By Vatican News staff reporter
The “Road to resilience: post-pandemic recovery and security in the OSCE and Mediterranean regions": That was the title of the 2021 OSCE Mediterranean Conference, which was held on Tuesday in Vienna, Austria.
In his speech to the gathering, which was also online, the Permanent Representative of the Holy See to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Archbishop Janusz Urbanczyk underlined how the current pandemic has led to “an unfortunate increase in poverty, especially among those in vulnerable situations.”
Consequently, he pointed out, there has also been a rise in various types of exploitation, including labour and sexual exploitation, as well as human trafficking.
In this context, the Archbishop said, the Covid-19 pandemic has also highlighted a “structural weakness and the lack of efficiency in the criminal prosecution of these crimes, not only on a national level but also on an international level.”
Rise in exploitation
He went on to say that the rise of exploitation in participating States has proven that “these crimes are still missing effective trans-border regulation and prosecution.”
Furthermore, the Archbishop stressed, the deterioration of the living and working conditions of a significant amount of workers, both immigrant and non-immigrant, has “exacerbated inequalities within society and the exploitative nature of the conditions that the most vulnerable are subjected to.”
Archbishop Januz emphasised that while national and international institutions focused on dealing with the pandemic, criminal activity flourished.
“While acknowledging the extent to which the current pandemic has an adverse effect on victims of exploitation,” the Archbishop said, “there is a further need to reconsider the dynamics of the global economy and market.”
Rights of children
He also highlighted that the safety and rights of children must be upheld.
“They are some of the most vulnerable of our population and have suffered most from the lockdown and closure of schools due to the pandemic, he said.”
The Permanent Observer continued by saying that for them, “schools represent the possibility of a better life than the one they are currently living.”
Noting that it is these minors “that run the risk of becoming easy prey for those who would exploit them, either through forced labour or trafficking, the Archbishop stressed that it was “essential to mobilize resources to prevent this dire eventuality.”