(The spoken version shall take precedence)
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure to be invited to this international conference on Human Trafficking in the 21st century, organized by Uppsala University.
The exchange of ideas and best practices in dealing with human trafficking is essential and it plays an important role not only for our immediate neighbourhood but also on a global level. According to the UNICEF, more than 1.2 million children across the globe are victims of human trafficking.
Today we, as a community of researchers, practitioners and members of the civil society, have come together to share ideas and to find solutions to this grave issue.
Last April I had the honour of attending a seminar in the Vatican as one of His Holiness Pope Francis’ priorities is to combat human trafficking and in particular how to safeguard the rights of child victims of trafficking.
In his message on The World Day of Peace His Holiness said regarding trafficking:
”We ought to recognize that we are facing a global phenomenon which exceeds the competence of any community or country. In order to eliminate it, we need a mobilization comparable in size to that of the phenomenon itself. ”
We all need to make our contributions and non-governmental organizations are perhaps one of the most vital actors in the constant fight against human trafficking.
One of the reasons why I founded World Childhood Foundation 17 years ago was to prevent trafficking through support to vulnerable families and children. Childhood works to stop abuse and exploitation of children. Our work concentrates on supporting children most at risk – children on the street; children in vulnerable families; children in institutions and children who are victims of abuse. These groups are more at risk; their social and economic exposure and lack of protective adults in their lives make them potential targets for trafficking.
Parents in all societies want the best for their children. But when they find themselves in desperate situations, in absolute poverty and in social isolation, even parents who want the best for their children can fall for false promises and hand their child into the wrong hands. And children with no parental care at all – such as children living on the streets or in orphanages – are even more at risk to be lured into trafficking in their daily fight for survival.
In Cambodia and Thailand Childhood works with a network of partners to identify children at risk early on. Trusted community members, street vendors, tuk-tuk drivers and others are educated in child rights and trained to identify children at risk on the street and in the border areas. There is also a hotline to call for support in urgent cases.
Childhood also helps victims of trafficking to return, recover and reintegrate in their families and communities. In Nepal our partner Asha Nepal works with trafficking survivors. Mothers and children receive counselling and support to re-establish their family ties and create income generating activities to allow full reintegration in the local communities. Another partner in Nepal, Shakti Milan Samaj, works with the most stigmatized families- women who are not only victims of trafficking but also HIV-infected. Shakti Milan Samaj, a small grass-root organization founded by HIV-positive survivors help families ensure schooling and healthy nutrition for their children and also provides a supportive network for women and children in the same situation as themselves. It reduces stigma and isolation and helps to build resilience.
Trafficking is a transnational crime and in order to counter it we need to cooperate on an international level. Right now, in Europe and also on our own doorstep here in Sweden the situation of unaccompanied refugee children is alarming. Many of these vulnerable children totally lack protective social networks and are therefore at risk of exploitation and trafficking. By our long term partner Barnrättsbyrån some of these children are supported in all their rights.
With these words I would like to thank Uppsala University and the organizers for offering such an interesting program and I hope this conference will result in extended knowledge of how to stop trafficking, this grave violation of human rights!