NEW YORK – July 30, 2014 marked the first ever United Nations World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, set up under U.N. General Assembly resolution 68/192. It comes as part of a series of efforts by the U.N. to combat all instances of modern day slavery and raise awareness of the issue, which until recently had gone largely unaddressed in many parts of the world.
The day of the event, a massive social media blitz was encouraged across the globe in order to raise awareness.
According to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, or UNODC, the purpose was to “express solidarity with the millions of victims of human trafficking by giving back what they had stolen from them: hope.”
In order to participate, people were asked to do three things. First, to take a picture of themselves, with or without a friend, while making a heart with their hands. Second, to post the picture on social media sites, specifically the Blue Heart Facebook page, with the hashtag #igivehope. Last step was to sign up for World Thunderclap Day by promoting the advocacy efforts.
The rationale behind using the heart as a symbol for this day was due to its international recognition as a symbol of love, friendship and caring. It is also part of the larger Blue Heart Campaign, in which a blue heart is used, according to the UNODC, to “represent the sadness of those who are trafficked while reminding us of the cold-heartedness of those who buy and sell fellow human beings.”
The color blue is also the trademarked U.N. blue to symbolize “the commitment of the United Nations to combating this crime against human dignity.”
The Blue Heart Campaign and World Day Against Trafficking in Persons are also meant to call attention to and encourage governments to uphold and deepen their commitment to the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime and its first Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons.
The convention and its protocols are binding agreements, which means member states that accede to the convention must uphold the agreement or face a penalty under international law. The convention was established on November 15, 2000 under General Assembly resolution 55/25, and it officially entered into force as an international convention on September 29, 2003.
The protocol concerning trafficking of persons came into force on December 25, 2003. Due to these efforts by U.N. member states, 90 percent of countries in the world have established some form of legislation criminalizing human trafficking.
Despite the high percentage of legislation combating human trafficking, the UNODC is concerned by the low level of convictions being made as a result of this legislation.
Reports about the levels of human trafficking around the world will be published in the UNODC’s 2014 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons.
However, the UNODC is hopeful that the advent of this new global advocacy and awareness campaign will impact governments’ efforts to prevent human trafficking and protect and care for survivors of modern-day slavery.
– Erin Sullivan
Sources: UNODC 1, UNODC 2, UNODC 3, UN 1, UN 2, UN 3, UNODC 4, UNODC 5, UNODC 6, UN 4, VOA News
Photo: Christine Lewicki