18 July 2014


According to a 2012 International Labour Organisation (ILO) report, globally 20.9 million people are victims of forced labour (including sexual exploitation). This includes 5.5 million children.

Trafficking in persons refers to the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation can take many forms including sexual exploitation, forced labour, slavery, servitude or removal of organs.

On 30 July 2014 the United Nations will mark the first ever World Day against Trafficking in Persons. The day is aimed at raising awareness around this global issue and to highlight the plight of the millions of women, men and children who are victims of trafficking from all corners of the world, as well as at encouraging people to take action against this crime.

Despite the UN Global Plan of Action to combat trafficking in Persons adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2010 and the passing of the recent ILO protocol on forced labour  formidable challenges remain in eliminating this lucrative criminal global scourge.

At an event in Geneva to mark the inaugural day, speakers spoke of the need to prioritise the human rights and dignity of the victims, (not to see the problem as a migration issues for example), to address the root causes of the problem by supporting vulnerable families,  and addressing issues of poverty, social exclusion and the widening gap between rich and poor as well as more greater international co-operation  to ensure more effective law enforcement.

The role of the UN Voluntary Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery in providing rehabilitation and redress to victims was also highlighted.


UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Weather, climate and water-related disasters are on the rise worldwide, causing loss of life and setting back economic and social development by years, if not decades. From 1970 to 2012, 8,835 disasters, 1.94 million deaths, and US$ 2.4 trillion of economic losses were reported globally as a result of hazards such as droughts, extreme temperatures, floods, tropical cyclones and related health epidemics, according to a new report.

The Atlas of Mortality and Economic Losses from Weather, Climate and Water Extremes 1970-2012 describes the distribution and impacts of weather, climate, and water-related disasters and highlights measures to increase resilience. It is a joint publication of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) of the Catholic University of Louvain (UCL) in Belgium.

The report was published ahead of the First Session of the Preparatory Committee Meeting in Geneva for the Third United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction. It seeks to inform debate on the post-2015 framework both for disaster risk reduction and sustainable development.

“Disasters caused by weather, climate, and water-related hazards are on the rise worldwide. Both industrialised and non-industrialised countries are bearing the burden of repeated floods, droughts, temperature extremes and storms,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.

Earlier this year when commenting on the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report  he stated that “Over the coming decades, climate change will have mostly negative impacts on cities and infrastructure, migration and security, ecosystems and species, crops and food security, public health, water supplies, and much more. We will see more ocean acidification and extreme droughts, floods and heatwaves. The poor and vulnerable will be most affected.”

The science is clear, as are the likely consequences of failure to act, yet the underlying truth is that most countries are reluctant to sacrifice their economic growth for the sake of fighting climate change. Sadly the world seems bereft of leaders with vision who are capable of taking unpopular short-term decisions for the long-term good of all.

In a decision described as an “historic act of irresponsibility and recklessness” the Australian governments’s recent repeal of the carbon tax has left it without a clear strategy to reduce national greenhouse gas emissions, and places it at odds with an accelerating trend in rest of the world. According to the EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard “The EU is convinced that pricing carbon is not only the most cost-effective way to reduce emissions, but also THE tool to make the economic paradigm shift the world needs.  This is why the EU will continue to work towards global carbon pricing with all international partners”

Visit the Get-up website to demand greater action on climate change.


UN Photo/Olivier Chassot

Following many months of discussion, the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development (OWG) has published a draft of a set of goals and targets which will determine the global priorities of the economic, social and environmental agenda for the next 15 years. The final draft will be presented to the UN general Assembly later this year.

Whilst the draft contains many positive features, concerns have been expressed with some aspects of the draft. For example, whilst the proposed goal 6 is to “ensure availability and sustainable use of water and sanitation for all” concerns have been expressed about the lack of recognition of the human right to water and sanitation, fueling fears that it leaves the way open for the increased privatisation and commoditisation of water.

Edmund Rice International (ERI) has joined with more than 300 social justice organisations supporting the inclusion of the Human Right to Water and Sanitation in the Sustainable Development Goals.


ICBL Photo

At the recent Mine Ban Treaty Conference in Maputo, Mozambique, the United States announced that it intends to join the Mine Ban Treaty in the future and will no longer produce antipersonnel mines.

The 1997 treaty bans the use, production and trade in antipersonnel land mines and requires the destruction of all stockpiles, the clearance of land where the weapons have been laid and the provision of aid to victims. In 1994, not a single government would endorse such a ban on land mines, which were killing or maiming 26,000 people a year, most of them children and other civilians. By 2014, that figure had fallen to 4,000 a year.

Decades after wars have ended, land mines have continued to wreak havoc in countries like Afghanistan, Cambodia and Iraq. Designed to detonate when people step on or near them, they are relatively cheap and easy to deploy, making them a poor country’s weapon of choice.

Currently 161 countries have joined the pact, however the treaty will not reach its full effect until the United States, joins. Whilst last month’s announcement is a welcome step forward, no date has been set for the signing of the treaty and destroying the stockpile. That action may make it more likely that other non-signers like China, Russia and Iran can be pressed into doing the same.

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