Children Are Vulnerable to Trafficking and Slavery: Michelle Bachelet

Michele Bachelet, Presidente of Chile speaks during Special Session of the Human Rights Council. 29 March 2017. UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré
Michele Bachelet, Presidente of Chile speaks during Special Session of the Human Rights Council. 29 March 2017. UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said Monday that children are vulnerable to trafficking and slavery, including the worst forms of forced labour, domestic slavery, sexual slavery, and forced marriage.

Ms. Bachelet was addressing the 80th session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child. She said testimonies collected by the staff of the Office, UNICEF, and other bodies clearly indicate that child migrants and internally displaced children, in every region, are at heightened risk.

According to ILO studies, more than 20 million people are victims of forced labour, including more than 5.5 million children. The Special Rapporteur on the sale of children has reported that the share of children trafficked for the purpose of forced labour is increasing, and the share of children involved in forced labour is particularly high.

And according to the most recent available data from UNODC, as of 2012, one in three detected victims of trafficking was a child. Among these identified victims, there were almost double the number of girls than boys, with the trafficking of children for sexual exploitation greatly facilitated by digital technologies, which create new marketplaces and streamline the organization of trafficking networks.

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UNICEF estimates 60 million children under 5 will die between 2017 and 2030 from preventable causes. Stunting, or chronic malnutrition, was estimated to affect 155 million children in 2016; UNICEF reports only 13% of countries are on track to meet their target.

Millions of girls become mothers while they are still children, damaging their health and entrenching a cycle of poverty. Millions of children are traumatized and harmed by armed conflict. And it is impossible to accurately estimate just how many boys and girls are forcibly recruited by armed groups as fighters or, in effect, as slaves. In 2016 alone, UN monitors verified more than 20,000 such victims – but the full number is clearly far higher.

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Ms. Bachelet warned that these numbers are a calamity, adding that each of them stands for a precious individual whose hopes – and rights – are being dashed. Tragically, she said, there is still much work to be done before we realize the four core principles of the Convention –non discrimination; the child’s best interests; right to life, survival and development; and right to be heard.

“I hope we can build on this year’s 30th anniversary to advocate greater emphasis on the Convention’s principles and goals. Young people are a source of ideas, innovations and solutions. Empowering them, respecting their dignity and upholding their rights generates benefits for everyone,” Ms. Bachelet said.

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