Statement by Ambassador Rick Barton, U.S. Representative to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, at the Launch of the UN Global Plan of Action against Trafficking in Persons

Ambassador Rick Barton
U.S. Representative 
New York, NY
August 31, 2010


Thank you, Mr. President. We appreciate the remarks of today's three panelists, their support for transnational coordination, their remarks regarding the vulnerability of migrants, their emphasis on engaging in prevention, and their innovative suggestions regarding the private sector in the fight against trafficking.

Human traffickers know no boundaries; their violence and greed span the world. The human trafficking phenomenon affects every country in the world, including the United States. One decade ago, the United Nations adopted the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its supplementary Protocol on Trafficking in Persons thus defining trafficking, demanding the criminalization of all acts of trafficking in persons, and calling for assistance and protection for its victims.

Trafficking in persons is one of the most appalling infringements on the fundamental rights, dignity and integrity of a person. The effective protection of trafficked persons – including identification, assistance, and access to justice – remains among the most pressing challenges. As Ambassador Rice recently stated: “Slavery is not yet a problem of the past, and abolition is not a movement that can be consigned to history. We are faced with the reality of a thriving modern slave industry, which operates in dark shadows and broad daylight, resulting in an illicit trade of millions of dollars and countless damaged lives. “

We are all here to celebrate the launch of the Global Plan of Action against Trafficking in Persons –the result of the collective efforts of nations united together to end human trafficking, to protect and assist victims, to prosecute perpetrators, and to promote partnership and cooperation among stakeholders. We hope that the GPOA will emerge as a useful tool in enabling States to set strategic priorities and outline concrete actions, and to allocate resources and set benchmarks to ensure visible results for their efforts. We view this effort one more step bringing us closer to eradicating modern slavery once and for all throughout the world.

At the same time, the United States strongly believes that the focus of international anti-trafficking in persons efforts should be on universal ratification and implementation of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its supplementary Protocol on Trafficking in Person. The Trafficking in Persons Protocol serves as the cornerstone for effective action in ending human trafficking. While the political will to combat trafficking in persons has been increasing over the last 10 years, concrete actions are not always consistent with declarations, especially in terms of implementation, resource allocation, and capacity development.

Despite our efforts, the rate of victim identification is extremely low compared to the estimated massive scale of trafficking, especially with regard to trafficking for labor exploitation. Speaking about the annual Trafficking in Persons Report, Ambassador Luis CdeBaca recently stated: “a trend that we see in this year’s report is the feminization of labor trafficking, which was once thought of as the male counterpoint to sex trafficking of women. But like their brothers, husbands, and sons, women are trapped in fields, factories, mines, and homes, often suffering the dual demons of forced labor and sexual exploitation. Today, more than 56 percent of trafficking is of women and girls, and we see more women than ever before as victims of labor trafficking, specifically involuntary domestic servitude.” In this regard, the United States is pleased to support the on-going efforts of the international community to develop an international instrument to protect domestic workers, under the leadership of the International Labor Organization.

Trafficked persons are often not identified at all as victims of crime and can be treated simply as irregular migrants – including a high percentage of children - and expelled. In the case of children, it is imperative that any indication of possible trafficking triggers all available protections in an effort to secure the best interest of the child and durable solutions for their wellbeing. In practice, this requires the strong commitment of States to establish dedicated policies and resources to guarantee a protective environment and best interest determination for every child victim of trafficking on the territory of their State.

Human Trafficking is a threat to national security, public health, and democracy. Real action is needed on-the-ground to combat trafficking and to protect not only victims, but also presumed and potential victims until a determination can be made. It is our hope that the General Assembly resolution and the annexed Global Plan of Action against Trafficking in Persons will help reinforce the Palermo Convention and its Protocol and the mandate of the UNTOC Conference of the Parties in Vienna.


PRN: 2010/171