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Statement by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus, Andrei Dapkiunas, at the Thematic Dialogue “Trade in Minors in the Digital Age” (September 28, 2017, New York)

Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have the honour of delivering this statement on behalf of the Group of Friends United against Human Trafficking that includes Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Ecuador, Eritrea, Egypt, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Lao People´s Democratic Republic, Libya, Nicaragua, Nigeria, the Philippines, Qatar, the Russian Federation, Singapore, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Venezuela and my own country Belarus.

We decided to convene this event at the time of the High-level meeting of the United Nations General Assembly to review the progress in the implementation of the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons.

Why did the Group of Friends that was instrumental in inspiring and bringing to life the first strategic system-wide UN document on human trafficking decide to hold this dialogue in parallel with the important General Assembly event? We did it for a number of reasons.

First, we wanted to highlight the importance of a specific thematic focus on the problem. This focus is a sign of the digital times as much as a symbol of the continuing weakness and frailty of human condition in our world that tolerates the abominable trade in humans, including the most vulnerable of them – children.

Most detected victims of trafficking are subjected to sexual exploitation. A third of all detected victims are children. New forms of trafficking in minors are emerging, such as trafficking of children for armed combat, petty crime or forced begging.

Information communication technologies with unfettered access to online content have become an intrinsic part of people’s lives. However, the IT revolution is not all about progress, safety and benefit. The very same communication technologies that bring education, connectedness and cooperation are used by traffickers to recruit, harm and exploit the most naive and susceptible to manipulation – children. Traffickers do this without fear of being arrested or prosecuted. One of the results of this is the growing availability of child pornography on the internet.

Children, in particular, minors, are very inquisitive by nature. This also might increase their exposure to risks of sale, trafficking and other forms of exploitation, including child pornography and child prostitution. The less developed ability of minors for critical thinking, their implicit trust for everything they encounter through their favorite media makes them more prone to becoming objects of manipulation and accepting bogus offers of employment or education from traffickers or criminal networks.

Unfortunately, the global response to the crime of human trafficking in reality remains very fragmented. We see an increase in the number of detected child victims, particularly, girls under 18. The efforts to curb and fight consumer demand for children as a commodity, child prostitution and child pornography are far from adequate.

Here comes the second reason: we feel compelled to underline the importance of working partnerships of Member States, international organisations and civil society. We hope that this discussion – both by virtue of the circle of its organisers as well as of the audience present here – could convey the need for tighter interaction, more open and good-natured engagement between all partners in this struggle with no room for jealousy or overzealous guarding of one's institutional turf.

This is the time and the place to express our Group's collective gratitude to all of our partners in this work over the years. We address our special words of appreciation to the partner whose wholehearted support and cooperation we have enjoyed since the inception of our group – the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. We are also proud to have in the ranks of our partners C-Fam, a new but already trusted friend from civil society.

And last but not least, we conceived this event thinking of the need to complement important political statements that are made in the General Assembly Hall with a keener focus on practicalities.

This is why we look forward to this discussion not just as a means of keeping a topical issue visible. More importantly, we see it as a way of identifying new practical ideas about the ways of improving coordination and prompts about down-to-earth action that could help us deal more effectively with the criminal scourge that daily corrupts the very fabric of our society.

As a group of nations concerned with the unabated growth of modern-day slavery, we commit ourselves to remain vigilant and watchful. 

Together with our partners we will continue to bring up unattended facets of the crime of human trafficking for public scrutiny and action.

We are determined to lead, persuade and inspire our colleagues at the United Nations and beyond to create a truly united global anti-trafficking front that can only make the trade in humans a thing of the past.  

To show that we really care, we have to act.