The United Nations says it is committed to listening and responding to the voices of victims and survivors of human trafficking ensuring their rights and dignity.
"The UN is committed to amplifying their stories and learning from them in the fight to prevent and put an end to this terrible crime," said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
The UN chief made the remarks in a message marking the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons “Victims’ Voices Lead the Way” that falls on July 30.
In the midst of a global pandemic, Guterres said, accompanied by rising inequalities and economic devastation, the voices of human trafficking survivors and victims risk being drowned out. But listening to their stories is more crucial than ever as the Covid-19 crisis increases fragilities and drives up desperation, he said.
As many as 124 million more people have been pushed into extreme poverty by the pandemic, leaving many millions vulnerable to trafficking.
Children are at great and growing risk as they represent one-third of victims globally, a share that has tripled in the last 15 years.
"Half of victims in low-income countries are children, most of whom are trafficked for forced labour. Criminals everywhere are using technology to identify, control and exploit vulnerable people. Children are increasingly targeted through online platforms for sexual exploitation, forced marriage and other forms of abuse," said the UN chief.
Trafficking in women and girls for the purpose of sexual exploitation continues to be one of the most widespread and abhorrent forms of human trafficking, he said. "Migrants account for more than half of those trafficked in most regions."
The UN chief said governments must take urgent steps to strengthen prevention, support victims and bring perpetrators to justice.
This includes implementation of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons.
"Our efforts must be guided by survivors of trafficking," he said, adding that their contribution is essential to address risk factors and patterns, and to identify and protect victims and ensure their access to justice and recovery, while holding their exploiters accountable.