UTS CEO Julia Govinden at the UNGA78 in New York on September 25th 2023


New York, USA – United Through Sports (UTS) had the honour of being invited to participate in a high-level event during the 78th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA78). UTS CEO, Julia Govinden, was invited by Mission 89 to actively engage in a crucial panel discussion with collaborative efforts aimed at combating human trafficking of youth in sports. The event focused on the topic “Technological Solutions to Tackling Exploitation and Human Trafficking in Sport”, with vital dialogue exchanges taking place on the sidelines of the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. 

The event welcomed contributions and support from esteemed representatives.

Welcome Remarks:

  • H.E. Sheikha Alya bint Ahmed bin Saif Al Thani, Permanent Representative of the State of Qatar to the  United Nations and Co-chair of the Group of Friends of Sport for Development and Peace
  • H.E. Ms. Isabelle Picco, Permanent Representative of Monaco to the United Nations and Co-chair of the Group of Friends of Sport for Development and Peace
  • H.E. Mr. Michel Xavier Biang, Permanent Representative of the Gabonese Republic to the United  Nations
  • Ms. Delphine Schantz, Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) New York Office
  • Mr. Nasser Al-Khori, Executive Director, Generation Amazing 
  • Mission 89 Ms. Lerina Bright, Executive Director 

Keynote Address:

  • H.E. Mrs. Melrose Karminty, Hon. Minister of Social Welfare, Republic of Sierra Leone 
  • Mr. Samuel Eto’o Fils, President, Federation of Cameroon Football (FECAFOOT), Former Professional Footballer (Real Madrid, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Chelsea, Qatar SC, others) and four – time “African Footballer of the Year” 2003, 2004, 2005, 2010

The event was organised by Mission 89 and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) taking place at the hub of international peace and security, encouraging collaboration and friendly international relations. This collaboration echoed the spirit of unity and steps towards progress inspired by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Olympic Committee’s principles against the exploitation of young athletes.

Mission 89 is a Geneva-based not-for-profit research, education, and advocacy organisation that aims to eradicate child trafficking in sports through social and economic transformation.

“All stakeholders are urged to contribute to the fight, with a particular focus on the role of technology in both fueling and combating exploitation and human trafficking in sports. In this room, we are not merely participants, but agents of change, bound by a collective responsibility to protect the vulnerable and eradicate this blight on society. This event is a call for the establishment of an international multi-stakeholder group to champion the acknowledgement and growing prevalence of trafficking within the sporting world, and bolster actions within sports organisations” said Executive Director and Founder of Mission 89, Lerina Bright.

Left to right: Michel Xavier Biang (Permanent Representative of the Gabonese Republic to the UN), Lerina Bright (Founder & Executive Director, Mission 89), Samuel Eto’o Fils (Former professional Football player), Dennis Francis (President, United Nations General Assembly)


With a line-up of distinguished speakers included football legend Samuel Eto’o Fils, who delivered a powerful address from his personal experience in sports, and H.E. Minister of Social Welfare of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Mrs. Melrose Karminty, the event left no room for ambiguity—human trafficking in sports is a pressing issue that demands immediate attention and the action of everybody. Insightful panellists further enriched the discussions, among them was emphasis on safety from moderator Prof. Parosha Chandran and panellists: Mr. Samuel Eto’o Fils, Dr. Serhat Yilmaz, Mr. Roberto Carlos Branco Martins,Nasser Al-Khori from Generation Amazing Foundation and our CEO Julia Govinden, each contributing their expertise and unique perspectives to the crucial dialogue surrounding human trafficking in sports.

UTS CEO Julia Govinden said: ”We are here because we do not have all the answers, but perhaps someone in this room does. Delivering large-scale sport festivals and events means we engage thousands of youth and over 146 international sport organisations. We are continuously searching for ways to better safeguard the youth and with the increased use of technology, it is vital now more than ever before to do all we can and work together. We all have a duty to protect the youth and we can’t do this unless we all take actionable steps forward.“


The event saw discussions that delved into the multifaceted issue of sports trafficking, engaging participants in conversations about the complexities of the problem. These dialogues not only focused on the impact of sports trafficking on social inclusion within the sports community but also technological challenges and solutions in addressing this issue. In these discussions, key sports stakeholders and technology leaders came together, emphasising the vital role of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in highlighting how technology can bridge gaps and offer lasting solutions. Essentially, these dialogues served to raise awareness about the magnitude of the problem, particularly in light of the rapid growth of digital technologies within the sports realm. As the sports world becomes increasingly interconnected through technology, it also faces evolving risks and vulnerabilities associated with human trafficking. 

Human trafficking expert and Human rights activist Jaco Booyens whose sister had been trafficked for six years said: “We are dealing with a crime that really evolves every 10 days, every 10 days there is a new method, a methodology and system being used online to coerce and defraud children. Let’s also understand this is a crime of demand. Someone is willing to buy the child. There is a purchase that drives the whole crime. This is a crime that is rapidly evolving and is very organised and unorganised at the same time.“

Julia Govinden (CEO, UTS) and Dr. Roberto Branco Martins (Co-founder and Director General of the European Football Agents Association & the International Association for Players’ agents. Co-founder and permanent legal advisor of Pro Agent)


It was agreed by all participants that sport can be part of the solution to address the challenge of human trafficking and inform the public, educate and bring awareness to the red flags and dangers, whilst offering preventative measures and tools.

UTS left feeling confident that there is hope for the future and that there is much to be done to protect youth all around the world. It is clear there is a critical need for a multi-stakeholder collective commitment to implement technological solutions that can effectively combat exploitation and trafficking in sports.

The event closed with many new relationships formed, a sense of unity and commitment to take the next steps forward towards addressing the pressing issue of human trafficking in sports. 

UTS thanks Mission 89, the UNODC and all those present in the room physically and virtually for this much needed event. A special thank you to our UTS Young Leaders who joined from across the world, we need your voice and support too.

Left to right: Paulette Fortes Sanchez (Programmes and Operations Director, Generation Amazing), Julia Govinden, Ambassador Stephen Kojo Sackey, Roberto Branco Martins, Nasser Al-Khori (Executive Director, Generation Amazing), Jaco Booyens (Founder, After Eden Pictures & prominent figure in the anti-sex trafficking community)

Learn more about Mission 89