DUBAI // The UAE is to take a new role in the worldwide fight against human trafficking.
It is one of 20 nations in the Group of Friends United against Human Trafficking that will devise ways to implement anti-trafficking proposals adopted by the UN General Assembly in July as the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons.
"These 20 countries now have homework," said Saeed al Ghufli, the secretary of the UAE National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking. "They have to present ideas on how to make the global plan work. That is not an easy task."
The proposals call for increased global cooperation against the exploitative trade and a trust to support its 2.4 million victims a year, mostly women and children. The establishment of the fund is being overseen by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
At its first ministerial meeting in September, the Group of Friends also agreed to encourage other countries to donate to the cause.
The body was formed in February with the aim of improving cross-border coordination against human trafficking.
In addition to the UAE it comprises Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bolivia, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Nicaraguya, Nigeria, the Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Venezuela.
The delegation from the UAE is led by Minister of State Reem al Hashemi.
In recent years the UAE has also sought other international partnerships to combat human trafficking.
"All this effort against trafficking depends on information and networking," Mr al Ghufli said. "Most of the crime is being organised in other countries and taking place in the UAE."
The Government has signed an agreement with Armenia to share information on trafficking, he said. It hopes to forge similar deals with Thailand, Belarus, Indonesia, Pakistan, India and other countries.
Next week in Abu Dhabi it is hosting a three-day conference on the subject with representatives from the UNODC, Interpol and several Gulf and Central Asian countries.
The number of reported cases of human trafficking has risen in recent years, mostly because of increased transparency in recognising and dealing with the issue. Legal cases have increased from 10 in 2006 to 20 in 2008 and 43 last year.
This year more than 50 women have sought refuge at the government-backed Ewaa shelter in Abu Dhabi, already exceeding the total of 38 in 2009. Two new shelters will open soon in Ras al Khaimah and Sharjah, each with a capacity of nearly 30.
Increased international coordination would benefit the women even after they have escaped from danger, an Ewaa spokesperson said. It would help Ewaa to find shelters in the women's home countries and follow up on their recovery.
"We really care about these victims, even after they leave the country," the spokesperson said. "Any coordination between our country and their countries would be beneficial."