Press Release - Launch of the Women Leaders' Council

New vehicle launched at Vienna Forum to co-ordinate action in the fight-back against the crime

14 February 2008 - The Women Leaders' Council, which includes political figures, diplomats, trade unionists, business leaders, campaigners and entertainers from across the world, has been launched today at the Vienna Forum to fight human trafficking. The Council will co-ordinate action, forge new partnerships, facilitate access to resources and work to reduce the stigma for victims. The creation of the Council is recognition that human trafficking cannot be addressed without the leadership and active participation of women.

Eva BiaudetEva Biaudet, a council Member and the OSCE Special Representative on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, who hosted the inaugural meeting of the Council, this morning said: "Women are a driving force for political change. We are women leaders openly demonstrating our responsibility and commitment to fight this abuse of power, creating new and innovative solutions, breaking the ignorance or apathy around us, and emphasizing the accountability of all actors for their actions or lack of action taken against the trafficking of human beings".

Ndioro Ndiaye

Ndioro Ndiaye, a council Member and Deputy Director of the International Office of Migration, said: "Women leaders can a play a crucial role simply by being role models - something that is extremely important in Africa where I come from".

Melanne VerveerMelanne Verveer, a Council member and Chair of the Board of the Vital Voices Global Partnership, an international NGO supporting emerging women leaders, said: "Women have always been on the frontline of the fight against human trafficking. With the Women Leaders' Council, we are bringing together high-level women from all sectors to develop an action plan to bring an end to this crime".

Margaret AlvaMargaret Alva, a Council member and General Secretary of the National Congress of India, said: "This fight must be a people's movement; we have to tackle human trafficking at the grass roots level".


Saisuree ChutikulSaisuree Chutikul, a council Member and former Thai Cabinet Minister, said: "One of the major difficulties in the fight against human trafficking has been co-ordination, and this is what we are here to address".


Maria PalacioMaria Palacio, a council Member and former First Lady of Ecuador, said: "We must all take concerted action to raise awareness in our communities and de-stigmatize the issue for victims".


Answering questions about whether poverty can ever be an excuse for parents selling their children to traffickers, Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, said: "Gender discrimination also plays a key role: Let's remember that most often it is daughters, not sons, who are being trafficked. I appeal to parents to love their daughters as much as their sons".

The Vienna Forum to Fight Human Trafficking is today bringing together 1,200 experts, legislators, law enforcement teams, business leaders, NGO representatives and trafficking victims from 116 countries. It will be focusing on the three key elements of human trafficking - its root causes, its social and economic impact, and the actions needed to eradicate it.

The Vienna Forum is being convened by the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT) which was established in recognition of the fact that human trafficking takes many forms and that a co-ordinated and united approach is required. UN.GIFT was launched in March 2007 by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) together with the International Labour Organization (ILO); the International Organization for Migration (IOM); the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF); the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Members' Profile - Women Leaders' Council

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