Summary of Press Briefing for the launch of the report 'Trafficking in Persons: Global Patterns' on the opening day of the 15th session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice

    VIENNA, 24 April 2006 - The Hollywood actress and UN Goodwill Ambassador, Julia Ormond, and the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa, launched the report Trafficking in Persons: Global Patterns at a press briefing chaired by the UNIS Vienna Director, Nasra Hassan, today.

    Mr. Costa told journalists that the crime situation worldwide had been discussed at the opening of the 15th session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice that morning.  However, the scarcity of reliable data was a real hindrance in the discussions and Member States needed to do more to measure and assess crime and its impact, he said. 

    On the report on human trafficking, Trafficking in Persons: Global Patterns Mr. Costa said this was the first attempt to assess the situation in terms of all societies and countries affected. It was really a report about slavery, he told the briefing.

    UN Goodwill Ambassador and actress, Julia Ormond, said it was an honour to be there.  She made no claim to be an expert as she was on a learning curve herself she said but she was moved to be with people who were devoting themselves to making the world a better place.

    Julia Ormond said she had first heard about human trafficking in relation to women from Eastern Europe being forced into prostitution in the West.  She was incredibly shocked to find out that this was going on in the world today and this is what made her decide to devote herself to the issue she told the briefing.  The United Nations had achieved real progress by defining human trafficking, which would make it easier to identify persons involved. On a recent trip to Ghana, Ms. Ormond had seen an NGO working successfully to release children who were being exploited by fishermen. Therefore, success stories did exist, and they needed everyone's attention and support. There was no quick-fix solution, but trafficking was not a problem anyone could walk away from. The United Nations had done a great job in defining the problem and pointing the way forward.

    Asked about the role of Austria in trafficking Mr. Costa said he did not want to talk about specific countries but Austria was not immune from trafficking nor yet the worst in Europe.  He spoke of the need for destination countries to take action in relation to preventing demand. 

    In response to a question on why so little progress was being made in fighting human trafficking, Mr. Costa pointed out three elements of strategy to counter trafficking: prevention, prosecution (of traffickers) and protection (of victims). In all three areas, countries could do better, Mr. Costa said. He was surprised at how little compliance there had been so far among Member States in bringing traffickers to court and protecting the victims.

    Ms. Kangaspunta, Chief of UNODC's Anti-Human Trafficking Unit, added that one of the biggest problems was that of identification: identifying both the victims and the traffickers. Victims were being trafficked and exploited without anybody noticing. As far as traffickers were concerned, the crime of trafficking was being committed because someone was making money out of it, so traffickers needed to be identified. To take focused action against trafficking, more information was needed.

    Asked about entertainment visas in Japan and the link to trafficking for prostitution, UNODC had discussed the issues with Japanese authorities and NGOs on a visit to the country earlier this year.  Japan had acknowledged the problem and was working to solve it.  Acknowledgement was an important issue because without acknowledging that there was a problem, no action could be taken.

    Mr. Costa answered a question on the link between poverty and trafficking by mentioning UNODC's recent report on Crime and Development in Africa which showed that poverty, along with factors such as urbanization, was a major factor that created vulnerability to crime, including trafficking but that he would be careful in drawing a direct link. Also during his travels to Afghanistan, he had seen how poverty was a cause of illicit drug cultivation. One Afghan farmer had told him that if he did not grow opium, first he would have to sell his cow, then his daughters and finally his house. Nevertheless, to equalize poverty with trafficking and crime would be an over-simplification.

    A question was asked of Julia Ormond about what she hopes to achieve for the UN in this cause.  Ms. Ormond said part of her role as goodwill ambassador was to take part in public awareness campaigns and raise awareness of the issue.  She also wanted to meet victims, NGOs and government officials and try to put together a picture of the issue.  She spoke about how hard it was for victims of trafficking to tell their stories and how she hoped to meet victims privately and sympathetically hear their stories so she could relay them on their behalf to the outside world.  She said many were still living in fear even after being released and if they themselves had not suffered violence or threats of violence then their families often had.

    NGOs turned out in full force at the briefing, turning it into an 'event'. The NGOs thanked the United Nations and Julia Ormond for making this a high profile issue which was very useful.  An NGO representative spoke about the issue of prostitution at the Football World Cup in Germany later this year.  A representative from Soroptomist International said she had read that 40,000 prostitutes would be there some of whom would be women who had been trafficked. Julia Ormond responded saying some footballers had made public service announcements and raised the issue publicly. The media needed to give time to the footballers to talk about it, to help educate the fans she said.

    The issue of forced prostitution was raised by another NGO, the Council of German Women's Associations.  Another NGO representative from the World Society of Victimology in the USA stated that her office in Boston which is funded by the US Department of Justice, received many calls after Julia Ormond appeared on CNN.  She also raised a point about the need for parity for all victims of crime. 

    The briefing was attended by 17 representatives of the international and local media, including ORF Television and radio, AP, APA, Yomiuri Shimbun, Kyodo News, and Deutsche Welle and eight international, regional and local NGO representatives. Within a few minutes of the event, print and radio was already carrying reports.

    Note: The press and was 'event' was followed by a two-hour panel with Julia Ormond and victims of trafficking in the Boardroom.  The media were invited on the condition that they not film or ask questions as requested by the victims.