Posted by: Luis CdeBaca, Ambassador-at-Large, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, State Department
On January 1st in the United States, we marked the 150th anniversary of the date President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring that millions of men, women, and children held in slavery were forever free. A century and a half later, President Obama said that through the Proclamation, Lincoln “reaffirmed the commitment of the United States to the enduring cause of freedom. Then as now, we remain steadfast in our resolve to see that all men, women, and children have the opportunity to realize this greatest of gifts.”
Yet we are still a long way from achieving the vision of a world free from all contemporaneous forms of slavery. As many as 27 million people are victims of modern-day slavery, also known as trafficking in persons. This crime appears in many ways. It could be the abuse of domestic workers trapped in their employers’ homes or the enslavement of a man on a fishing boat. It could be the prostitution of a young girl in a brothel or the compelled service of a boy as a child soldier. Whatever form it takes, at its core human trafficking is a crime of exploitation that robs its victims of their freedom and dignity. Modern slavery occurs in every country in the world, and every government has a responsibility to respond to it.
The Obama Administration is committed to fighting modern slavery at home and around the world using the “3P” approach—prosecuting traffickers, protecting their victims, and preventing this crime in the future. We’re also eager to partner with governments that take this problem seriously, and we are working with stakeholders in civil society, the faith community, and the private sector, which all bring unique capabilities and expertise to this struggle. A major part of our work is raising awareness about this issue and promoting greater activism in finding, stopping, and preventing this crime.
We’re driving this effort as part of our commemoration of Emancipation. The State Department joined with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio to produce a film, Journey to Freedom, which shows the parallels between trafficking in persons and historical slavery in the United States. From Congo to Mexico to Nepal, our embassies and consular posts have opened their doors to share this film, shine a light on this problem, and encourage more people to contribute to the battle against modern day slavery.
This film is available to view online at http://www.state.gov/j/tip, and I encourage you to take the time to see how this problem affects all our communities today.
After all, it’s going to take all of us–learning how to identify this crime, knowing what to do when we see it, and preventing it from harming our communities–if we’re going to succeed in the fight against modern slavery. And this struggle deserves nothing less than our full support. As President Obama said, the “fight against human trafficking is one of the great human rights causes of our time.” The United States remains committed to this work, and we hope you will be our partner in this effort.