Media can Start a Consumer Revolt against Human Trafficking Forum on the role of the news media in exposing human trafficking PDF Print E-mail
UNODC Speeches (2002-2010)



Ladies and Gentlemen,


I would love to say that it is my pleasure to take part in this panel. Actually, this’ not true:  it saddens me, well into the 21st century, to take part in a panel discussion on modern-form of slavery: a crime that shames us all now as much as it did centuries ago..

This problem used to be hidden in plain sight:  no more, or not that much.  Thanks to a global movement, there is now much greater awareness.  Media has played a key role: and I mean media in the broadest sense of the word.


Feature films, like Trade, starring Kevin Kline, and Human Trafficking, starring Mira Sorvino. Indeed, there are enough human trafficking films to fill a festival (as we did in Vienna two years ago).


Documentaries: like the recent series on BBC World News called Working Lives, and Robert Bilheimer’s new work called Not My Life which will premier later this year. Major networks now provide free air-time for great impact PSAs.


Or music, paintings (like the work of Ross Bleckner), authors (like Mike McGraw), columnists (like Nicholas Kristof) and investigative journalism.


We should also not underestimate the power of social networking, like Facebook and Twitter.


Thanks to the powerful work of anti-slavery champions – including many in this room – people have opened their eyes to human trafficking – and the fact that it is all around us.  But we need to go further. We need to move from information to advocacy – and action.


When people wake up to the reality of human trafficking, they often ask – what can I do? How can I help? I say, first of all, stop being part of the problem. We are all responsible for human trafficking because almost everything we touch, wear, eat or drink has been stained by the blood, sweat and tears of trafficking victims.


Tomorrow, UNODC will issue a report on The Globalization of Crime. It is the first comprehensive assessment of global crime markets. One of the main observations that it makes – in relation to human trafficking and other illicit flows – is that we have to change the way that we look at fighting organized crime: to focus more on disrupting criminal markets, not just the mafias involved.  And, given the fact that criminals are in it for the money, we have to increase the risks and lower the benefits of their trade.


In terms of human trafficking, that means reducing vulnerability at the source: warning potential victims, and alerting the public about the danger stemming from even banal behaviours. Some progress is being made, but we must do more in both source (developing) and destination (rich) countries. 


It especially involves reducing demand for the goods and services of trafficking victims. That is where we all have a role to play. In the same way that blood diamonds or fur coats are now being boycotted, would people really want to own luxury goods made in sweat shops? Or eat chocolate made of beans picked by child labour?  Or seek exotic sex provided by enslaved girls?  How can rich and beautiful people not recognize that their domestic servants are the victims of forced labour?


If people stopped consuming slave-made products and exploiting other humans, the market for human trafficking would dry up. If we are all part of the problem, let’s all be part of the solution. This is a message that the media should amplify.


I therefore urge you to help inform – and shame if necessary – the world into starting a consumer revolt against human trafficking.


Let’s use this meeting to start an international campaign to rally the media against human trafficking – drawing on experiences that have already been made, and engaging creative minds to change behaviour, not just attitudes. I encourage you to start among your peers, and build up global networks.  


This would be a fitting way to mark the 10th anniversary of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, particularly its anti-human trafficking Protocol. After all, according to the Protocol, we have a responsibility to prevent as well as to protect.


So please, help spread the word, and devise imaginative ways of telling the world about how to reduce the demand that is driving the market for human trafficking. Let’s start a consumer revolt against a revolting crime.


Thank you for your attention. 

Last Updated on Sunday, 04 May 2014 17:37