United States Assistance To Combat Transnational Crime

Luis CdeBaca
Ambassador-at-Large, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Statement Before the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs
Washington, DC
May 7, 2014

[As-prepared statement]

As delivered

Thank you, Madam Chair, Ranking Member Lowey and members of the subcommittee. We appreciate your support and your ongoing commitment to this fight against modern slavery.

And I use the term "slavery" purposefully. We use "human trafficking" as an umbrella term. It's all of the conduct involved in reducing a person to or holding them in a state of compelled service, whether for labor or commercial sex. Movement may sometimes occur, but it's not a necessary element but rather a common vulnerability. The common thread in these cases is a deprivation of one person's freedom by another. That's why it's fitting to say it's slavery, especially this week.

Our moral obligation against this crime is clear, but it is also a strategic imperative. Modern slavery undermines the rule of law. It feeds instability, breeds corruption, fuels transnational crime and taints supply chains that drive the global economy. As you mentioned, Madam Chair, the events of the last week have demonstrated these interrelationships. And we we address it but also must pause to think about the victims, to think about the girls who don't know if someone's looking for them. And we have to answer: Yes, we are.

And so I'd like to talk about two major functions of our office. First, the annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which measures the government's efforts to fight trafficking. Every year we look at each country on one of -- and we put them on one of four tiers as to what they're doing.

The tier ranking system has been extremely effective in motivating governments to combat trafficking, and it's enabled them to more effectively fight this crime. Time and again we've seen governments change course, often dramatically, when faced with a potential downgrade or confronted by a tough assessment. Time and time again political leaders and advocates and academics have credited the report with spurring action.

And so in only about a decade, 159 countries have become parties to the United Nations trafficking protocol, modern anti-trafficking laws, specialized law enforcement units, victim assistance mechanisms, public awareness campaigns and, here at home, cutting-edge new laws in every state and almost every territory, again, in just a little more than a decade.

Now, what's important, though, is not to simply think of this as a policy priority but to think about the people. At the end of the day, the trafficking report doesn't just shine a light on what countries are doing. It's not just a name and shame exercise. Hopefully, at its best, it shines a light on the victims, on the responsibility toward the survivors, on the responsibility of all of us to stamp out slavery once and for all.

It also guides our foreign assistance. And that's the second issue I'd like to highlight. Since 2002 my office has funded 835 projects around the world worth over $216 million. Every year, because the need so far exceeds the approximately $19 million we have to spend each year in programming funds, we innovate. We identify and we disseminate best practices. We maintain and set the international norms. And knowing that sometimes it'll only happen if America does it, we fund support and services to trafficking victims, not to labels, not to classifications, to people, like the women victimized by modern slavery in Sierra Leone who now have access to shelter services for the first time, thanks to one of our grantees, the men who are now recognized as victims of trafficking and receive assistance in Bangladesh through one of our projects.

Prior to the work of those organizations and those projects, these undeserved populations had no access to service, had no voice, like the South and Southeast Asian and, increasingly, African women who find themselves enslaved as domestic servants in the Middle East, the children in West Africa forced to beg on the city and, yes, the children, men and women forced into prostitution and forced labor here at home in the United States.

As you said, up to 29 million people, and yet only about 40,000 000 victims have been identified last year.

But because of our trainings, the laws we're helping to write, the service providers and NGOs that we support and the standards that the TIP report is solidifying around the world, this is changing. In the last year, we've seen countries with their first convictions ever.

Countries which once denied having a trafficking problem at all are now proud to work under the 3 P paradigm of prevention, protection and prosecution, with robust interagency activities and good cops and social workers on the front lines. These are victories. And with every victory, with every law, with every liberation, with ever trafficker brought to justice, we draw nearer to our shared vision -- a world free from slavery. Thank you, and I am happy to answer any questions.