UNESCAP News Services
Date: 10 August 2011
Press Release No: L/43/2011
DR. NOELEEN HEYZER
UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS
AND EXECUTIVE SECRETARY OF THE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMISSION
FOR ASIA AND THE PACIFIC
26 July 2011
As we speak, 1.36 million people are being trafficked in Asia-Pacific. People are bought and sold against their wishes just to live or support their families. Behind every figure is a tragic story that has a human face: daughters sold to pay a debt; young boys forced to work as slave labour on shipping vessels. The sad fact is that business is partially fueling the demand for trafficked labour.
Estimated annual profits made from the exploitation of all trafficked forced labour is US$ 9.7 billion, and of that, 30.6% is generated in Asia and the Pacific.
The scope and magnitude of human trafficking in fact is so huge that unless we change the way we do business, not as business as usual, but a different way of doing business, we’re not going to be able to address this serious transnational crime. Private sector must play a role. Traditional partners such as UN agencies and law enforcement organizations are no longer able to address the magnitude of the crime.
The need for business to engage on the issue of human trafficking, therefore, is paramount. Consumers and stakeholders are increasingly aware of ethical sourcing and supply chain issues through the media and advocacy groups. Consequently, companies especially those operating on a transnational level, are now expected to exhibit more transparency in their sourcing, and cannot afford to be complicit in the labour and human rights violations in any part of their value chain. Becoming active in the fight against human trafficking is smart business which will in turn reflect positively with consumers and stakeholders alike.
But more than that, companies now have a socially-contracted duty to ensure that international labour and human rights standards are cascaded throughout their entire value chain. Companies are also expected to be proactive in enforcing these standards, especially in regions where local laws are not yet inclusive of migrant labour issues and governments are not capable of enforcement on their own.
I am urging businesses today to sign the Athens Ethical Principles, in which companies pledge to help educate the public about trafficking and to avoid any use of trafficked labor. Some 10,000 companies globally have signed the protocol, but few of them are Asia.
Let me close with a call to action – ending human trafficking is a fight that needs champions. Bringing to an end human trafficking is not only smart business, but it is where business is an indispensable partner and force for good – please join us today in this important struggle.
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Headquartered in Bangkok, United Nations ESCAP is the largest of the UN's five Regional Commissions in terms of its membership, population served and area covered. The only inter-governmental forum covering the entire Asia-Pacific region, ESCAP works to promote sustainable and inclusive economic and social progress. More information on ESCAP is available at www.unescap.org