30 July 2019

By: Aida Sahraoui Soler and Chris Gawronski 

Trafficking in persons is a serious crime and a grave violation of human rights. Every year, thousands of men, women and children fall into the hands of traffickers, in their own countries and abroad. To address this, the UN General Assembly, in Resolution 68/192, designated 30 July every year as the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons for raising “awareness of the situation of victims of human trafficking and for the promotion and protection of their rights.”[1]

Human trafficking comes in many forms. The official definition of human trafficking in international law comes from the Palermo Protocol.* This definition encompasses a wide range of activities including prostitution, forced labour, forced begging, domestic servitude, debt bondage, and forced and child marriage. The most common forms of trafficking are for sexual exploitation and forced labour. 

Reported cases of trafficking detected more than 24,000 victims of human  trafficking in 2016. This was the largest number of detected victims in a single year since the UN began gathering data in 2003. In total, about 225,000 victims have been detected since 2003.[2] In a 2019 report on progress toward achievement of the UN SDGs, the  Secretary-General noted an overall increase in the detection of victims. This could represent either an improvement in the efforts of authorities to identify victims or an increase in the problem of human trafficking.[3] 

Unfortunately, the fluid nature of trafficking and the difficulty of detecting the victims means the number of detected victims of trafficking is only a fraction of the actual total. The estimated number of people subjected to some form of trafficking is staggering. Compared to the 24,000 victims officially detected in 2016, the International Labour Organization estimates that in 2016 there were actually some 40.3 million people in modern slavery at some point during the year, “including 24.9 million in forced labour and 15.4 million in forced marriage.”[4] 

Every country in the world is affected by human trafficking whether as a country of origin, transit, or destination for victims. Prior to establishing this International Day, the UN repeatedly highlighted this topic and worked towards global awareness, such as through its 2002 resolution on trafficking in women and girls.[5] Countries have also attempted to highlight the problem of human trafficking at the national level. For example, the United States has designated 11 January as National Human Trafficking Awareness Day to raise awareness and combat human trafficking domestically. Despite increasing awareness and increased detection of victims, human trafficking continues around the world.

Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) condemns human trafficking and all other forms of exploitation. GICJ calls on the international community to increase efforts to create a multilateral approach toward preventing, detecting and punishing human trafficking, incorporating a gender-sensitive human rights perspective. In addition, GICJ encourages government authorities to provide support and promote health services for victims of human trafficking, especially educational opportunities and health services for the physical and psychological consequences of exploitation.




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* Palermo Protocol, Article 3(a):  "Trafficking in persons" shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs. (Officially, the Palermo Protocol is: Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, which supplements the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime)


[1] Improving the coordination of efforts against trafficking in persons, para. 5, A/RES/68/192 (18 Dec. 2013).

[2] UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Global Report on Trafficking in Persons (2018), https://globalinitiative.net/global-report-on-trafficking-in-persons-2018/.

[3] Report of the Secretary-General, Special Edition: Progress Towards the Sustainable Development Goals, UN Doc. No. E/2019/68 (8 May 2019).

[4] Forced Labour, Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking, ILO, https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/forced-labour/lang--en/index.htm (last visited 19 July 2019).

[5] Trafficking in women and girls, A/RES/57/176 (18 Dec. 2002).



World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, Palermo Protocol, Resolution 68/192, human trafficking, Geneva, geneva4justice, GICJ, Geneva International Centre for Justice

Justice, Human rights, Geneva, geneva4justice, GICJ, Geneva International Centre For Justice 



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