Remarks at a Meeting of the Third Committee on an Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Chi

Gregory McElwain
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
October 26, 2018


The United States thanks the Special Rapporteur for her report. We recognize that sex and labor trafficking are common in conflict and post-conflict situations. Armed conflict breaks down rule of law, judicial systems, job markets, and community support structures that ordinarily protect individuals. Human traffickers seek to exploit situations of high unemployment rates and poverty, homelessness, and weak law enforcement. They target vulnerable individuals, disproportionately women and children, whether along international travel routes or where refugees, internally displaced, and stateless persons lack registration and documentation, legal employment, freedom of movement, and other basic means to become self-reliant. In some situations, human traffickers may even build relationships with corrupt officials and establish trafficking networks.

The United States has pressed for all humanitarian operations to address gender-based violence from the onset of an emergency, and we agree that emergency and humanitarian responses in conflict and post-conflict settings should incorporate anti-trafficking strategies. We would further add that these initiatives should be victim-centered and informed by their experiences and be designed based on their input.

We note that the report tends to over-emphasize the situation of refugees in camps, whereas more than two-thirds of refugees reside outside of camps in urban areas or settlements. It is important to prevent and mitigate the risks of trafficking of refugees, IDPs, and stateless persons in non-camp settings, as well as in camps, through registration, access to livelihoods and education, and other services.

Since 2001 USAID has invested over $290 million in programs to address trafficking in persons in 71 countries. The Agency has committed more than $82 million to 39 counter-trafficking programs ongoing in fiscal year 2017, including in conflict and crisis-affected countries such as Afghanistan, Burma, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guatemala, Honduras, the Philippines, Rwanda, and Ukraine.

We appreciate the report’s recognition of the anti-trafficking task team led by IOM and the Heartland Alliance as part of the Global Protection Cluster led by UNHCR, which the United States is supporting. We would be interested to learn if the Special Rapporteur has encountered other promising policies and programs implemented by member states, UN field offices, or other stakeholders that are specifically meant to identify and help women and girls who are victims of trafficking in conflict settings? We would also be interested to learn if the Special Rapporteur has any recommendations for similar initiatives to also be included in humanitarian responses to natural disasters.