VIENNA, 

The need to provide local authorities with the tools and resources to strengthen child protection services, and for countries of origin and destination to share this responsibility, is the focus of a two-day conference that opened in Vienna today.

The 8th Alliance Against Trafficking in Persons Conference, centring on “Child trafficking: responses and challenges at local level”, brings together representatives of local and national authorities as well as international and non-governmental organizations. They will discuss preventing child trafficking and identifying and protecting victims.

“Passive acceptance and silence about human trafficking cannot be tolerated as several elements of human rights violations are embedded in the phenomenon,” said Astrid Thors, Finland’s Minister of Migration and European Affairs, in the opening address.

Combating trafficking, which affects all 56 OSCE participating States, is one of the priorities of the 2008 Finnish OSCE Chairmanship.

“The solution to the alarming problem of child trafficking is national and local ownership – local authorities need budgeted resources to be able to respond to the growing number of children exploited sexually, for organized begging and for committing petty crimes,” said Eva Biaudet, the OSCE Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings.

During the meeting, representatives of local authorities and NGOs will discuss the challenges posed by children being exploited in the streets, subjected to criminal acts or forced to commit crimes.

“In all situations, we have to act in the best interests of the child,” said Biaudet. “We need to speak the language of these vulnerable children, understand their priorities and offer them alternatives corresponding with their needs.”

Grete Laska, Deputy Mayor and Executive City Councillor for Youth for the City of Vienna, described her city’s way of handling the problem. “In order to guarantee the best possible care and help for the children in their countries of origin, the City of Vienna places great emphasis on know-how transfer,” she said. “Social workers from Vienna hold training courses for the staff in countries of origin, and we support the construction of crisis centres.”

Biaudet added: “It is the moral responsibility and legal obligation of every OSCE participating State to actively seek to identify and protect every vulnerable and exploited child, without discrimination and regardless of their immigration status.”

OSCE Press release