Skip to main content

Modern slavery: victims' rehabilitation depends on the UN Trust Fund's financial sustainability

12 September 2013


Nevila*, a young girl from Albania, was trafficked through many countries and forced into prostitution by her former boyfriend. She found the courage to break the silence and report her traffickers to the police.

Nevila was able to return to her home country where she joined a rehabilitation centre run by a non-governmental organization that provides long term re-integration services to women and children victims of trafficking.

The Vatra Centre, where Nevila was treated, was founded in 1999 and started by developing awareness-raising campaigns on the risks of trafficking. It then expanded its activities by establishing the first rehabilitation centre in the country, which provides accommodation, rehabilitation and reintegration services to victims of trafficking. From 2001, the Centre has assisted 1435 former victims of trafficking: Nevila is one of them.

In 2012, Vatra was awarded a grant by the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, which was established by the General Assembly in 1991 to assist civil society organizations in extending humanitarian, legal, and financial aid to individuals who have been victims of contemporary forms of slavery.

Contemporary forms of slavery which qualify for project grants include traditional slavery, serfdom, servitude, forced labour, debt bondage, the worst forms of child labour, forced and early marriage, the sale of wives and inherited widows, trafficking in persons for exploitation, including removal of human organs, sexual slavery, sale of children, commercial sexual exploitation of children and children in armed conflict, such as child soldiers.

Since its establishment by the General Assembly in 1991, the Trust Fund has provided economical support to approximately 500 projects which directly assisted thousands of victims of contemporary forms of slavery, like Nevila, in more than 90 countries in all regions of the world.

At the beginning of her rehabilitative care, Nevila was emotionally withdrawn as a result of the trauma she had suffered. But after some time, she started feeling better. “Every day I was learning new things and making new friends,” she said. “Restarting school was what I wanted the most.” Nevila feels that she has been able to rebuild her life: she is the mother of a little girl and she works in a shop as a salesperson. She is always in touch with Vatra and considers it as part of her family.

The Trust Fund is a unique financial tool within the United Nations system with its victim-oriented approach, which has allowed it to channel assistance to victims. In addition, the Trust Fund provides non-discriminatory and professional support to non- governmental and grass roots organisations.

In 2013, The Trust Fund received over 364 applications, requesting almost US$5 million in support, against just about US$600.000 available for grants.

Between 2009 and 2012, annual voluntary contributions to the Fund decreased by 50 per cent. The Board of Trustees of the Fund is concerned by the fact that the Fund is currently working with the very minimum level of required resources to fulfil its mandate, and estimates that it would need at least $1.5 million in the current year in order to meet the most pressing demands for assistance.

The Fund is entirely reliant on annual voluntary contributions received from governments, the private sector, and individuals. Its Secretariat is based in the UN Human Rights Office.

The Board of Trustees of the Fund and the UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, Gulnara Shahinian, will jointly organize an event to discuss challenges and lessons learnt in combating contemporary forms of slavery. The event, co-sponsored by the Permanent Mission of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations, will take place at Palais des Nations, in Geneva, on 13 September 2013.

2013 marks the 20th anniversary of the World Conference on Human Rights, which led to the adoption of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action and the establishment of a High Commissioner for Human Rights. Its creation gave a new impetus to the recognition of human rights principles which has seen fundamental progress in the promotion and protection of human rights. The United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, with its unique victim-oriented approach, has provided humanitarian, legal, and financial aid to individuals whose human rights have been violated through more than 500 projects.

*To protect the victim, we have used a fictitious name

12 September 2013