Historical archive

Speech at the Third EU Anti Trafficking Day

Historical archive

Published under: Stoltenberg's 2nd Government

Publisher Ministry of Justice and the Police

EU Ministerial Conference: “Towards Global EU Action against Trafficking in Human Beings”. The Third EU Anti Trafficking Day. Brussels, 19 - 20 October.

In Norway we are now in the process of revising our national plan of action against trafficking. This conference serves as a great inspiration for our efforts to improve our strategies.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to thank Beatrice Ask, the Swedish Minister for Justice, for bringing us together in Brussels on the occasion of the third EU anti-trafficking day. In Norway we are now in the process of revising our national plan of action against trafficking, so this conference serves as a great inspiration for our efforts to improve our strategies.

I would also like to express my gratitude for all the ongoing efforts undertaken by the EU in this field, notably the revision of the framework decision on trafficking in human beings. 

In the broader European context, the most important international instrument in the fight against trafficking is the Council of Europe convention on action against trafficking in human beings, which entered into force last year. I have high expectations regarding the work of the group of experts – GRETA – tasked with monitoring the implementation of the convention. We need an independent body to develop standards and make sure that countries are both on track and keeping up speed in our efforts.

Word has reached us about current difficulties related to GRETAs budget and the staff of the secretariat of the convention. I urge all participants here with any influence in this matter to use that influence to secure a solid foundation for this important monitoring mechanism. From the Council of Europe we sometimes hear that the CPT - the Commitee for the Prevention of Torture - is regarded as the “jewel in the crown” of the organisation. I see no reason that GRETA, given some time, should not shine even brighter.

The work of GRETA has also brought to the table discussions about possible overlapping of activities between international organisations involved in the European efforts against trafficking. Let us conduct these discussions with an open mind. We are at a point in the fight against trafficking where we see a need for coordination and division of tasks.

When my law enforcement agencies struggle with turf wars, they need to be reminded: “there is enough crime to go around”. So we must remind ourselves that in the fight against trafficking there are enough tasks for everyone.

Norway is a destination country. Victims of trafficking are recruited outside Norway’s borders. We wish to prevent trafficking by reducing some of the factors that support recruitment in countries of origin. Our Ministry of Foreign Affairs has for many years financed projects in countries of origin, several of then in South Eastern Europe, and several in partnership with the International Organization for Migration. Last year we conducted a review of the Norwegian project portfolio. I would briefly like to share some of the findings and lessons learnt with you.  

There is overwhelming evidence that strong partnership with authorities at national as well as municipal or provincial is crucial for project success in the long term. One of the most important findings is indeed the need for a long-term perspective due to the highly complex nature of human trafficking and the time it takes to address the problem and achieve results. The review also points to the fact that the social sector is very often neglected as a sector of support. The social sector is a key to addressing the issue of trafficking both in terms of prevention and protection.

The review therefore recommends that government should always be involved in projects, either as implementing partner or stakeholder. Support should go to the social sector as a key actor in many of the activities involved in combating trafficking. The review recommended that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should provide funding for a minimum of three years with a possibility for extension since many projects need time to achieve results and make an impact.

We know that in order to prevent trafficking we must discourage the demand that fosters all forms of exploitation of persons.

Last year, the Norwegian laws on prostitution were changed.

For over 100 years, Norway had followed an approach where the buying and selling of sexual activities had been permitted, while all forms organising prostitution was prohibited. 

The changing face of prostitution in our country challenged us. We saw an increase in the trafficking of foreign nationals into Norway for sexual exploitation. The police exposed trafficking cases that shocked us.

We had a broad public debate about our laws on prostitution, closely linked to the obvious transformation of the prostitution market.

The starting point of our debate was the need to protect victims and to prevent trafficking. We had managed to introduce protection schemes and assist several victims, but we also faced the fact that assistance cannot be given to the large number of victims constantly moved from place to place.

I was clearly of the opinion that we should not criminalize the selling of sexual services. Experiences worldwide suggests that such laws results in police action mainly being directed at women who are victims of trafficking or controlled by their pimps.

Parliament concluded that we should try to reduce the demand for prostitution by criminalizing only the customers. The new law entered into force in January this year. Customers now face a fine.

What will be the effect of the new law? We do not know, but in order to find out, we have conducted research on the prostitution market. We will conduct similar research in a few years time, so we can draw conclusions and remedy possible negative effects of the law.

The debate in Norway has been an attempt to face the realities of trafficking in our country. Such a debate can expose society in uncomfortable ways. It raises questions concerning gender and racial issues.

I challenge all countries to show the courage needed to openly debate their national situation, with a view to establish ways of preventing trafficking by reducing the demand that fosters exploitation in your societies.

Thank you.