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United Nations; Africa: Action Against Child Trafficking Urged

(Dec. 2, 2007) Speaking at an international meeting on trafficking in children and armed conflict, Antonio Maria Costa, the head of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, urged West and Central African states to protect their children. He described child trafficking as something “which not only harms innocent lives but also efforts to secure peace in countries recovering from conflict.” He also said that human trafficking is a problem around the world, but that the crime is especially rampant in the parts of Africa where there are large numbers of “lost children” as a result of warfare and because the law enforcement is lax in some places due to internal conflicts or corruption. Costa stated, “[i]n some countries, anti-trafficking legislation is weak or non-existent.” Some of the vulnerable are orphans; others were child soldiers and may have been separated from their families and communities.

Costa went on to describe girls as more vulnerable than boys, both as victims of rape and sexual harassment and because most programs for disarming child soldiers and reintegrating them into society focus on boys. He advocated more support for rehabilitation of girls and supported efforts to redress injustices committed against them in armed conflicts. He expressed concern that safe havens be kept free of human traffickers, stating, “[w]e must deepen the knowledge base on the plight of girls in conflict situations to ensure that prevention and intervention become more effective.”

The conference was held in Abjian, in the Cote d’Ivoire, and began on November 26, 2007. Costa promised that the United Nations would provide assistance to the African nations involved through the Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking, so that those countries could criminalize human trafficking, prosecute the perpetrators, and protect children. (UN Anti-Crime Chief Urges Action to Prevent Child Trafficking in Africa, UNNEWS, Nov. 27, 2007.)