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Goals to Transform Our World


“End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children.” – United Nations Target Goal by 2030  (Goal #16)



In 2015, more than 150 world leaders gathered at the United Nations (UN) Summit in New York. During this 3-day summit, which focused on Sustainable Development, they formulated an agenda of 17 Goals to be realized by 2030. These goals are a “Call for action by all countries – poor, rich, and middle-income – to promote prosperity while protecting the planet” and recognize that “ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with strategies that build economic growth and address a range of social needs including education, health, social protection, and job opportunities…”


While the UN 2030 Agenda envisioned “a world of universal respect for human rights and human dignity, the rule of law, justice, equality and non-discrimination”, it did not anticipate the crisis of monumental proportions that is the COVID-19 pandemic. The UN notes that “Previous economic crises suggest that the sharp increase in adult unemployment rates and an asymmetric global recovery from COVID-19 is likely to increase the risk of trafficking.”


It is abundantly clear that the pandemic has intensified the risk of child exploitation, including sex trafficking and labor trafficking, primarily due to school closures and economic distress. Focusing on this goal is more important now than ever.


2020 showed the first increase in child labor in two decades. According to the 2021 UN Stats Report, “At the start of 2020, the number of children engaged in child labor (not including its worst forms, such as children in bonded and forced labor or in commercial sexual exploitation) totaled 160 million (63 million girls and 97 million boys). This translates to almost 1 in 10 children worldwide.” It sounds the alarm by noting how the impacts of COVID-19 threaten to push “an additional 8.9 million children into child labor by the end of 2022, as families send children out to work in response to job and income losses.”  Therefore, the UN believes that “investments in job creation for adults and young people of legal working age, along with economic recovery, could reduce risks to children of various forms of exploitation.”


Preventing and identifying sex trafficking victims is difficult, even pre-pandemic. ‘Shelter in place’ orders and school closures limited positive interactions for our youth and expanded online communication. This isolation has left many trapped in the same house as their abuser and increased exposure to perpetrators engaging in this criminal activity online with law enforcement limited in their capacities to detect this crime.


Studies show that marginalized and impoverished people, including children, are targeted for trafficking purposes. According to the 2020 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, “Globally, one in three trafficking victims detected in 2018 were a child; in low-income countries, the share was one-half. Girls are primarily victims of sexual exploitation (72 percent of detected girl victims), while boys are subjected to forced labor (66 percent of detected boy victims).”  Organizations around the world provide essential services for marginalized and impoverished communities and their commitment to these communities will be needed even more post-pandemic.


With over 20 years of collective experience working with victims of crime and advocating for victim’s\ rights, we at TWG are also passionate about addressing a range of social needs, including education, health, social protection, and job opportunities. Our greatest success stories have been entwined with organizations that provide trauma-informed services to trafficked victims, pathways from education to employment, and lobbying for human rights and social protections. The need for victim services and justice efficiency for those with no voice is towering. Organizations specializing in these areas should plan financially for the increased need to ensure they can offer a lasting impact.

Cindy Johnson – TWG Research Specialist & Strategy Consultant