Anti-Slavery Commissioner: Tackle trafficking at its root to avoid a ‘band aid’ solution

7 April 2016, UN Headquarters, New York

The UK’s first independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland, has told delegates at the United Nations that it is time for Member States to demand a coordinated, fit-for-purpose UN system to help them achieve their anti-slavery and trafficking commitments.

As part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Member States have agreed to take action to end modern slavery and human trafficking by 2030.

Citing the example of his work in Edo State in Nigeria – where 94% of the country’s trafficking victims sold for sexual exploitation come from – Commissioner Hyland says it is vital that source countries are closely engaged in the work:

“Until we tackle slavery at its root, we can at best only ever hope to apply a band-aid solution. Modern slavery is very often serious and organised crime, and must be addressed as such. Unless traffickers and slave masters are relentlessly pursued and punished, victims who may be recovered and supported will simply be replaced with an ever growing supply of vulnerable people and the cycle of abuse and exploitation will continue.”

Trafficking can’t be dismissed as an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ crime happening thousands of miles away. Many Nigerian women trafficked out of Edo end up on Britain’s streets.

‘Trade of Choice’ for Terrorists

Human trafficking is also a lucrative crime for international crime syndicates and terrorist groups when it comes to raising funds:

“It is a multi-billion dollar criminal industry,” says Hyland. “It is, increasingly, the trade of choice for international crime groups and terrorist organisations such as ISIS and Boko Haram to fund their activities.”

Describing the Sustainable Development Goals as a unique and time-limited opportunity for governments, civil society, faith groups and the private sector to truly mobilise around this issue, Commissioner Hyland makes a number of key recommendations:

Develop a strategic, inclusive and coordinated global partnership to end modern slavery and human trafficking – sharing data and co-ordinating activity.

Take a holistic approach: Human rights, labour rights, development, humanitarian and criminal justice factors, and security issues should be looked at together rather than in isolation.

Implement smart solutions that tackle slavery at its roots, working closely with local communities and the private sector.

“Here in 2016, we do talk a very good game on ending modern slavery and human trafficking,” says Hyland. “But now is the time to stop talking and start doing, as on this issue like no other, we will be judged solely by our actions, not by our words.”

Full Speech

Commissioner Hyland to the UN – 7 April 2016