United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour today opened an Asia-Pacific regional human rights conference in Beijing with a call for “ever closer partnerships” to combat human trafficking. “All too often, those who are trafficked are criminalized, for example as illegal migrants or prostitutes, when they should be receiving assistance as victims,” she said, noting that although the human rights dimensions of the problem are evident, it continues to be addressed primarily as a “law and order” issue.Some 150 delegates from member States, national human rights institutions, sub-regional organizations, non-governmental organizations(NGOs) and UN agencies are taking part in the 13th annual workshop on Regional Cooperation for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in the Asia-Pacific Region, focusing this year on human trafficking.Ms. Arbour welcomed the mechanisms and initiatives in place to tackle the problems in the region, making it a leader in the fight to stem this gross form of human rights abuse. “But this is a struggle that will only be overcome through ever closer partnerships at the international, regional, and sub-regional levels,” she said.She highlighted the role regional mechanisms could play in tackling cross-border problems like trafficking. Their importance lies in the fact that they seek to “flesh out a common approach to a complex problem, one that seeks to assist States, from a position of shared regional values, to address shortcomings in their national frameworks to allow individuals both the means to obtain their rights in full, and seek effective redress when those rights are denied,” she added.Participants will hold in-depth discussions on the future of the Asia-Pacific Framework and review progress achieved in the four areas identified within a framework for technical cooperation in human rights in the region, namely national human rights institutions; and action plans; human rights education; and the realization of the achievement of the right to development and of economic, social and cultural rights.