Saturday, April 28, 2012

UNODC, UNWTO stress need for tourism industry cooperation to combat human trafficking


UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedetov and UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai emphasized the need for the tourism industry to contribute to anti-human trafficking efforts, on a panel talk during the twenty-first session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Vienna on Tuesday.

With 1 billion tourist expected to travel internationally in 2012 - up from just 25 million in 1950 - tourism is a major global phenomenon that contributes greatly to economic growth and job creation. However, it also creates the potential for trafficking in and exploitation of persons.

"While tourism infrastructure is or can be used to commit hideous crimes, it can also be used to fight not only trafficking, but all forms of exploitation," said Mr Rifai.

Mr Fedetov highlighted a variety of successful anti-human trafficking campaigns already run in conjunction with the travel industry, including UN.GIFT's distribution of awareness-raising material and public service announcements in planes and hotels around the world. He also encouraged companies to offer employment opportunities to former victims of human trafficking.

Representing the private sector, Barbara Powell, Senior Director, International Social Responsibility and Community Engagement, Marriott Hotels International, discussed the hotel chain's proactive approach to training staff and reporting instances of trafficking or sexual exploitation.

"We can and do work with governments and law enforcement on prosecuting these crimes, but we also wanted to work on prevention. The root cause is poverty," Ms Powell said, describing Marriott's cornerstone economic empowerment program, theYouth Career Initiative.

Also on the panel were: Thomas Mayr, National Expert, Division for International Tourism Affairs, Federal Ministry of Economy, Family and Youth of Austria; and Katlihn Declarcq, ECPAT International Board Member for Western Europe.

Human trafficking is one of the focus areas included in a Memorandum of Understanding that UNODC and UNWTO signed earlier this week. The two organizations will be joining efforts to fight various aspects of organized crime within the travel and tourism industry, including trafficking in persons especially women and children, corruption, and smuggling of illicit goods, among others.

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