U.S. Seeks To Intensify Global Fight Against Child Exploitation

By Jane Morse
USINFO Staff Writer

Vienna, Austria – The United States is urging U.N. member states to criminalize all aspects of child sexual exploitation - sexually explicit images of children, child-sex tourism and the victimization of children through prostitution - so that perpetrators of these crimes are held accountable for their actions.

“While there are various existing international instruments that address these issues in one form or another, numerous countries have not fully enacted legislation to address the criminal offenses as set out in existing instruments,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Elizabeth Verville told USINFO. Verville, who is leading the U.S. delegation to the 16th session of the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, being held in Vienna, Austria, April 23 – 27, is the State Department’s expert on international crime for its Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.

The U.S.-drafted resolution “urges member states to consider implementing the existing international legal instruments by criminalizing all aspects of child sexual exploitation,” Verville said, adding that “the United States will work with other countries to help to maintain the UNODC’s [United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime] focus on its core mandates starting with promoting the U.N. organized crime and corruption conventions as well providing anti-crime technical assistance.”

Verville said that international cooperation is critical to preventing and effectively prosecuting serious crimes with a transnational dimension.

“As criminal networks diversify their methods and the scope of their illicit activities, countries must be more vigilant in working together to hinder criminals’ advantages in crossing borders,” Verville said.


In his remarks for the April 23 opening session for the crime commission, Antonio Maria Costa, executive director for UNODC, called for more action and less talk in fighting human trafficking.

“It is now time to move from statements of intent and legislative mandates into realizations of goals and delivery of results,” he said.

“Despite the emotions this issue [human trafficking] stirs up, and despite the good crop of protocol ratifications [111],” Costa said, “this horrible business is spreading, facilitated by ever-growing demand, opening of markets and easiness of communications.”

At a press conference the same day, Costa said the benefits of globalization unfortunately have been exploited by criminal elements.  Multilateral actions by all governments, nongovernmental organizations and civil societies must be called into the fight against transnational crime, he said.

“The preconditions for multilateral actions are there,” he told journalists.  “Now the challenge for us all - and, of course, for governments to begin with - is to turn these instruments into reality, implementing them in a way which would make a difference, especially for those who are hurting - they are usually the poorest and weakest in our society.”


In his formal remarks, Costa emphasized that “despite the fact that transnational crime is one of the greatest threats to security, we operate in an information fog.

“We do not know the scope of the threats we face, and we cannot gauge global crime trends.  At times, we cannot even define the enemy we face or assess its strength,” he said.

“Anecdotal evidence is abundant – yet confusing – about human trafficking rings broken up, traffickers prosecuted, victims rescued, corrupt public and private officials indicted, boat-loads of smuggled migrants intercepted, and shipments of illicit firearms seized. All this needs to be systematized and rendered coherent,” Costa said.

“Multilateral crime control is at its infancy, but maturing,” Costa said.


In March, UNODC launched the Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT). The United Arab Emirates contributed $15 million to the initiative.

Costa called UN.GIFT “a far-reaching effort to develop, upon the foundation provided by international legal instruments, an unprecedented operational effort to fight human trafficking – enhancing awareness, mobilizing political will, canvassing resources to assist member states and to help those most vulnerable to, and affected by, this crime.”

The United States estimates that between 600,000 and 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year. The United Nations and others estimate the total market value of human trafficking at $32 billion annually.

In fiscal year 2006, the U.S. government obligated approximately $74 million to 154 international anti-trafficking in persons (TIP) projects in 70 countries and $28.5 million to 70 domestic anti-TIP projects. These projects are working to ensure human trafficking is prevented, the survivors are protected and the traffickers are put in prison. They are funded through the coordinated efforts and program funds of the departments of State, Justice, Labor, Health and Human Services, and USAID.

A fact sheet on U.S. anti-trafficking funding for fiscal 2006 is available on the State Department Web site.

The full text of the U.N. Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and related documents on trafficking in persons are available on a U.N. Web site.

The full text of Costa’s formal remarks is available on the UNODC Web site.

For more information on U.S. policies, see Human Smuggling and Trafficking.