Promoting Human Dignity to Prevent Trafficking and 60 Years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

June 27-29, 2008 - UNHQ Vienna, Austria
At-the-UN/Vienna/Promoting-Human-Dignity
By: Elisabeth Riedl

WFWPI Conference

"I call on men around the world to lead by example: to make clear that violence against women is an act perpetrated by a coward, and that speaking up against it is a badge of honor. I call on Member States around the world: The responsibility, above all, lies with you. I call on all of you to pledge with me: United We Shall Succeed." - Statement by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, launching the Global campaign to end violence against women on February 25, 2008.

WFWPI organized an international conference held at the UN in Vienna and at a conference center outside of the city in Seebenstein, Austria from June 27 to 29, 2008. The objectives were to commemorate the 60 year anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to advance achievement of Millennium Development Goal (MDG) No. 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women.

Opening remarks were made by Ms. Elisabeth Reidl, Conference coordinator and UN representative of WFWPI in Vienna. Chair for the first session was WFWPI UN Office Deputy Director Carolyn Handschin. The topic was Human Rights, Spirituality and Women's Dignity. Dr. Bosco of UN Regional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) explained the programs of UNICRI in Europe. She presented examples of existing projects which incorporated strategies for combating trafficking in both destination and origin countries. The team on the very successful Action Program Against Trafficking of Minors for Sexual Purposes collects, evaluates and monitors data both locally and internationally, and implements modular technical cooperation activities in the three selected pilot countries: Costa Rica, Thailand and Ukraine.

Corinna Milborn, ORF television host and author of Ware Frau, (German language publication just published in Vienna) presented her investigations on the causes and effects on the lives of trafficked women. She identified several solutions including rethinking victim protection and mitigating the global economic imbalance.

Two NGO presenters, Exit Vienna and Mayina Paris/Gabon introduced their best practices:

Joan Reiterer from Exit participated in the UN General Assembly meeting on trafficking in NY on June 3, 2008. She traced the reasons for trafficking: migration, poverty, sexual exploitation. The wish to migrate is an important mobilizing factor for the victim. After explaining the causes and processes of trafficking in origin countries, including her native Nigeria, she spoke about reasons for migration. Amely James KOH BELA, President of NGO Mayina, is a world-wide specialist on human trafficking in Africa. She detailed why trafficking in Africa is so difficult to contain: weak penalties applied to human traffickers, the prestige of local promoters and the financials stakes. The United Nations office on development of crime analyzes that the 2.5 million victims of human trafficking in 2007 brought in 32 billion dollars in 2007. Parents agree to sell their children to Europe, Asia or America with the false notion that it will bring wealth and respectability to their families. Ms. Koh Bela insists that, "We have to go to Africa to change things".

Martina Theresa Coombs, WFWPI VP explained WFWPIs awareness campaign. It appeals to both women and men to prevent the exploitation of women at the earliest stages through fostering a better understanding of the innate "dignity of women". Education and change of attitude begins in early childhood among family members. Ms. Coombs encouraged participants to protest against misuse of the feminine body and to stop the trend toward normalizing this misuse.

Session Two: Breaking the Glass Ceiling was chaired by Dr. Maria Riehl, WFWPI UN representative in Vienna. Ms. Saleha Begum Jaffer began, "Let us celebrate the fact that we are created as women!" She referred to a familiar message from her Indian roots; if you educate a man you educate a person. If you educate a woman, you educate the society. Ms. Jaffer mentioned the tragic instances of widow burning, bounty hunting, honor killings, forced marriages, dowry and suicide in India. She explained the glass ceiling that prevents womens dignified development and entreated all participants to promise that they help others to break this glass ceiling. Mrs. Ingrid Lindemann, President, WFWP Germany expressed the need to create an awareness of dignity in human society, especially regarding women and girls, as a prevention to abuse. Throughout Europe, the media, advertisement and the fashion industry have misused the beauty of women, undermining and injuring the dignity of women. "Everyone is continually bombarded with a torrent of violence and sexual violence toward women in literature and film", she continued.

"Only as women and men together in equality and partnership can we overcome the difficulties, silence and desperation and secure the understanding, political will, creative thinking and concrete activities which are necessary for global transition from a culture of violence to a Culture of Peace." UNESCO on the contribution of women to a Culture of Peace.

60 international participants representing 11 European countries, as well as Japan, Gabon, Nigeria, Mongolia, China and India prepared a joint resolution with recommendations for United Nations, governments and civil society.