The visible part of the world economy is buttressed in part by an invisible economy involving all sorts of unsavoury enterprises, from drugs to slavery. In the fight against human trafficking, a multi-billion dollar industry, one UN organisation recently received financial support from an unlikely source.
For Vartkess Knadjian, CEO of Backes & Strauss, running the world’s oldest diamond company comes with morale responsibilities. And it goes beyond merely avoiding use of conflict gems. He made the point very clearly at this year’s World Presentation of Haute Horlogerie (WPHH) watch and jewellery exhibition held in January in Genthod, Geneva. The venerable brand, which has been producing exceptional diamond watches with a helping hand from the Franck Muller Manufacture since 2006, unveiled the Victoria Blue Heart watch.
The white gold, diamonds and sapphires watch was created to benefit and highlight the work of The United Nations Blue Heart Campaign against Human Trafficking. A portion of the proceeds from sales will go towards the Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Human Trafficking created in 2010 by the United Nations General Assembly.
“We must all do what we can to further awareness of the work of this campaign in fighting such heinous crimes,” Knadjian said during the unveiling ceremony held at the Hotel des Bergues. The event included the showing of a 2005 clip called “Better Future,” produced by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for television audiences the world round. Yury Fedotov, head of UNODC praised this example of private sector support for the work of the United Nations. Progress is being made, he pointed out, but – in an horological spirit – the clock was ticking. “Criminal proceeds from human trafficking amount to some USD 60,000 a minute,” he continued. “ By comparison, the Voluntary Trust Fund is supported by an average of around 80 cents a minute, based on money received. The disparity is glaring.”
Human trafficking generates USD 32 billion annually and is one of the most lucrative forms of organised crime. The profits are equivalent to those made by the illicit trade in arms and drugs. According to UNODC data, women make up two thirds of trafficking victims. At any given time, an estimated 2.4 million people are trapped in modernday slavery. Human trafficking knows neither borders nor nationality.
Hard figuresThe Voluntary Trust Fund, managed by UNODC, was launched in 2010 by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and through its Small Grants Facility supports the provision of humanitarian, legal and financial aid to victims of trafficking. In October 2011, the Small Grants Facility awarded funding to 12 front-line organisations working with survivors of human trafficking around the world. The UNODC Blue Heart Campaign raises awareness of human trafficking as a shameful crime that exploits millions around the world, and is aimed at preventing more people from becoming victims. Criminals earn an average of USD 3,600,000 per hour from human trafficking.
An average of one person every eight minutes is trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation in Europe, or around seven individuals every hour. For further information on the activities of the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Human Trafficking and ways you can contribute, visit: www.unodc.org/unodc/ human-trafficking-fund.html
Article by Raymond Langley