Permanent Mission of Australia
to the United Nations
New York

14 May 2013 - statement to UN GA re Human Trafficking

High Level Meeting on the appraisal of the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking
at the United Nations General Assembly

Statement by HE Gary Quinlan
Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations

(Check against delivery)


Thank you, Mr President for convening this high level meeting on the appraisal of the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons. It provides an important opportunity for us to assess our achievements, and to address ongoing challenges, in our global efforts to combat trafficking. Thank you also to Belarus, Austria and Cape Verde for their leadership.

Human trafficking and related exploitative practices are abhorrent crimes. Around the world, slavery, servitude and forced labour are the daily reality for many millions of people. It is a deeply dehumanising practice from which no country is immune.

Australia is supportive of all global efforts to combat trafficking, and the UN’s Global Plan of Action is an important initiative in this regard. We welcome the UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s Global Report on Trafficking in Persons as an important outcome of the Global Plan of Action, that is helping to build our understanding of the patterns and flows of human trafficking, and to inform our global efforts.

Combating human trafficking requires a comprehensive response targeting activities across the trafficking cycle. Australia is working domestically, regionally and internationally in our collaborative efforts to address human trafficking. Since 2003, Australia has committed more than $150 million to these efforts.

Our international efforts must support the full and effective implementation of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Trafficking Protocol, which serve as the primary, legally binding international instruments for combating human trafficking. Australia strongly encourages States that have not yet done so to ratify and fully implement these instruments.

Strong criminal justice responses are critical to deterrence and prevention. Domestically, Australia has in place strong anti-trafficking laws with severe penalties, including for offences relating to slavery, slavery-like practices and trafficking in persons. We continue to work to strengthen these.

The Australian Parliament recently passed new legislation to enhance the capacity of investigators and prosecutors to address human trafficking. We broadened the scope of exploitative behaviour that is captured and criminalised under the law, and introduced new offences for forced marriage, harbouring a victim, forced labour and organ trafficking.

On 8 March, Prime Minister Gillard announced a new Anti-Slavery Initiative to address labour exploitation in business and Government procurement. This strategy aims to ensure no company tainted by human trafficking, slavery or forced labour anywhere in the supply chain can provide goods or services to the Government.

Regional efforts are also critical. Across the Asia-Pacific, Australia funds activities to combat human trafficking and to help build the capacity of States to meet their international obligations. In November 2012, Prime Minister Gillard announced a $50 million investment to establish the Australia-Asia Program to Combat Trafficking in Persons. This Program will provide technical assistance in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam to help strengthen criminal justice capacities in South-East Asia.

Australia also co-Chairs with Indonesia the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime – the preeminent regional body in the Asia-Pacific to address human trafficking, strengthen criminal justice responses, and provide protection and services support to survivors.

Of course, addressing the root causes that make people vulnerable to trafficking, including social and economic opportunity, is fundamental. The Global Report on Trafficking lays bare the critical gender dimensions of human trafficking, with women and girls accounting for over 70 percent of those trafficked. More must be done in the areas of protection, and service support to survivors.

Building on our contribution last year of $200,000 to the Global Voluntary Trust Fund, Australia is pleased to announce a further grant of $70,000 to support on-the-ground humanitarian, legal and financial assistance to survivors, much of which is implemented by NGOs providing critical services on the ground.

Addressing transnational crimes of this scale of course requires Governments, civil society organisations, regional and international bodies, and the private sector to work together.

We look forward to continuing to work with other stakeholders on the Global Plan of Action and other international efforts to address this heinous crime.

Thank you, Mr President.