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UNICEF hails world’s first regional agreement on human trafficking

Greater Mekong Sub-Region commits to fight human trafficking

YANGON, MYANMAR, 29 October 2004 – Today ministers from China, Cambodia, Thailand, Lao PDR, Viet Nam and Myanmar signed a landmark memorandum of understanding that sets forth a framework of action to fight human trafficking. 

The six nations of the Greater Mekong Sub-Region have committed themselves to coordinated action on trafficking prevention, law enforcement, the prosecution of traffickers, and the recovery, reintegration and support of trafficking victims.

“This is an important step forward in our joint efforts to fight human trafficking and the suffering it leaves in its wake,” said Carroll Long, UNICEF Representative in Myanmar.  “UNICEF applauds the commitment of the region’s countries in joining together to combat this scourge that’s destroying children’s lives and ripping families apart.”

UNICEF-supported studies indicate that some 1.2 million children around the globe are trafficked every year.  Approximately one-third of all trafficking in women and children takes place from and within the East Asia region.

Human trafficking takes many forms, including forced marriage, exploitative labor and domestic service, and prostitution. 

“While not all trafficking involves commercial sexual exploitation, this is an all-too-frequent phenomenon,” noted UNICEF Representative Carroll Long. 

Children are particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation, with surveys indicating that approximately one third of those involved in prostitution in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region are between 12 and 17 years of age.  Most victims of commercial sexual exploitation are women and girls.

“Children and women forced into the commercial sex industry suffer particularly acute trauma, and the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the region places their lives in severe peril,” said Ms. Long.  “UNICEF especially focuses its efforts on protecting these most vulnerable children and youth.”

In Myanmar and the Greater Mekong Sub-Region, UNICEF and its many partners – all of which coordinate their activities as members of the UN Inter-Agency Project on Trafficking (UNIAP) – support a range of actions to combat human trafficking and create a protective environment for children.  UNICEF-supported activities in the region include the reintegration of trafficking victims, psychosocial support services for these victims, support for community-level prevention activities, education services, and the enhancement of legal protections.

In Myanmar, UNICEF is working in partnership with communities, NGOs and others to train community officials, teachers, Parent-Teachers Associations and other civil society groups in trafficking prevention, and to reintegrate trafficked victims in their home communities, thanks to funding provided by the Government of Japan.

Next Steps

Officials at today’s meeting confirmed that in early 2005, a Regional Plan of Action on trafficking will be enacted based upon the framework set forth in today’s MOU.

“We welcome the commitment of these countries to begin forging an action plan to address the many factors that give rise to human trafficking in the region, including economic disparity, a lack of educational opportunities, gender bias, and the breakdown of traditional family support mechanisms,” said Ms. Long.


UNICEF provided financial support for this week’s Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative against Trafficking along with many other UNIAP partners, including sister UN agencies, international NGOs, bilateral donor agencies, and governments.  The U.N. Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking, of which UNICEF is a member, is serving as secretariat for this process.

For more information, please contact:

Jason Rush, UNICEF Myanmar, + 95 1 212 090, jrush@unicef.org





29 October 2004: UNICEF Represenative in Myanmar Carroll Long discusses the Greater Mekong agreement to fight child trafficking.


The COMMIT Process and UNICEF’s Work in Myanmar [PDF]
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