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Statement by His Excellency Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus Sergei N. Martynov at the Vienna Forum to Fight Human Trafficking (13 February 2008, Vienna)

Mr. President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Colleagues,

We all are living at the time of great challenges. Some of the challenges put to test our ability to respect human dignity, the right of everyone to enjoy freedom and happiness. They demand a response by the world at large and they demand our joint responsibility.

Human trafficking has obviously become one of such challenges. At the beginning of the 21st century we face the evil which was expected to have passed into history but is regenerating at a frightening speed.

One hundred fifty years after the victory over slavery we have come to witness that its ugly offspring in the form of human trafficking has become part of our realities. More than that, it is expanding.

The nature of the problem has been determined by its international scale as well as its profitability for criminal groups. According to the statistics of some international organizations, the profits from human trafficking come third on the global scale after those from arms and drugs trafficking. Hundreds of thousands of people annually in different parts of the world become victims of slave trade.

The question before us all is therefore evident:

How then shall we deal with this challenge?

The global community seems to have been doing a lot denouncing the phenomenon of human trafficking in recent years. Yet, the rhetoric alone, however forceful, cannot outstrip the bitter reality of the inexorable rise in human trafficking.

What do we make of it? We have to recognize in all honesty that what we knew of, and what we have done so far against human trafficking, is not effective enough. If we want to prevail over this evil, we need both to get an unbiased and correct diagnosis of the phenomenon, and engineer to give a comprehensive response to it.

So, how can human trafficking be diagnosed?

Firstly, it does not exist in the vacuum. It is taking place in the environment created by the deficiencies and consequences of our overall policies.

Then, human trafficking is a by-product of today’s globalization.

And finally, at the root of migration and human trafficking are global economic and social inequalities, which the current trends in globalization are only serving to widen.

Indeed, there are strong so-called push factors like political instability, poverty, social and economic exclusion. They go alongside with the pull factors – an image of prosperous life in affluent countries as well as a paying demand. Until both factors have been properly understood and comprehensively addressed, many of today’s have-nots will persist in seeking their fortune far away from their homes and falling in the trap of “body snatchers”.

On the one hand, it is heartening that the international community has responded to the human trafficking challenge by increased co-operation. But we have to admit that the focus of it up till now has been mainly a law-and-order paradigm of co-operation, i.e. strengthening border controls, monitoring migration, combating organized crime, repatriating victims of trafficking to their homeland, et cetera.

In this regard we must acknowledge that faced with the restricted  legal migration opportunities, victimized fortune seekers have increasingly been reverting to illegal optionswith the help of traffickers and smugglers.

Whatever its shortcomings, the Republic of Belarus recognizes the importance of the above mentioned law-and-order approach. Five years ago we ratified the 2000 Human Trafficking Protocol, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, and ever since Belarus has been scrupulously and consistently implementing it. We have every confidence in the Protocol because it ensures effective framework for co-operation in specific law enforcement aspects of human trafficking.

Important as such co-operation may be, its insufficiency is also becoming increasingly evident to those who are serious about confronting human trafficking.

We, in Belarus are very serious about it. We believe that it is high time the international community brought into the human trafficking discourse other paradigms that address the root causes of this phenomenon. This is to say, we must  advance from the law-and-order paradigm to development-and-human rights paradigm. We believe and there is a present and imminent need for a “beyond the Protocol” approach.

Such approach means moving towards new innovative and comprehensive arrangements to prevail over human trafficking, while ensuring at the same time that the Protocol continues to discharge its vital role within the already established framework.

It was with this in mind that at the Sixty-First General Assembly session Belarus proposed to work out a United Nations strategy against human trafficking. We believe that such a Strategy should be a vital tool to pursue cohesive and comprehensive handling of the issues related to trafficking in persons – from securing law and order to guaranteeing development and human rights protection. Belarus stands ready to co-operate with other countries and agencies to achieve it.

We are also strong advocates of the idea of the General Assembly thematic debates on combating human trafficking to be held in New York in June 2008. In our view the issue of the UN strategy against human trafficking should become a central point of its agenda.

Most crucial though, it is our strong hope that the current phase of the anti-trafficking activities, which the Vienna Forum and UN.GIFT in general were so instrumental in setting in motion, should, in the end, lead to a Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly. If our approach is supported, such a session might be held in two or three years’ time. As the outcome, it may adopt a UN strategy against human trafficking as well as a political declaration on the issue.

The UN General Assembly Special Session on Human Trafficking will undoubtedly help forge a global political commitment and a systematic effort to confront this global evil.

Some may wonder why Belarus has been taking such an active stand against human trafficking. We feel strongly about it because Belarus is a country of both origin and transit of so-called human commodity.

Combating human trafficking is one of the priorities of the authorities of the Republic of Belarus since we believe that this problem creates a threat to national security of countries, undermines stability of the society, and most importantly, violates basic human rights and freedoms. The need to take active efforts and the necessity to establish Global Partnership to fight trafficking in persons was stressed by the President of the Republic of Belarus at the 2005 United Nations Summit in New York.

For more than a decade, the Government of Belarus has been pursuing a successful policy enhancing social and economic well-being of the Belarusian nation. The result is quite telling, as we have been witnessing a decline of the incidence of human trafficking within our borders lately.

We have managed to create a national framework that effectively deals with human trafficking through prevention, prosecution and protection. Our policies place a particular emphasis on protective measures. Suffice it to make reference to the 2006 report by the International Organization for Migration on the situation with human trafficking in Belarus that states, quote “Belarus’ policy on treatment of foreign victims goes beyond that of most states, and indeed is more comprehensive, for example, than the one required by the recently adopted Council of Europe’s Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings”[1] (end of quote).

Two years ago Belarus enunciated the idea of a Global Partnership Against Slavery and Human Trafficking. It is gratifying to see that this initiative is now taking shape as a growing number of partners from around the world see the need for working intensively together to put an end to this intolerable phenomenon. It is for the Vienna Forum to build upon this incipient Partnership that should, in our view, become a sort of Abolitionist Movement for the XXI century.


Mr. President,

I would like to end my statement with the words by a renowned man of the Age of Reason. The great Voltaire once said that every man is guilty of all the good he has not done.

Let us, in our turn, be reasonable in our own age and do all that good that is necessary to be done to completely stop human trafficking– so that we all as a community of nations and people shall never again have to be ashamed.

Thank you.

[1]IOM Report “Measures to Combat Human Trafficking in the Republic of Belarus”, 2006, p.17.

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