The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies established a new basis for its cooperation with the United Nations family in 2004 when it opened a new representative office in Vienna accredited to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.
There are two main purposes for this representation. One is to contribute to the work of the international community on HIV/AIDS as a pandemic whose spread is now due in large part to injecting drug use. The other, the most relevant to our presentation at this Congress, relates to aspects of trafficking in human beings. We also have a substantial interest in the way the international community is addressing good governance, and the impact on it of corruption.
The main elements of our contributions focus on the importance of building the capacity of local communities to work with central governments and international organisations towards these objectives. A central point we consistently emphasise to the Commissions on Narcotic Drugs and Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice is the importance of ensuring that the victims themselves are not painted as criminals.
Our presentation to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs this year emphasised the importance of all work on drug usage to include the building of national and local capacity to enable communities to withstand the threat posed to them by drug usage. We urged this work to include measures to reduce risk-taking behaviour.
This is a message applicable in all parts of the world. It is very relevant indeed in my own country, Cambodia, where injecting drug use is one of the main vehicles for the spread of HIV/AIDS.
It is very important indeed that crime prevention and control measures should be matched by sensitive attention to communities. An important objective must be the building of strong community bases so that young people are not distracted into drug usage and the risks this generates.
The relevance to injecting drug usage was made clear in our statement to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, and I turn now to the issue of trafficking in persons.
Human trafficking is now increasingly associated with transnational organised crime. It was the subject of an important resolution of the UN General Assembly in December 2003, and has received high priority in the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice.
It has also been a high priority issue for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and most of its worldwide network of member National Societies.
Our position derives from the absolute vulnerability of the persons trafficked, and the urgent need for governments and other institutions to ensure that this vulnerability is respected and that concrete measures are taken for the protection of the persons.
It is our hope that the Congress, and the Commission at its next meeting, will recognise the importance of governments linking their work to address criminal involvement in trafficking with work to strengthen the capacity of their National Red Cross and Red Crescent Society auxiliary partners to cope with the problems faced by people at the community level.
In doing so, they should support the four main dimensions of National Society activity on the question. I shall detail them briefly, and describe them as the four "Ps".
The International Federation, in partnership with its member National Societies, has embarked on programs in different countries aimed at building the skills of people to help them escape from the consequences of poverty and conflict. One of our goals is to strengthen people so they can resist the temptations to escape from that poverty and despair by resorting to slavery.
The Nepalese Red Cross is an example of a National Society which has a life-skills training program with this objective. But it is not an objective which National Societies have the capacity to reach alone, and strategic partnerships with government and other actors are normally essential.
The Peer-Education model is being used to prevent youth falling into the hands of trafficking rings by the Ukrainian and Romanian Red Cross Societies, in close cooperation with other stakeholders.
The provision of assistance to people and communities is a high priority for many National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Again, it is a priority which must be met through the formation of partnerships, and one worth mentioning under this heading is that formed by the Belarus Red Cross and the International Organisation for Migration aimed at helping provide psychological and other support to women and girls endangered by sexual exploitation and trafficking into prostitution in other countries.
The Danish Red Cross provides children victims of trafficking in Denmark with accommodation, psycho-social support, health and counseling.
Our experience, which is similar to many other experiences being recorded at this Congress, is that people are often fearful of coming forward to the authorities.
This is often for a combination of reasons, but essentially because they are living in the shadows as persons without documents, enslaved into criminality through prostitution, other socially tainted lifestyles and forced labour. In addition, they are often threatened with retribution by the traffickers. Such people do, however, often come to the Red Cross or Red Crescent Society for help.
Consequently, there is scope for a much more comprehensive relationship between our National Societies and law enforcement authorities to help provide for the protection needs of these people.
As an example of action, a 24 hour hotline is run by the Bulgarian RC in 8 regions of the country to address issues related to human trafficking and to offer referrals and assistance.
We have now opened a valuable contact with Interpol on ways of institutionalising new relationships based on trust and mutual respect between National Societies and police forces. One of the main objectives could be to help provide stronger protection to the victims of trafficking. This could also help build respect for their dignity and for their access to the full range of human rights.
We recognise that the victims of trafficking - despite their victim status - are often themselves demonized by the media and even the communities in which they live. In our view there is an urgent need for much more government support for advocacy programs which help build understanding of the plight of the trafficked persons and their needs.
This is one reason why the International Federation's annual appeal for Cambodia includes strong emphasis on the need to build the capacity of the Cambodian Red Cross so it can help people cope with the actions of traffickers aimed especially at Cambodian women and girls. The Cambodian Red Cross has identified advocacy support as one of its key needs in this area.
This case is a good example of the work of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. In some countries it is important to concentrate public support activity on "de-mystifying" trafficking so that the vulnerability of victims can be properly recognised.
We find that the broad community base of our membership can be of great value to the work of the public authorities in this area. In Armenia, for example, the Red Cross Society has successfully launched an interactive web-page on trafficking which has been backed by television and radio spots to increase awareness of it and the issues it addresses.
The International Federation is seeking to address trafficking in source countries, destination countries and transit countries.
The two regions where the international community has given its most concentrated attention are Europe and Asia-Pacific, but the issues are a high priority elsewhere too, and we hope this Congress will contribute to a wider understanding of the challenges the world faces.
In Europe, there is now a Red Cross network on human trafficking, hosted by the Danish Red Cross. There is also a good deal of interplay between that network and other networks whose work can help our anti-trafficking objectives, including the Platform for European Red Cross Cooperation on migration, PERCO.
In Asia-Pacific, the International Federation has used its status as an International Organisation to raise the profile of its presentations to meetings within the Bali Ministerial Process on the smuggling and trafficking of human beings.
In every case, our message has been the same as that which we advocate here. It is, in simple terms, our readiness and that of our National Society members to work together with governments and other organisations to build a strong strategic partnership which mixes work against organised crime itself with work in support of the victims.
The partnership also needs to involve local communities in the design, implementation and monitoring of the programs. This is the key to effective programs contributing to the ability of communities and families to resist traffickers and build their own stability and prosperity.
Only with a partnership with this strength and mobilisation power will it be possible effectively to counter the devious nature of transnational organised crime and its involvement in the fast-growing industry of human trafficking.
The partnership must, however, also support the victims themselves. Our National Societies have traditionally provided shelter and support to victims, and will continue to do so. They do, however, need support in this important work, and we hope this Congress will also help strengthen that support at the same time as it increases attention to crime prevention issues.
With this in mind, the International Federation looks forward to working to support the implementation of the Bangkok Declaration on Crime and Justice and contributing to the development of the strategic alliances it promotes. One such, aimed at targeting the root causes and breeding grounds of crime and victimization, is of special importance to us.
We trust that it and the paragraphs relevant to partnering civil society will be given still more strength as debate on this subject matures in the years ahead.