The Athens Round Table of the Business Community against Trafficking of Human Beings
2.5 million people per year, mostly women and children, become victims of slavery, most commonly known as “human trafficking”. In the fight to eliminate this crime against humanity, “The Suzanne Mubarak Women’s International Peace Movement” has decided to join forces with other international organisations and NGOs from all over the world in an international campaign to confront the problem. The “Foundation for the Child and the Family” joined this struggle.
As Board Member of “The Suzanne Mubarak Women’s International Peace Movement”, Mrs. Marianna V. Vardinoyannis, organised on behalf of the Movement the Athens Round Table of the Business Community against the Trafficking of Human Beings. The Round Table took place at the Zappion Megaron in January 2006, under the auspices of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in collaboration with the World Bank and the International Organisation for Migration, the Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces in Geneva, UN World Development Fund for Women and the “Foundation for the Child and the Family”. It was sponsored by the Motor Oil Hellas.
The Round Table was attended by field experts, representatives of governmental and non-governmental organisations, personalities of global status and business people committed themselves against human trafficking, such as the First Lady of Egypt and President of the Movement, H.E. Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak, H.M. Queen Silvia of Sweden, who has played a leading role against the trafficking of children, organising in 1996 in Sweden the first global conference for the sexual exploitation of children, H.H. Shaikha Sabeeka- Wife of H.M. the King of Bahrain, the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, Jean- Michel Jarre, the General Secretary of INTERPOL, Mr Ronald Noble, and others.
Many businessmen attended the event such as Mr. Vardis Vardinoyannis, Mr. Spiros Metaxas, Mr. Naguib Sawiris, Dr Hamza Al-Kholi, Mr. Khalid A. Alireza, Mr. Khalid Abdula-Janahi, Mr. David Arkless, Mr. Shafik Gabr, Mr. Smith Bagley, Mr. Dimitris Kopelouzos, Mr. Antonis Papadimitriou, Mr. Manolis Papapolizos, Mr. Nikos Tsakos, and others.
Members of the Board of Directors of “Womens International Peace Movement” were also present, such as the former UN Secretary General, Dr Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the Director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Dr. Ismail Serageldin, the President of the Belgian Senate Mrs. Anne-Marie Lizin, the businessman Mr Amr Badr, Dr Aleya Hammad, the Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General Dr Nafis Sadik, Mrs. Haifa Al-Kaylani, Dr. Leila Takla, Mr. Walid Shash, Mr. Taher Helmi, and others.
As the field experts highlighted, the role that the business community may play against human trafficking is crucial, for various reasons, mainly because:
Most human trafficking victims leave their home countries voluntarily having been persuaded by cunning people that they will work for a company in the destination country of their choice.
The usual practices of traffickers involve issuing false certificates and paying staff in companies, travel agencies and migrating organisations.
Business people can, therefore, sensitise their colleagues and highlight to their staff the need of exerting stricter control and asking for and succeeding in applying stricter measures on the part of migrating services. If they wish, they could form a forceful shield of protection against trafficking. As mentioned by the speakers: “It is of great importance that trafficking be made more difficult to be perpetrated while easier to be spotted. For the later to be achieved the assistance of the business community is necessary”.
The works of the Round Table were opened with a brief introductory speech of Mrs Marianna V. Vardinoyannis, saying: “…It is an honour for Greece to host this meeting of historical importance, through which we believe that we will send to the whole world the message of the global business community’s commitment to the fight for the respect of human dignity and against the modern forms of slavery, against Human Trafficking… To those who will claim that winning this fight is a utopia, we respond that history has taught us that all great ideas that changed the world began from a few but determined people. They began from citizens with humanitarian conscience, who decided to take action. The societies followed and finally, the governments, which under the pressure of public opinion, were forced to intervene, enact laws, and take action ”
H.E. Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak, H.M. Queen Silvia of Sweden, and H.H. Shaikha Sabeeka of Bahrain, made the keynote opening speeches.
The event was addressed by the Greek Ministers: Mr. George Alogoskoufis, Mrs. Marietta Giannakou, Mr. Anastasios Papaligouras, Mr. Spilios Spiliotopoulos, Mr. Dimitris Sioufas, Mrs. Fani Palli-Petralia, as well as the Members of Parliament- Mr. Michalis Chrisochoidis, Mrs. Vaso Papandreou, Mr. Petros Efthymiou and others and the Mayor of Athens, Mrs. Dora Bakoyannis, who, during their short speeches, committed theirself to contribute by any means to the global campaign against trafficking.
During the Round Table, a moral code named “The Athens Principles” was conducted and signed by representatives of the business world, as they all agreed that the observance of the code will be an important contribution to the efforts which have already been made by governments, international associations and organisations against trafficking.
The signature of “The Athens Principles” was the first step of the global campaign “End Human Trafficking Now” which was launched during the Round Table.
Trafficking: a crime against humanity
Today, human trafficking is the third most profitable illegal and criminal enterprise worldwide, after weapons trade and drugs trafficking.
Its victims are forced to live and work under absurd and inhumane conditions and undergo any kind of abuse, mainly sexual, become organ donors against their will, which often costs their lives or, at best, it makes them disabled for life.
The causes for trafficking and its rapid increase are various: wars, violence, natural disasters, global economic crisis, unemployment; poverty, orphanhood and immigration waves can easily create victims. In addition to those, the lack of strict legislation against traffickers, the insufficiency in mechanisms for the protection of human rights, for alertness and for suppression to the phenomenon make the causes of trafficking increase.
It is worth noting that in some countries trafficking is not considered a crime, while the relevant penalties for the traffickers are lenient, even more so than those for drug dealers.
The main cause, however, for the commitment of this crime against humanity and human dignity is the demand, i.e. the existence of willing customers. If there werent people who were willing to exploit other people with the most vulgar and inhuman way, those who trade human beings would not have a motive to set their traps.
Trafficking exists due to people who do not respect human life, who do not hesitate to infringe basic human rights for their own profit or any other benefit.
It is, therefore, easy to comprehend that trafficking is a crime that cannot be confronted unless we all join forces against it. No civilised person can remain inactive in this fight or tolerate such an inhuman exploitation to people by people. Indifference here is equivalent to complicity.
Round Table Against The Ttafficking of Human Beings – Programme (pdf file).