Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, good morning. I’m pleased to join so many partners and stakeholders today to discuss progress and the path forward on our shared commitment to combat modern slavery, what we also call trafficking in persons. We’re here today because modern slavery is a crime that hurts our countries and communities. It rips families apart, undermines the rule of law, creates instability, and tears at the fabric of society.
With few exceptions, the international community speaks with one voice when we say there is no place for slavery in the 21st century. This commitment is enshrined in our cornerstone treaty, the Palermo Protocol. And it has been carried forward by the 2010 Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons. The goal of the Protocol and the Global Action Plan is clear: the abolition of modern slavery.
The United States will continue to meet this call to action by working to prevent this crime, prosecuting traffickers, and protecting their victims. In September, President Obama announced that we would adopt a comprehensive strategic action plan for helping survivors get the support and services they need. My partners at the U.S. Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services will lead the way on this five-year plan, working with relevant agencies across government.
This plan goes into effect this fall, and we’ve set out four goals.
First, better coordination and collaboration at the national, state, tribal, and local levels.
Second, make more people aware of this problem, from government and community leaders to the public at large.
Third, ramp up victim identification efforts and make it easier for victims to access support services.
Finally, improve the quality of services for all victims. What does that mean? It means making sure the support we’re providing is culturally appropriate and takes into account the trauma a victim has experienced. It means tailoring solutions to address the short-term and long-term health, safety and well-being of victims. It means making these services available to all victims regardless of their nationality, race, gender, age, religion or disability.
This plan is the first of its kind in the United States. It’s going to improve the way our government deals with this crime. And it’s going to help more victims of trafficking move forward with the lives they choose for themselves.
The victim services plan in the States is going to enable us to better serve all trafficking victims because trafficking in the United States looks like trafficking everywhere else in the world. It is women trapped in domestic servitude. It is men trapped on farms and construction sites. It is women and children suffering at the hands of abusive pimps. It is the victim wondering if authorities are going to help them, or make things worse. But it is also communities coming together to help survivors. It is high school and college students raising awareness through modern abolitionist clubs. It is the action at the local level, with all 50 states now having passed modern anti-trafficking statutes. And it is consumers and businesses looking at supply chains, to ensure that the shrimp, the fish, the cocoa, the palm oil, the cotton that we depend on were not tainted by exploitation and abuse.
The solution in face of this scourge is clear – joint action across nations and across UN agencies. Working together to deny traffickers any safe space. Rejecting servitude in all of its forms, and confronting it not just through development and victim services, but through effective law enforcement so that trafficking victims can see their abusers brought to justice. Because, as Abraham Lincoln famously wrote, “Those who would deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves, and, under a just God, cannot long retain it.”
The United States is committed to our shared goal of prevention, protection, and prosecution. We will work with our partners in the United Nations and around the world toward our common goal – a world without slavery.
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