President Obama has declared this January “National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month,” marking the United States’ commitment to end human trafficking – one of the most important human rights causes of our time.
Through force, fraud, and coercion, traffickers exploit more than 20 million adults and children in brothels and factories, on farms and boats, and in countless other industries around the world. Combating human trafficking is not easy, but President Obama and his administration have taken on the challenge and made fighting this insidious crime a priority over the last eight years.
Fighting human trafficking requires a whole-of-society effort, with lawmakers, law enforcement officials, NGOs, survivors, the private sector, and consumers all united in our efforts. Under President Obama we have made a number of significant policy achievements to reorient our anti-trafficking efforts to better assist survivors, support prosecutors going after traffickers, and prevent the inadvertent use of goods or services involving forced labor in supply chains:
Strong congressional leadership also led to the creation of new funds to support an anti-trafficking initiative aimed at reducing the prevalence of modern slavery around the globe. This effort, spearheaded by Senator Bob Corker, is unique in that it aims to galvanize investment money from the private sector and foreign governments to support innovative anti-trafficking initiatives. This type of public-private sector partnership and congressional-executive collaboration will be vital to the future success of our anti-trafficking efforts.
Fighting human trafficking is truly a bipartisan issue. The fight against modern slavery has benefited from strong congressional leadership on both sides of the aisle. Dating back to 2000 when Congress passed the landmark Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which provided the tools to combat modern slavery both abroad and domestically, both Democrats and Republicans have collaborated on this important human rights and law enforcement issue.
We also continue to engage diplomatically at the highest levels to urge other nations to continue developing and expanding their anti-trafficking laws and victim services frameworks. This Administration, along with members of Congress, carries this message to foreign heads of state, legislatures, and civil society groups all over the world. The Department of State has worked closely with governments to support the passage, amendment, and implementation of anti-trafficking laws. Since 2009, 194 pieces of anti-trafficking legislation have been passed in countries around the world.
While many challenges remain, the United States is contributing to a strong foundation to fight this crime. With continued bipartisan support, I am confident the United States will continue to be a leader in the effort to rid the world of the exploitation of human beings for profit.
Amy Pope is the Deputy Homeland Security Advisor and Deputy Assistant to the President at the National Security Council