Trafficking in persons, or modern slavery, is a global, multi-billion dollar criminal enterprise. It destabilizes governments and feeds the corruption that compromises the ability of nations to prosper. It fuels other criminal activity such as trafficking of illicit drugs and gun smuggling. It is one of the means by which terrorists fund their activities. Today, it is estimated that there are more than 20 million victims of trafficking globally.
No country in the world is immune from this blight on humanity. The United States is one of the top destination countries for human trafficking, as well as for goods produced using forced labor. This means that if we are to fight this scourge, we must begin at home.
Three years ago, President Barack Obama took a number of steps to strengthen and unify the U.S. Government response to modern slavery, beginning with a focus on four priority areas: rule of law—that is, investigation, arrest and prosecution of traffickers; victim assistance such as health and trauma services, child welfare; ensuring that no forced labor was used anywhere along the supply chains in the production and delivery of goods and services purchased by the United States Government; and public awareness and outreach: making the public aware of the scope and extent of the problem, and training people within the government, and the public at large, how to identify victims of trafficking. Part of this awareness campaign is the President’s annual proclamation of January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
“Our intelligence teams have devoted more resources to identifying trafficking networks, law enforcement officers have been working to dismantle those networks, and prosecutors have striven to punish traffickers,” said President Obama in this year’s Proclamation.“We have also enhanced our domestic protections so foreign-born workers better understand their rights.”
To address the underlying conditions that enable human trafficking in the first place, the United States is promoting development and economic growth across the globe, said President Obama.
“As we work to end human trafficking here in the United States, we will continue to lead the effort to root it out around the world.”