Letter from Ambassador Luis CdeBaca

Date: 05/18/2009 Description: Luis CdeBaca © State Dept ImageDear Reader:

The 2009 Trafficking in Persons Report reflects the commitment of Secretary Clinton and President Obama to address this crime at home and abroad. As President Obama has said:

Sadly, there are thousands who are trapped in various forms of enslavement, here in our country … oftentimes young women who are caught up in prostitution. So, we've got to give prosecutors the tools to crack down on these human trafficking networks. Internationally, we've got to speak out. It is a debasement of our common humanity, whenever we see something like that taking place.

As a federal prosecutor, I have seen first-hand the impact of human trafficking. I saw the violence and greed of the traffickers, and the suffering and trauma of the victims. I came to understand that the survivors are not statistics – they are people who share not only the painful memories but also the joyful experience of healing. And I learned that when law enforcement authorities work with survivors and the NGOs who assist them, trafficking networks are dismantled and victims are empowered.

The international anti-trafficking movement has come a long way in the last decade. Around the world, new partnerships between police and NGOs have resulted in the prosecution of thousands of trafficking cases, and a new focus on victims’ rights has resulted in assistance for many thousands of victims.

But there is still much to do. As documented by this report and a recent United Nations survey, many countries have not brought any cases under their trafficking statutes, and few labor trafficking cases are being prosecuted. NGOs that provide critical protections – including sustainable shelters and reintegration programs – are adversely affected as donor nations and philanthropists feel the strain of the financial crisis.

Not all progress will come through programs or prosecutions, however. Culturally, we need to see through to each individual’s humanity and recognize how traffickers exploit their victims’ vulnerabilities to hold them in servitude, whether in fields, factories, homes, or brothels. Likewise, we must see past the movement and migration that characterize so many human trafficking situations and focus on the compelled service that the Palermo Protocol and other international instruments place at the core of this phenomenon.

Globally, there are countless persons who labor in bondage and suffer in silence, feeling that they are trapped and alone. For too many, when they think of police, it is with fear, not with the promise of rescue. If they think of escape, it is a jump into the unknown that they dare not take, since so many do not know that NGOs stand ready to help them if they leave. This report is their story. It is the story of governments, organizations, and individuals who give such survivors a chance for freedom. It is on their behalf, and in the spirit of a common humanity, that we seek a global partnership for the abolition of modern slavery.

Ambassador Luis CdeBaca