Ricky Martin's speech at The Vienna Forum

Ricky MartinAs a musician, activist, and universal citizen, I thank the UNITED NATIONS GLOBAL INITIATIVE TO FIGHT HUMAN TRAFFICKING for allowing the Ricky Martin Foundation to share our commitment to end this horrible crime. Since this modern day form of slavery has no geographical boundaries, the truly international reach of this unprecedented FORUM is an essential platform to combat this global nightmare.

My commitment toward this cause was born from a humbling experience. In my 2002 trip to India I witnessed the horrors of human trafficking as we rescued three trembling girls living on the streets in plastic bags.  Saving these girls from falling prey to exploitation was a personal awakening.

I immediately knew the Foundation had to fiercely battle this scourge.

That was six years ago… Since then the Foundation expanded and launched PEOPLE FOR CHILDREN, an international initiative that condemns child exploitation. The project's goal is to provide awareness, education and support for worldwide efforts seeking the elimination of human trafficking - with special emphasis on children.

This unscrupulous market generates anywhere from $12 to $32 billion dollars annually, an amount only surpassed by the trafficking of arms and drugs… My hope is to secure every child the right to the be a child through a non-for profit organization conceived as a vehicle to enforce their basic human rights in partnership with other organizations, social responsible corporations, and individuals

Solutions aboud if we work in alliances

In our evolution, we discovered that we are not alone in this fight. Human beings share the capacity to unite and work together. As a Foundation headquartered in the Western Hemisphere we have been privileged to partner with many multilateral organizations.

In a joint effort with the Inter American Development Bank and the International Organization for Migration, we launched "Call and Live!" -the FIRST regional campaign to combat human trafficking in the Americas... Already operating in Peru, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic, dozens of lives have been saved through hotlines that have received over 33,000 phone calls and fostered hundreds of investigations. The toll free number offers a call to action that enables the public to provide valuable information about suspected traffickers.

In 2008, at least four other Latin American countries will join the campaign and hopefully more lives will be saved. This crime goes on every day in all parts of the world. The United States is not the exception. Call and Live! will be launched in Washington DC this spring. ( www.llamayvive.org)

The Call and Live! Campaign has proven to be effective as a "data collection tool" and a means for identifying gaps in local capacity to serve victims and respond to cases. It has encouraged more countries to launch national hotlines which would help build more global anti-trafficking infrastructure. Launching a national hotline may be a CONCRETE STEP that every country should take to fight trafficking. It is fairly straightforward, it is easily publicized, and it provides a common rallying point for government and NGO efforts.

Unfortunately, atrocities committed against children are also rampant ONLINE. Convinced that knowledge is the most powerful tool, the Foundation and Microsoft Corporation have responded by launching "Navega Protegido" in the Caribbean and Central America.

This online child safety campaign consists of a website ( www.navegaprotegidoeninternet.org) with videos and other educational materials that provide teachers, students and parents tools to protect children from the dangers of Internet such as pornography and sexual predators.

Governments and law enforcement also have an important role to play to ensure that children are protected around the globe from this type of exploitation. Every country must have legislations in place against child pornography.

After testifying before the US Congress in the fall of 2006, I realized that my Foundation had to be a part of a growing movement to eradicate human slavery. This led me back to Washington, D.C. and my Foundation became part of the Action Group to End Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery. ( www.actiongroup.org)

The organizations that make up the Action Group have done what many thought impossible, come together to support a shared LEGISLATIVE AGENDA without getting bogged down on INDIVIDUAL AGENDAS.

I am certain that our voices together with the power of other organizations that work against this horrible crime, will continue to galvanize efforts to PREVENT, SUPRESS and PUNISH human trafficking.

CHANGING ATTITUDES and HUMAN BEHAVIOR is difficult, but NEVER forget that multiple small triumphs over a long period of time are tantamount to social change.

As a Foundation that supports the objectives of this HISTORIC FORUM which aims to put this crime on the global agenda, be certain that:

We will continue to tell the world that human trafficking exists; we will keep educating the masses; and we WILL keep working on PREVENTION, PROTECTION and PROSECUTION MEASURES in our campaigns to alleviate the factors that make children, women and men vulnerable to the MOST VICIOUS VIOLATION of human rights.



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RickyMartinFoundation / RMF©2008
Bibiana Ferraiuoli Suárez
Programs & Communications Manager