The Forum held in Vienna in February 2008 with the participation of representatives of governmental and non governmental organisations, civil society, business community, activists, and experts of every associated field. The President of the “Foundation for the Child and the Family”, Mrs Marianna V. Vardinoyannis was also invited in the Forum. She was one of the pioneers of the campaign “End Human Trafficking Now”, which was launched in Athens in January 2006 along with the round table “Business Community against the Trafficking of Human Beings”.

The Vienna Forum was organised by the UN.GIFT (United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking) founded in order to organise and promote the international campaign against human trafficking.The idea that led to the establishment of UN.GIFT is based on the fact that trafficking constitutes a universal phenomenon and those involved in it, both victims and perpetrators, act in various countries simultaneously. Consequently no government and no organisation can effectively confront trafficking on their own. Confronting and repressing this dreadful crime requires international collaboration, collectiveness, co-ordination as well as universal mobilisation and action.

UN.GIFT was founded in March 2007 and so far, it has succeeded so that the protocol of prevention, repression and punishment of trafficking is signed by 117 countries, while many others are already in the process of signing. Since its establishment, it functions in close collaboration with many large international organisations, such as the International Labour Organization (ILO), International Organization for Migration (IOM), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), etc. At the same time it is collaborates with governments, enterprises and experts, civil society organisations and mass media, in order to support each other’s action and to create new alliances and new practical measures to prevent trafficking. The strategy of UN.GIFT is based on three fundamental axes:

To raise awareness of the public opinion on the problem, which is still low. This fact makes the potential victims of trafficking more vulnerable.

To spread the information concerning all forms and dimensions of the phenomenon –data, reports, incidents, methods and traffickers traps, statistics, etc– to such a point that all those activated against trafficking have access to the existing files.

To provide technical support in order to create practices and methods through which, on the one hand, human trafficking could be anticipated and the victims of trafficking could be protected and on the other hand the criminals will be punished. This includes enacting laws against trafficking, the reinforcement of those groups which help the victims, and the application of policies that sensitise the common opinion and repression of the phenomenon. UN.GIFT emphasises the collaboration among the various social groups that have been recruited against human trafficking, as it is of particular importance that these groups act jointly and exchange experience, data and practices, in national as well as international level.

H.E. Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak.

At the beginning of the Vienna Forum, Mr. Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime pointed out:

Trafficking victims are estimated about 2 to 4 millions per year.

This inhuman trade makes a profit of many billion dollars.

Trafficking victims, mainly women and children, are completely deprived of their freedom and dignity, suffering all forms of exploitation such as forced labour and slavery, sexual exploitation, removal of organs, etc.

Fortunately, there is also a positive element in this gloomy atmosphere: up to now 1,5 million people have, in written, declared their decision to fight for the elimination of this horrible crime against humanity!


Emma Thomson and Marianna V. Vardinoyannis.

At the plenary session of the Forum, the First Lady of Egypt, H.E. Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak, the Austrian Federal Minister for European and International Affairs, Mrs. Ursula Plassnik, Mr. Ricky Martin, President of the Martin Foundation and Mrs Emma Thomson, President of the Helen Bamber Foundation, addressed the public. Speeches by the First Lady of the Dominican Republic, H.E. Mrs. Margarita Cedeno de Fernandez as well as by many representatives of various countries also followed.

The speakers analysed in depth the phenomenon of trafficking, focusing on the three components of the problem:

The reasons causing it.

The impact in the global social web.

The actions required in order to fight and eliminate it.

Inter alia, the delegates analysed the strategies and measures that should be taken for the elimination of trafficking and pointed out the important role of women, mainly the women who are in key positions and have knowledge, experience, power and strength.

Women’s Leadership Council


Julia Ormond and Marianna V. Vardinoyannis

The establishment of Women’s Leadership Council was announced during the Forum, constituted by women, recognised as leaders in their fields, aiming at the reinforcement of the UN.GIFT action, and will provide high level ideas and experience concerning women issues and human rights.

The objectives of Women’s Leadership Council are the following:

To demonstrate the importance of the role of women in the fight against human trafficking, mainly in the elimination of every form of abuse and exploitation of women and children.

To create a network for the mobilisation and co-ordination of those institutions which have the knowledge, experience and means for the elimination of trafficking.

To aid the institutions which locate, impede, and punish the traffickers who exploit women and children, both providing material support as well as human resources.

The members of Women’s Leadership Council are women from all over the world, representatives of governments, international organisations, social institutions, mass media, heads of non governmental organisations, academics, artists, activists and generally women who act in the humanitarian field, more specifically in the campaign against trafficking.

The founding members of Women’s Leadership Council are:

H.E. Mrs Suzanne Mubarak, First Lady of Egypt and President of “The Suzanne Mubarak Women’s International Peace Movement; Dr Margarita Cedeno de Fernandez, First Lady of the Dominican Republic”; Mrs. Maria Palacio, former First Lady of Ecuador; Mrs. Renuka Chowdhury, Minister for Woman and Child Development in India; Ambassador Margarita Escobar, Deputy Minister for Salvadoreans Abroad (Ministry of Foreign Affairs);


Ricky Martin and Marianna V. Vardinoyannis.

Mrs. Maud de Boer Buquicchio, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe; Baroness Mary Teresa Goudie, Member of House of Lords of Great Britain; Mrs. Marianna V. Vardinoyannis, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and member of the Board of Directors of “The Suzanne Mubarak Women’s International Peace Movement”; Mrs. Melanne Verveer, Founder and Chair of the Board of the Vital Voices Global Partnership; Mrs. Eva Biaudet, OSCE Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings; Dr Aleya Hammad, Member of Board of Directors of “The Suzanne Mubarak Women’s International Peace Movement”; Mrs. Margaret Alva, General Secretary of Indian National Congress; Dr Helen Bamber OBE, Founding Member of Amnesty International and The Helen Bamber Foundation; Mrs. Katie Ford, Board of Directors and Former CEO of Ford Models; Mrs. Louise Therese Blouin MacBain, CEO and President of LTB Group and Founder and Chair of the “Louise T. Blouin Foundation”; Mrs. Emma Thompson, Academy Award Winning Actress and Chair of The Helen Bamber Foundation; Mrs. Julia Ormond, Actress and UNODC Goodwill Ambassador; Mrs. Ruslana Lyzhychko, Eurovision Contest Winner and Former Member of Parliament, Ukraine; Mrs. Sabrine El Hossamy, PR & Communication Director at Orascom Telecom, and others.