Launching Anti-Trafficking Handbook to Parliamentarians from Around World, UNICEF Chief Says Exploitation of Children Is ‘Within Your Power to Curtail’
MANILA / NEW YORK, 4 April 2005 – Echoing a theme that has become a hallmark of her tenure, UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy today challenged legislators from around the world to do more to protect the health and well-being of children.
Speaking to the annual gathering of the Inter-Parliamentary Union here, Bellamy emphasized that while immunization and basic health and nutrition are crucial for children in their early years, protecting them from exploitation and abuse as they grow older is essential to ensuring that they develop to their fullest potential and have a chance to break the grip of poverty.
“Parliamentarians have a choice,” Bellamy declared. “They can make decisions that ensure the protection of children, or they can make decisions that leave children vulnerable to being exploited and abused. The first choice virtually guarantees strong national development; the second choice virtually guarantees the continuation of poverty.”
Joined by IPU Secretary General Anders Johnsson, Bellamy launched a handbook for legislators offering practical information on how to enact policy and laws to effectively combat child trafficking – one of the most widespread abuses of children world-wide.
Millions of children are trafficked every year as part of a lucrative industry linked with criminal activity and corruption. Trafficking in human beings is beginning to rival the illegal trade of drugs and arms, with an estimated revenue of as much as $10 billion a year, Bellamy said.
Bellamy – who completes her ten-year tenure at UNICEF at the end of April – noted it would have been easy to become demoralized after speaking with children on every continent who had been “beaten and raped, bought and sold, wrenched from home by conflict and forced to toil as soldiers and sex slaves.”
“But if my decade with UNICEF has taught me anything, it is that this massive suffering of children is completely within our power to curtail,” she told the several hundred legislators at the conference.
She said lawmakers are uniquely placed to have a positive effect on children’s lives by creating and enforcing legislation to protect children, by allocating adequate resources from national budgets, and by using the power of parliamentary inquiry to hold governments, industries, and civil society accountable.
During her visit to the Philippines, Bellamy visited Manila North Harbor, a hotspot for the trafficking of women and children. She visited a shelter for trafficked children, mostly women and young girls who had been rescued from traffickers who attempted to slip them through the busy seaport. Most of the victims were promised jobs as entertainers in Japan, as domestic servants or factory workers but were destined for the sex trade.
Hidden from view and without legal protection, children in poor countries are often lured by promises of a good education or a “better job.” Far from home or in a foreign country, trafficked children – disoriented, without papers, and excluded from any form of protection– can be forced to endure prostitution, domestic servitude, early and involuntary marriage, or hazardous and punishing labour.
Bellamy urged parliamentarians to implement anti-trafficking measures during humanitarian crises, when children are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
“Legislative bodies and their members must take their place among the foremost champions for children by asking tough questions and demanding answers,” she said. “By committing yourselves to protecting your youngest citizens, you can send the message that the well-being of children is not just the responsibility of people who work with children, but of all of society.”
The IPU was established in 1889 and brings together representatives of Parliaments in over 140 states. It contributes to the defence and promotion of human rights and has a long-standing commitment to the protection of children.
UNICEF works in 158 countries, and undertakes child protection programmes in almost all of them, focusing on children without caregivers, the worst forms of child labour, and violence against children. Over the last two years, UNICEF has allocated over $240 million to its work on protecting children and ensuring they arrive into adulthood healthy, safe and ready to thrive.
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For further information please contact:
Allison Hickling, UNICEF New York: (+1-212) 326-7224, email@example.com
Dale Rutstein, UNICEF Manila: (+63-2) 901-0177, firstname.lastname@example.org
5 April 2005:
UNICEF's Carol Bellamy addresses lawmakers.
4 April 2005:
Executive Director Carol Bellamy visits a shelter for trafficked children in Manila, Philippines.