Human TraffickingNews

The only way to defeat trafficking is to stop paying for it: OSCE Alliance Conference against trafficking in persons

Confronting the demand that fuels and incentivizes human trafficking is the focus of the three-day 21st OSCE Alliance Conference against Trafficking in Persons, which happened earlier this week in Vienna.

One of the largest international anti-trafficking conferences, the 2021 Alliance highlights how the demand for goods and services extracted from victims fuels trafficking and motivates exploitation.

Trafficking in human beings generates $150BLN a year in profits, according to the International Labour Organization. Those proceeds create the incentive for traffickers to commit their heinous crimes and to exploit millions of women, men and children worldwide.

“Addressing demand means recognizing that trafficking involves more than just a trafficker and a victim,” said OSCE Special Representative Valiant Richey in opening the discussion. “As uncomfortable as it may be, it means acknowledging that $150BLN come from all of us – individuals, businesses and governments paying, knowingly or unknowingly, for goods and services extracted from trafficking victims.”

The conference will outline how demand manifests, the value of tackling it, and international obligations in this regard.

Sweden’s Ambassador at Large for Combating Trafficking in Persons, Anna Ekstedt, representing the Swedish 2021 OSCE Chairpersonship said that we all have an obligation to address the root cause of trafficking in human beings, namely the demand, and we have to find efficient methods to do so. “We can never accept the serious abuse that victims of trafficking are facing, and that people are indifferent to their situation.”  

“We need to start following the money that pays for trafficking. We all have a role to play,” said OSCE Secretary General Helga Maria Schmid. “Defeating trafficking is not the task of law enforcement alone, but society at large. I hope today’s conversation will bring us closer to realizing this important truth and to take the necessary action together.”

Over 850 participants from 55 countries, 30 international organizations and 300 NGOs, all across the OSCE region, are participating in the conference. The EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson, Uzbekistan’s Deputy Minister of Employment and Labour Relations Erkin Mukhitdinov and Spain’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Cristina Gallach addressed at the opening. A number of grassroots anti-trafficking practitioners such as Yvan Sagnet from NoCap, Eleni Michael of the Cyprus Police, and Maximilian Nicolae from the Romanian National Agency Against Trafficking in Human Beings will speak during the conference.

“Human trafficking has infected virtually every corner of our global supply chains: it is in the technology we use, the clothes we wear, the food we eat,” said Richey. “This is not to say that the fight against trafficking is unwinnable – it absolutely is. But, to defeat trafficking, we need to confront its root causes and the demand is fuelling it. We need to stop paying for trafficking – it is that simple.”