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Statements Special Procedures

Achieving SDGs and climate justice essential to prevention of trafficking in persons: UN expert

World Day Against Trafficking in Persons - 30 July 2023

28 July 2023

GENEVA (28 July 2023) – Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals is essential to effective prevention of trafficking in persons, especially of children, a UN expert said today. On the occasion of the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, the UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, Siobhán Mullally issued the following statement:

“The stagnation and reversal of progress on more than half the Sustainable Development Goal targets has serious implications for global peace and security. The consequences of failure to achieve the sustainable development goals include failures of prevention, protection and accountability for victims and survivors of human trafficking.

Human Rights protection lies at the heart of achievement of the SDGs, including access to justice, food security, gender equality, just and fair conditions of work, ending child labour, equal access to education, just transitions and climate justice.

As is recognised in the New Agenda for Peace, the uneven suffering created by the effects of climate change ranks among the greatest injustices of this world. This suffering includes increased risks of all forms of trafficking in persons.

The heightened risks of trafficking in the context of climate change are rooted in existing and persistent inequalities, in poverty, in racism, and in discrimination. These heightened risks and vulnerability to exploitation are not inevitable or fixed, nor are they inherent in the human condition. They arise from policy failures, failures of political will and failures of international cooperation and solidarity.

Gender inequality and systemic discrimination shapes the experiences of climate-related disasters, displacement and migration, and increases the negative impact of climate change. Such inequalities overlap with and reinforce existing experiences of discrimination, including on the grounds of disability, race and ethnicity, migration status, age, religion and poverty.

Climate-induced loss of livelihoods, income reduction or deterioration of working conditions in the agricultural sector have particular implications for rural women. Socioeconomic inequalities experienced by some women can be compounded as a result of intersecting dynamics such as discrimination, including on the grounds of race or ethnicity or migrant or disability status, worsening conditions for women living in poverty, women with disabilities, older women and girls.

While all children are exceptionally vulnerable to climate change, children with disabilities, migrant and refugee children, children living in poverty, children separated from their families and the youngest children are most at risk. Children may be particularly at risk as a result of climate-related displacement and disasters, owing to separation from families and communities and the breakdown of child protection services. Recognising the urgent claims of climate justice and intergenerational equity, States must ensure the protection of the rights and best interests of all children, without discrimination.

States must, individually and through international cooperation, protect against climate change-related human rights abuse by businesses, including those most associated with risks of trafficking. States should enact and enforce mandatory environmental and human rights due diligence obligations, regardless of the size of the company or employer, that require disclosure of harmful impacts identified in respect of the rights of workers, risks of forced labour and trafficking and environmental degradation.

Climate change also contributes to increased risks of insecurity and to conflict, as communities compete for increasingly scarce resources and bear the burden of failures of international solidarity, international law and policymaking. In action plans, programmes and measures relating to women, peace and security, measures to prevent trafficking in persons must be incorporated and the increased risks of trafficking arising in the context of climate change, displacement, disasters and conflict must be recognised.

States must ensure an expansion of planned relocation opportunities, without discrimination and fully respecting human rights, ensuring the prevention of trafficking in persons in all actions to achieve realisation of Sustainable Development Goal target 10.7. States, both individually and in cooperation, must adopt human rights-based migration policies to respond to the protection needs of persons displaced owing to climate change.

Prevention of trafficking in persons requires sustainable development, urgent climate action and peace, anchored in full respect for human rights — civil, political, economic, social and cultural.

See full statement here.

Ms. Siobhán Mullally (Ireland) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children by the UN Human Rights Council in July 2020, to promote the prevention of trafficking in persons in all its forms, and to encourage measures to uphold and protect the human rights of victims. She is also the Established Professor of Human Rights Law and Director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at the School of Law, University of Galway. Prior to her appointment as Special Rapporteur, she was a member of the Council of Europe Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA), elected as President of GRETA from 2016-2018 and as 1st Vice-President from 2014-2018.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For more information and media requests, please contact: Ms. Hee Kyong Yoo ([email protected]) or Ms Clara Pascual de Vargas ([email protected])

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts, please contact Maya Derouaz ([email protected]) or Dharisha Indraguptha ([email protected])

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