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Taking on Human Trafficking in Conflict

In many conflicts worldwide, human trafficking or modern slavery is often among the most tragic consequences.

In many conflicts worldwide, human trafficking or modern slavery is often among the most tragic consequences. And despite persistent efforts to eradicate trafficking in persons, this abhorrent crime persists. According to the International Labor Organization, over 20 million people worldwide are victims of forced labor.

On September 16, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations and December President of the Security Council, Samantha Power stated that “for groups like ISIL and Boko Haram, slavery has become one of their most versatile weapons of war – used to instill fear, to inflict suffering, to recruit followers, reward fighters, convert people of other faiths, reward combatants, and generate revenue.”

In Iraq and Syria, ISIL distributes women and girls to fighters as spoils of war, systematically rapes them, and sells them in markets like cattle. ISIL has even gone so far as to encourage the sexual assault of pre-pubescent girls and issue guidelines on how to treat the women and girls who have been enslaved.

Boko Haram also exacts horrors upon those whom it has kidnapped and enslaved. On October 2nd, the group reportedly forced four girls and a boy to become suicide bombers in the Nigerian city of Maiduguri, where they self-detonated at a mosque during evening prayers. Fifteen people, including these kids, were killed, and more than 35 were injured. Witnesses estimated that the bombers were as young as nine years old.

Member states must commit to ending the conflicts that enable human traffickers to operate, as well as support trafficking victims.

To address this in Iraq and Syria, where ISIL has enshrined systems of human trafficking and sexual violence, the U.S.-led, 65-member Coalition remains determined to destroy ISIL, stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters, and restrict its funding streams use to fuel its reign of terror.

The U.S. also continues to provide security and counterterrorism assistance to the governments of Chad, Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, and Benin to aid their fight against Boko Haram.

Human trafficking in conflict is a scourge that knows no borders. That's why UN member states must individually combat human trafficking and coordinate efforts now to put a stop to this human tragedy.