SMG UN CSW68 Side Event: Innovative Partnerships to End Trafficking in Women and Girls: The Santa Marta Group Model

Livestream of Event from UN Web TV

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Kevin Hyland OBE, Santa Marta Group Strategy Director speech at the United Nations, 14 March 2024:

Thank you to the Permanent Observer of the Holy See and the Philippines for hosting this event.

At a time when multilateral collaboration and unanimity are more challenging than ever, the UN has a crucial role.

That’s why I want to share with you a new global development to combat human trafficking and invite you to be a part of it.

I serve as Strategy Director for the Santa Marta Group. The Santa Marta Group brings unique partnership between leaders in criminal justice, faith groups, business, government and civil society together to move words into action.

The priority of Santa Marta Group is to prevent human trafficking. To do this we need a new approach…one that recognises this as serious crime with integrated prevention.

Victim identification and support that allows a survivor to become a member of society without stigma or marginalisation is crucial.

Having met 15-year-old girls trafficked to Europe from Eritrea, held in connection houses in Libya, sold at slave markets funding terrorists in Northern Iraq was chilling.

Women and men exploited and abused on farms in Southern Europe for fruit sold in major supermarkets. Serious crime, going unnoticed, occurring every year.

A woman sold three times, exploited as a domestic worker in affluent UK homes. Sleeping under the sink was bad enough, but her experience of being raped by the man in the house when his wife was out was depraved.

Or young women sleeping under the stairs in forced prostitution, earning hundreds of 1000s of dollars for criminals in Thailand, Romania, Belgium and the UK.

On UN anti-trafficking day 2017, Pope Francis made it clear human trafficking is a crime, and we need the resources necessary to counter this scourge. However, the situation has worsened over the past seven years while interventions have remained stagnant or declined.

Improving prevention and responses is crucial. But these must be integrated into systemic change.

Being ambitious must become the norm. As a police officer, I recall being told I could never seize criminal assets in Thailand until I did.

Or that international sanctions could not be imposed on Libya’s traffickers until they were.

Victim blaming and waiting for them to make the first move is counter to the concept of the UN Palermo Protocol, the EU Directive and the Council of Europe Convention, all framed to suppress human trafficking. The state and its agencies have to introduce strategies that make it nigh impossible to traffick people, and if you do, you will face an almost certainty of being prosecuted.

Many reasons heighten the potential to become a victim of human traffickers, and of course, those need to be addressed. However, human trafficking is never inevitable. It can only occur as a deliberate criminal act or by wilful negligence by an individual, an organised crime group, a business, a corporation or, in some cases, a country. And in all cases, it is always a serious crime.

Those who commit these crimes must feel reassured knowing that 99.98 per cent of crimes remain undetected, and only one in every 8,700 victims worldwide will see justice—making this almost a perfect crime.

So, what can bring change? ... To make this a crime that doesn’t pay?

Santa Marta has six priority pillars:

Government procurement must not end up funding criminal traffickers. This is something governments can control through vigilance, monitoring and good contracts. Those who use forced labour or human trafficking should never benefit from taxpayer money. Political party manifestos always include crime prevention - not funding it. And likewise, businesses must prevent their transactions and trade from benefitting those who commit crimes of human trafficking and modern slavery. Many businesses respect crime prevention and the safety of their employees in their business model. Let's ensure all big businesses follow suit; this should be done by law.

Tainted money: we need to target this crime's profits and benefits to remove the incentive. A concept of tainted money, beyond that of proceeds of crime, will significantly impact prevention. If you make money from human trafficking or modern slavery, even unwittingly, there needs to be a notion that you lose it. This would not only capture business profit but also, by example, landlords where sex trafficking occurs and many others who make a profit, all too often through wilful blindness. This will also increase awareness and due diligence, shifting the responsibility to prevent trafficking to those who potentially benefit from it. This notion will be a game changer.

The internet and transactions on the virtual highway must be regulated, just like any normal highway. If paedophiles, traffickers, fraudsters or any other serious criminals peddled their wares on the streets, shops and highways of the US, they would be pursued and brought to justice. A shift in the governance of the internet and the cyber world is needed and must go beyond the bounds of criminal justice. Technology, digital, and social media companies have the technology and ability to do far more in prevention. The safety of our children, communities and national and international security depend on them taking more deliberative action.

We must view human trafficking and modern slavery in the context of other serious crimes and global threats. This crime destabilises economies, national security and the safety of communities. Of course, victim identification and support are crucial, but these crimes have a much wider negative impact. For example, human trafficking is used to fund terrorist groups. Traffickers recruit child soldiers to fight illegal battles in contradiction to our respect for democracy and the values it brings. Trafficking for human organs is increasing. Illegal surgical operations that will result in the death of donor and recipient have been highlighted by national medical experts. The shocking criminal sale of human organs attracts many millions every year as premium charges are on the up. So, understanding and implementing the conventions and protocols designed to prevent human trafficking and forced labour is crucial.

National Intelligence and international intelligence gathering bodies have a role in fighting this crime. For example, in peacekeeping and conflict pre-deployment preparation, the US and British Army introduced the identification of human trafficking as part of the training. It has also been introduced into smaller military nations' curricula, like the Irish Defence Forces. Sanctions and wider introduction of measures like the US Customs and Border Protection withhold release orders and the introduction of a list of rogue traders will send a clear message: human trafficking must be prevented. And red flags on finance, and for example, new styles of red flags such as airlines making compulsory notifications of multiple one-way flights for women and girls using the same IP address or payment card, have previously proven to be incredibly useful. This means the institutions that have a role in preventing and sanctioning international crimes and crimes against humanity must be fully engaged in fulfilling their duty. This should include agencies such as the World Bank, the World Health Organisation, the International Criminal Courts, and multilateral bodies such as the EU.

Importantly, point six is moral leadership, something we must all strive to do. We must be courageous to face change, recognise systems are not working and collectively nurture and, where necessary, require change to become the norm.

To make the pillars work the Santa Marta Group is promoting a partnership with the G20 Interfaith Forum - “30-by-30.” G20 member countries must collectively invest US$30 billion annually in the fight against human trafficking and modern slavery by 2030.

This might sound like an incredible sum, but it is just a fraction of the US$150 billion profit that criminals make from human trafficking annually.

While the world's leaders have included human trafficking or business transparency in their G20 declaration since 2018, now is the time to deliver. Move words into action.

The time is overdue for change: almost a quarter of a century since the UN Palermo Protocol, and over 90 years since the League of Nations introduced the slavery and forced labour ban, followed by further bans in 1956, 1999, and 2014. This is long enough to recognise that we need different tools, systems, and approaches.

This crime, unlike others, has many opportunities for prevention and intervention during preparatory acts, such as conspiracy, serious organised crime enterprise offences or aiding and abetting.

However, disincentivising these crimes by removing financial benefits and placing fear on the mere thought of committing human trafficking or modern slavery must become the norm and a priority for businesses, governments, and communities.

Every one of the estimated 50 million children, women and men who are suffering today deserve us to do our duty and end this scourge.

Actions, not merely words, are needed. But it will take great leadership, proper investment, and political will.

The Santa Marta Group will continue to act as a catalyst for changing the paradigm,

‘From a crime that is a profitable enterprise – to one you fear to commit.’