The Permanent Representative of the Holy See to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Monsignor Janusz S. Urbańczyk, has denounced the plight of the world’s 40 million victims of trafficking or exploitation, a shocking 10 million of whom are children.

“Greater cooperation is needed” in the fight against slavery

Full text of the statement by Monsignor Urbańczyk at the 1277th meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council

July 30/August 31 2020

Current Issue N. 10 “World Day against Trafficking in Persons”


Mr. Chairman,

My Delegation welcomes the discussion during the Permanent Council in commemoration of the World Day against trafficking in persons.

The Holy See attaches enormous importance to the plight of the millions of children, women and men who are trafficked and enslaved.

They are among the most dehumanized and discarded of people in today’s world and can be found in every corner of the earth.

As Pope Francis says, human trafficking, is an “atrocious scourge,” an “aberrant plague” and an “open wound on the body of contemporary society.” Presently, our world is “sadly marked by a utilitarian perspective that views others according to the criteria of convenience and personal gain.”

Human trafficking takes control over its victims and puts them in locations and situations where they are treated as commodities, bought, sold and exploited as workers or even as ‘raw materials’ in multiple and unimaginable ways.

Despite the commitments taken by participating States and the public pledges by States and non-state actors, and notwithstanding the undertaking of multiple awareness campaigns, there is still widespread ignorance on the nature and the spread of human trafficking.

Pope Francis laments that “sometimes there also seems to be little will to understand the scope of the issue. Why? Because it touches close to our conscience; because it is thorny; because it is shameful. Then there are those who, even knowing this, do not want to speak because they are at the end of the ‘supply chain’, as a user of the ‘services’ that are offered on the street or on the Internet.”

It is gravely concerning that there are more than 40 million victims of trafficking or exploitation in the world, a quarter of which, 10 million, are younger than 18 years old, while one in twenty child victims of sexual exploitation worldwide is under the age of eight.

The COVID-19 crisis has changed the usual models of trafficking and exploitation. Criminal groups dedicated to sexual exploitation have been very quick to adapt their ways of working by intensifying the use of online communication and manipulation in homes.

The recent crisis has also exacerbated and brought to the forefront the systemic and deeply entrenched economic and societal inequalities that are among the root causes of human trafficking.

Combatting human trafficking has been frequently described in the form of three P’s: prevention, protection and prosecution. Several national and international institutions have developed their policies and programmes along these lines.

However, there is a fourth ‘P’, namely partnership, which is no less important and should be strengthened.

Lack of cooperation – or even competition – among various State actors often renders well-intentioned policies and programmes ineffective.

As Pope Francis stresses: “In some cases, the lack of cooperation between States means many people are left outside the law and without the chance to assert their rights, forcing them into a position between being taken advantage of by others or resignation to becoming victims of abuse.”

States should share relevant information on human trafficking with one another and develop joint responses in terms of prevention, protection and prosecution.

Greater cooperation is needed, as well as the provision of technical and other assistance to countries along the human trafficking routes.

In order to be effective, cooperation and coordination should also involve civil society, faith-based organizations and religious leaders as well as the business sector and media.

The Santa Marta Group, which brings together international police chiefs and representatives of the Catholic Church working with victims, is one example of how this can be achieved.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman!

More on Novena on the Church’s fight against human trafficking:

Cardinal Czerny denounces COVID-19 has revealed world’s dependence on “shabbily treated” migrants

Pope decries “utilitarian perspective that views people according to the criteria of convenience and personal gain”

Pope pleads: “Much remains to be done” to end human trafficking, “an open wound on the body of society”

Caritas urges governments not to ignore “worrying” turn for worse in “ongoing pandemic” of human trafficking


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.