European Union External Action

High Level Virtual Event: Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery during COVID-19 and beyond

16/11/2021 - 17:29

22 November 2021, New York - High Level Event on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery


Welcoming, HE Alya Ahmed Bin Saif Al-Thani

     Keynote by HE Mr. Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary General

Opening Remarks, HE Dr. Ali bin Saeed bin Smaikh Al Marri, Minister of Labour of the State of Qatar

and  Mrs. Ghada Waly, Executive Director, UNODC

     Issue Framing by Moderator, Richard Quest, CNN International Anchor (confirmed)

Video – The CNN Freedom Project

      Moderated High-level

  • H.E. Mr. Keith Shannon, Acting Migration & Modern Slavery Envoy, UK
  • H.E. Ambassador Petra Schneebauer, National Co-ordinator for Combating Human Trafficking and Chair of the Task Force on Combating Human Trafficking, Austria
  • Ms. Anousheh Karvar, Chair of Alliance 8.7
  • Mrs. Diane Schmitt, European Union Anti Trafficking Coordinator
  • Ms. Martha Newton, Deputy Director-General for Policy, International Labour Organization (ILO)
  • Mr. John Frank, Vice-President for UN Affairs, Microsoft
  • Dr Fatima Waziri-Azi, Director-General, National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Nigeria
  • Mr. Nick Grono, CEO, The Freedom Fund
    • Dr. Kamal Uddin Ahmed, Chairman of the “Migration, Migrant workers’ rights and Human Trafficking” Committee at the National Human Rights Commission, Bangladesh
    • Ms. Shandra Woworuntu, Founder of Survivor Empowerment Programme “Mentari”
    • Ms Francisca Awah, Founder and Executive Director, The Survivors' Network

Open Discussion



UNODC’s 2020 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons depicts a picture of urgency, as the COVID-19 crisis widens disparities and deepens economic troubles, leaving millions of women, children and men at risk of being trafficked. The Report shows how poverty and inequality contribute to conditions ripe for traffickers to exploit and abuse. For every ten victims detected globally, about five were adult women and two were girls. Sexual exploitation also continued to be the most commonly-detected form of trafficking. Most alarmingly, the Report finds that one in every three detected victims of trafficking around the world is a child. This share has tripled in the past 15 years. Children account for half of all detected victims in low-income countries, most of them coerced into forced labour, although most child victims globally are trafficked for sexual exploitation. The report clearly states that the Covid-19 crisis has made it all too clear that efforts must be accelerated to prevent and tackle human trafficking, and protect victims.

General Assembly Resolution 74/176 of 23 January 2020, which builds on resolution 68/192 of 18 December 2013, decided to appraise, from within existing resources, on a four-year basis, starting at its seventy-second session, the progress achieved in the implementation of the Global Plan of Action in order to assess achievements, gaps and challenges, including in the implementation of the relevant legal instruments and to convene a high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the progress achieved in the implementation of the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons at its seventy-sixth session and no later than December 2021. The UNGA high-level meeting will be held on Monday, 22 November and Tuesday, 23 November 2021.

Underlying the UNGA high-level meeting is the conviction that today’s global peace and security challenges, pandemics, climate change, gender inequalities and discrimination amplify the risk of human trafficking and modern slavery. Thus, eradicating these crimes requires a gender and age-sensitive and holistic response that begins with strengthened prevention efforts, providing education for all, ensuring livelihood opportunities, empowering women and girls, protecting the most vulnerable, and upholding labour standards through stronger labour inspection and law enforcement. Moreover, lessons learned thus far show that true progress comes from cross-sector collaboration and shared expertise, with private sector, governments, financial sector, media, and civil society, including victims of trafficking, working together. Because most forms of human trafficking and modern slavery occur in the private sector, it is imperative that businesses comply with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made matters worse. According to the World Bank the COVID-19 pandemic is estimated to have increased extreme poverty by between 88 million (baseline estimate) and 93 million (downside estimate) people in 2020. The total COVID-19-induced new poor in 2020 is estimated to have been between 119 and 124 million, placing these people at great risk, especially those who work in the informal economy. Furthermore, over the longer term, climate change threatens to exacerbate human precarity in many developing countries, by wiping out agricultural sectors and accelerating mass migration, with migrants extremely vulnerable to being victims of human trafficking and forced labour.

There is an urgent need to step up international cooperation and advance effective action to make sure no one is left behind, thereby contributing to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and in the spirit of the UN75 Declaration.


As the world seeks to “build back better” from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is necessary to put the global fight against human trafficking[1] and modern slavery at the centre of all recovery efforts, in this regard:

  1. The virtual High-level Ministerial event will raise awareness on the urgent need to bring issues related to human trafficking and modern slavery to the forefront of recovery efforts from the COVID-19 pandemic and to increase the level of commitment in the context of building back better. Vulnerable groups, such as women and children, should be at the centre of policy responses. In this regard, implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and taking the SDGs seriously, are critical to eradicate these crimes.
  2. The virtual High-level Ministerial event will discuss responses and targeted actions including whole-of-government, multi-stakeholder, and cross-sector collaboration - to eradicate all forms of human trafficking and modern slavery and the urgent actions needed to meet the relevant SDG targets and stop criminal groups taking advantage of people’s vulnerability during crisis, such as COVID-19.
  3. The virtual High-level Ministerial event aims to consider how to increase the level of commitment and identify potential new partnerships, including with the private sector; and ways to address identified gaps and persisting challenges in the fight against modern slavery and human trafficking. It will highlight the centrality of a comprehensive approach to these crimes, and the key need for collaboration, both between governments and among the multiplicity of stakeholders.

The event aims also to deliver a joint statement that will reinforce the UK’s 2017 global Call to Action to End Forced Labour, Modern and Human Trafficking by 2030, placing the fight against trafficking and modern slavery at the centre of COVID-19 recovery efforts, including on how to best protect vulnerable groups and to ensure SDG target 8.7 is effectively implemented.


[1] ‘Human trafficking’ means the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.” Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the UN Convention Against Transnational Crime, Article 3 – paragraph a)






New York
United States of America