- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 15, 2008



Recently, I was invited to address a panel of international experts on human trafficking, organized by the Protection Project of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, headed by Dr. Mohamed Y. Mattar. I was told I was invited on account of Greek legislation on human trafficking being a pioneering, model, legislation.

It is true that Greece has expanded great effort in confronting this modern form of slavery and human humiliation, an international practice which generates annual revenue of more than $12 billion, just below the illegal sale of drugs and guns. Greece has established a comprehensive National Plan of Action, which, among other things, has criminalized demand of services by trafficked persons, and expands resources to help reverse factors in victims’ home countries that made them vulnerable in the first place.

It is also true that this action plan and legislation, accompanied by public awareness campaigns, has helped national and local authorities pursue this practice in a much more comprehensive and effective manner.

Through it all, however, Greece has learned much from this experience and most of all it has learned to be humble in its approach. We have learned that this scourge, which affects and involves many countries, cannot be solved by any one country alone, regardless of the effort expended. This is a cross-border practice, one that imports and exports not only human beings, but viruses, diseases, drugs, arms, organized crime.

We have learned that civil society must also be brought into the equation. Public awareness is imperative in identifying victims, in not tolerating demand. We have also learned that governments, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and international organizations must go beyond issuing resolutions to appease our conscience, organizing conferences in glamorous cities, building careers and conducting public relations campaigns.

Last but not least, we have learned it is not only the actual victims of human trafficking who pay the price, but a society, a country as a whole, as its core values rot and allow for the development of illegal, immoral, unhealthy practices and individuals.

An estimated 5.7 million children are involved in forms of forced labor or slavery. Of these, 1.8 million are victims of sexual exploitation. They are trafficked for forced labor, military conscription, domestic work, sale of organs, begging, and many other unthinkable practices; suffering children who are deprived of dignity, happiness and often grow up to become perpetrators themselves. In the meantime, a great number of seemingly respectable citizens in our midst partake in sex tourism and child pornography distribution through the Internet.

We, as citizens of the world, must not tolerate this, and must ensure that the world we leave behind for our children and our children’s children is free of this odious practice.

As a Greek who has learned from the classics that symmetry, harmony and “metron” are essential for a world continued, I am deeply disturbed by the lack of these qualities in our world today and that even the world’s children are not immune to the effects of that lack.

Alexandros P. Mallias is ambassador of Greece to the United States.



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