Human trafficking is defined as "the recruitment, transport, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a person by such means as threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud or deception for the purpose of exploitation”. (Trafficking in Persons Protocol)
People are trafficked to be exploited in a range of different sectors: of the detected victims in 2011, 53 per cent were involved in sexual exploitation and 40 per cent in forced labour which includes exploitation in agriculture, horticulture, construction, textile production in sweatshop conditions, catering and restaurants, entertainment services and domestic servitude. Other forms of exploitation have been found such as forced marriage, organ removal, illegal adoption and the exploitation of children for begging and as child soldiers.
How does human trafficking undermine development?
Poverty and inequality are linked to increases in organized crime including human trafficking. Targets aimed at reducing the number of people being trafficked are being discussed by the United Nations as part of the post 2015 development agenda.
What is clear is that sustainable development is directly affected by human trafficking. Through bribery and corruption, organized criminal gangs of traffickers undermine governments and the rule of law.
Human trafficking comes at a high cost for the economy: reducing tax revenues and migrant remittances. It shatters the social fabric: family ties and communities are destroyed, children miss out on an education, and public health problems such as HIV/AIDS may be fuelled.
But the most devastating impact is on the victims themselves: if they survive, they can be mentally and physically traumatized for the rest of their lives. They may not be able to return to a productive life in their communities. So human trafficking needs to be tackled and victims must be empowered to become survivors, if sustainable development is to be achieved.
What is the United Nations doing to combat human trafficking?
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) runs the Global Programme against Trafficking in Persons (GPAT), which supports Member States to prevent and prosecute the crime, to protect the rights of victims, and promotes cooperation among Member States.
In the last two years alone UNODC has trained more than 1,300 practitioners such as law enforcement officials, and has reached 76 countries through its technical assistance activities. It also runs mock trials for judges and prosecutors and lawyers to aid successful prosecution of traffickers. UNODC has also made available through its Human Trafficking Case Law Database, information on more than 1,000 successful prosecutions and convictions from 83 countries.
Dedicated anti-human trafficking programmes have been developed jointly with national governments in key countries and regions including Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa, the Horn of Africa, the Gulf countries, and South and West Asia.
What can I do to combat human trafficking?
You can get involved in the global Blue Heart Campaign, which can be found on all major social media platforms and through the UNODC website. "Wear" the Blue Heart to raise awareness of human trafficking, show solidarity with the victims and join the campaign to fight this crime.
You can donate money to the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Human Trafficking, which assists around 2,000 victims of human trafficking every year to take back their lives and rebuild their futures, through humanitarian, legal and financial aid.