in the Gulf of Guinea countries implemented by Expertise France and co-financed by the European Union, and on projects in South-Eastern Europe, in liaison with the European Union, UNODC and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Through its contribution to the actions carried out in these two regions of origin of many victims of human trafficking, France supports both:

• Strengthening the capacities of States to help them fight human trafficking networks (legislative frameworks, role of national coordinators, regional cooperation), and

• Essential action related to prevention, identification, protection and social integration of victims, communication and awareness. France also supports victims’ defense associations, NGOs and civil society.

To raise public awareness of the plight of victims of trafficking throughout the world, France actively participates in the Blue Heart Campaign led by UNODC, encouraging States and individuals to support and get involved in the fight against human trafficking. As part of its strong involvement in this campaign, France played a key role in the adhesion of ten other countries.

During the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union, France initiated, with the support of UNODC and the European Union, a reflection on the means of strengthening the action of the Blue Heart Campaign which benefits now backed by more than 30 of the most active states to stop human trafficking.

We wish to intensify the efforts of the States, the political awareness of the urgency of discussing practical solutions, in particular in the face of the dangers of exploitation by new technologies, and to protect minors.

At the same time, the French and Swedish Foreign Ministers undertook to strengthen cooperation between our two countries to fight against trafficking in human beings for the purpose of sexual exploitation. This bilateral commitment is reflected in the active promotion throughout the world of our respective legislations and of the abolitionist model of the fight against prostitution in the world, through bilateral, regional and multilateral discussions. We welcome the growing interest aroused by our experience in the protection of victims and their integration, as well as the importance that must be given to action on demand and prevention, education in order to fight effectively and sustainably against trafficking, in accordance with the United Nations Protocol on Trafficking in Persons.

And at the national level?

France has made the fight against trafficking a public policy in its own right. After adopting its first national action plan in 2014, France is implementing its second national action plan against human trafficking for the period 2019-2023. With its 45 measures, this plan reinforces national, European and international action to combat this serious form of crime. It mobilizes all the ministries concerned, in a global approach, centered on actions related to prevention, identification and protection of victims, and repressive methods for dismantling networks, including through the use of new technologies. The national action plan also emphasizes key partnerships with civil society and the private sector.

What concrete actions is France taking in the context of the war in Ukraine?

The French Presidency of the Council of the European Union, in close collaboration with the European Union and the EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator, supported the implementation by the European Union of practical and operational prevention measures. It was a joint anti-trafficking plan adopted on May 11, 2022 to support refugees from Ukraine, prevent and combat human trafficking of which they may fall prey.

This plan includes measures for prevention, information by several means, including new technologies and social networks, coordination of assistance and identification of victims and all persons involved in trafficking. Furthermore, France supports the action of the OSCE to combat human trafficking in Ukraine.

In conclusion, what is the message of the World Day against Trafficking in Persons on July 30?

The World Day against Trafficking in Persons is an opportunity to highlight the breath of this scourge and to take action. This Day was created in 2013 when the United Nations General Assembly held a high-level meeting to evaluate the Global Plan of Action to Combat Human Trafficking. States wish to call on the international community to act relentlessly on this issue. They adopted resolution A/RES/68/192 proclaiming July 30 as World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. This resolution stipulated that such a day was necessary “to publicize the situation of victims of human trafficking and for the promotion and protection of their rights”.

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