UN meets to discuss human trafficking in conflict areas

Posted by on December 30, 2015 in Events, Updates
Samantha Power, UN Security Council President for December, hears testimony on Human Trafficking in war torn areas.

Ambassador Samantha Power, UN Security Council President for December, hears testimony on human trafficking in war torn areas.

By Ian Kitterman, Demand Abolition Policy Specialist

In response to the disturbing trend of extremist groups engaging in human trafficking in war-torn areas, the UN Security Council recently held the first-ever meeting on modern slavery as it relates to armed conflict. Nick Grono, Executive Director of the Freedom Fund, Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and Nadia Murad Basee Taha, a Yazidi survivor of trafficking, testified on the spread—and devastating effects—of human trafficking in conflict-affected areas.

Ms. Bashee Taha’s account of her kidnapping, and those of many other Yazidi women, at the hands of ISIL soldiers was especially heart-wrenching. These extremists use institutionalized sexual violence and slavery to further their domination—difficult to hear, and almost impossible to comprehend.

As Demand Abolition’s Policy Specialist, I  focus primarily on combating sex trafficking within the US. The Security Council tackling this issue is inspiring, and I agree with their call for all nations to better adhere to the Palermo Protocol, which is designed to prevent, suppress, and punish human trafficking—especially among women and children—on a global scale.

I also applaud the Council’s directive that UN-affiliated countries must do more to ensure their government employees, officials, contractors, and sub-contractors do not contribute to trafficking in any way. I was heartened to hear UN officials acknowledge that they, too, must be held accountable when sexual exploitation occurs among their employees, and that it will take additional steps to prevent and respond to reports of any trafficking associated with UN peacekeeping operations. These international efforts mirror our call to the US government to continue reducing the demand for trafficked persons among federal employees and contractors. The Department of Justice, State Department, and Department of Defense have all reaffirmed their position that federal employees buying sex emboldens traffickers, and we hope the rest of the federal government will follow suit.

All forms of trafficking are violations of human rights and dignity, but the brand of sexual enslavement practiced by Boko Haram, ISIL, and others like them is specifically horrifying. Capturing women and girls to exploit and sell them to bolster war efforts is unthinkable—and yet these are all-too-common stories from the frontlines in Iraq and Nigeria. As a person working to ensure at the legal level that sex buyers are held accountable for their role in perpetuating the illegal sex trade here in America, I applaud the Security Council’s plea for member states to do more to stop trafficking—including targeting those who buy trafficked people. It’s my hope that the Council will continue highlighting the connection between the proliferation of the trafficking market and the lack of accountability for those who fuel the trade—the buyers.

Learn more about this meeting, and read full transcript.