Emerging Challenges and Opportunities in Combating Human Trafficking:
A View From the UN

Simone Monasebian, Director of the New York Office,
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
Co-sponsored with the Institute of International Education

New York, NY—On June 29, 2016, Simone Monasebian, director of the New York Office of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, briefed WFPG members and guests on the emerging challenges and opportunities in combating human trafficking. Monasebian highlighted the recent focus on human trafficking by the UN, and described the renewed sense of action, increased political will, and hope for sustainable responses. The program was co-sponsored by the Institute of International Education and moderated by WFPG President Patricia Ellis.

To put things in context, Monasebian explained that the universal definition of human trafficking was established in 2000 with the General Assembly’s adoption of the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. The protocol served as nothing more than a legal instrument until a group of highly motivated ambassadors and delegates began to advocate for an effective action plan. In July 2010, the General Assembly finally adopted the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, which enforced a biannual report on trafficking in persons, as well as a UN voluntary trust fund for these victims. Despite these improvements, Monasebian admitted that human trafficking has not been a top priority for the UN in recent years. Governments are addressing the symptoms but not the root causes, turning to “Band-Aid responses” for immediate but temporary relief. In addition to these challenges, she underlined stigma as a major problem for trafficking victims who want to be fully reintegrated into society.

However, she noted that she feels encouraged by the progress of the past six months. At the UN Sustainable Development Summit in September 2015, the General Assembly adopted seventeen Sustainable Development Goals, three of which are dedicated specifically to human trafficking. Following the summit, US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power and President Obama pushed for a Security Council meeting on human trafficking. The landmark meeting, which took place on December 16, 2015, introduced a presidential statement requiring the Secretary General to submit a report to the council in December 2016 to review the issue of human trafficking.

Moving forward, Monasebian explained that several steps have already been taken to ensure that human trafficking remains a top priority. She mentioned that the General Assembly Summit on Refugees and Migrants will be held this year on September 19. Additionally, the General Assembly will have to appraise the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons in October 2017. The UNODC is currently trying to establish a peer review mechanism to assess the accountability of member states in implementing the protocol. Though there is still work to be done, she concluded that these initiatives are promising.

In response to a question about what individuals can do, Monasebian urged everyone to intervene if they witness what they suspect is a human trafficking incident. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center’s hotline number is 1-888-373-7888, and any additional information can be shared with the Center for Missing and Exploited Children or the Polaris Project.
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Speaker Simone Monasebian, Director of the
New York Office, UNODC

Moderator WFPG President Patricia Ellis


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Peggy Blumenthal, Institute of International
Education welcomes guests

Diego Gomez Pickering, Consul General of Mexico converses with the speaker
Q&A Session
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Gillian Sorenson, International Rescue Committee

Erin Wolfe, WIIS- NY

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Mirjana Živković, Consul General of Serbia

Ambassador Afiavi Fernande Houngbedji, DPR Mission of Benin to UN and Geraldine Kunstadter

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Anne-Marie Wilcock, UNDP

Afarin Dadkhah, MADRE
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Emily Mullenax, Safe Horizon Anti-Trafficking Program

Guests listening to the program