Dame Sara Thornton joins the 22nd Conference of the Alliance against Trafficking in Persons and meets with Save Ukraine advisor on disability rights


This week Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner Dame Sara Thornton participated in the 22nd Conference of the Alliance against Trafficking in Persons in Vienna hosted by Valiant Richey, OSCE Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings.


The Commissioner chaired a panel session on developing durable solutions for child victims of human trafficking alongside speakers ECPAT International Executive Director Guillaume Landry, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (United States) Vice President Staca Shehan, Assistant Professor Nihal Eminoğlu (Çanakkale University, Turkey) and Romina Kuko, Deputy Minister of Interior (Albania).


At the conference Dame Sara also met with Léopoldine Huyghues Despointes, an expert and activist on international disability rights, actress, writer, and producer. Ms Huyghues Despointes addressed conference delegates on her involvement as Honorary Advisor for Disability Rights for Save Ukraine – an organisation providing assistance to the most vulnerable segments of the population in war torn Ukraine. She urged the international community to strengthen their response to some of the most vulnerable refugees. 


Léopoldine Huyghues Despointes, Honorary Advisor for Disability Rights for Save Ukraine, said:

"Excellencies, distinguished delegates, Mesdames et Messieurs.

My name is Leopoldine Huyghues Despointes, FR & American citizen. Expert and activist on international disability rights.

I am the former VP of the world disability union and collaborated with many NGOs. I am also a filmmaker in charge of the week of the cinema positive at the Cannes Film Festival.

The first day of the war, I put to side everything I was doing to serve the vulnerable children of the war. On a wheelchair, I take the current emergency crisis personally.

I am here today on behalf of SAVE UKRAINE as the honorary advisor for disability rights.

Mykola Kuleba's foundation: Mykola is the former Commissioner for Children ́s Rights with the President of Ukraine 2015-2021. He is the main coordinator of evacuation of vulnerable children from hot spots of Ukraine and provision of humanitarian support to child protection hubs around Ukraine.

Save Ukraine has so far evacuated more than 10,000 children.

I just came back from Ukraine, from a sensitive zone where I greeted orphans and disabled children.

One of them was a disabled teenager who was in a rehabilitation center directly bombed at last Wednesday. He was on the floor, incapable to move, while being bombed at.

Mykola Kuleba personally evacuated him and about 20 documented other orphans as part of this special  operation. The traumatized young man is currently in a safe zone, in an orphanage I personally checked.

The war against Ukraine is a war against women. Against children.

Countries have taken impressive steps but more needs to be done. Bilateral and multilateral cooperation needs to be enhanced to ensure that gaps are closed and challenges are overcome.

We need to ensure proper cooperation and organisation of frontline receiving refugees. Solidarity is active, and I would like to highlight (in my humble opinion) that Poland is an example on the international scene.

BUT we need specialized training to take good care of vulnerable children.

We need to prevent that women and children fleeing the war are falling prey to traffickers - in Ukraine or on their journey.

We need to ensure the protection of those who have already been trafficked, especially for sexual exploitation.

We need to cooperate to ensure proper medical care (rehabilitation, following up on current treatments (many children are undergoing treatment for Leukemia for instance). Also phycological support for proper recovery.

While peace is being negotiated, and as Ukraine's medical facilities will need to be rebuilt.

We need to ensure that children are integrated to continue their education. Also to prevent child labor.

We also need to ensure that fundings are released in the right hands.

Let us work hand in hand and let us not leave anyone behind."


Dame Sara meets with Léopoldine Huyghues Despointes