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UN to open first global forum on human trafficking

The United Nations will open today the first-ever global forum to fight the crime of human trafficking, which ranges from forced labour and sexual exploitation to the removal of organs and body parts.
The three-day conference, which runs through Friday, will bring together 1,200 experts, legislators, law enforcement teams, business leaders, NGO representatives and trafficking victims from 116 countries, organisers said.
"The crime is so widespread within the global economic system that we have all become complicit in it," said the head of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonio Maria Costa.
"The blood, sweat and tears of trafficking victims are on the hands of consumers all over the world. This is a crime that shames us all."
On Tuesday, award-winning British actress Emma Thompson was scheduled to unveil a specially-conceived art installation, entitled "Journey", mapping the ordeal of a woman sold into the sex trade.
The installation, on the central "Heldenplatz" or Heroe's Square in Vienna, already drew thousands when it was displayed in London's Trafalgar Square in September.
The Austrian capital is the first leg of a continental European tour that will see "Journey" travel to Spain and Italy among other countries this year.
Pop star Ricky Martin and Suzanne Mubarak, the wife of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, were also scheduled to attend the conference.
Also open to the general public during the conference will be a special Film Forum, featuring some 58 feature films and documentaries.
UNODC chief Costa said that "a lack of information and a disjointed response have enabled human trafficking to flourish."
He said it was one of the fastest-growing crimes and had many forms, "always in collusion with other unlawful activities like illegal migration, forced labour, paedophilia, child exploitation, civil conflicts and organised prostitution."
"It's time for the world to open its eyes to this modern form of slavery," Costa said.
Workshops will be held on a wide range of topics, from forced labour and sexual exploitation to the trafficking in persons for the removal of organs and body parts.
UNODC said that it was difficult to collect data on human-trafficking, given the hidden nature of the crime.
But according to UN estimates, about 2.5 million people from 127 countries have been trafficked to 137 countries for purposes such as forced labour, sexual exploitation, the removal of organs and body parts, forced marriages, child adoption and begging.