I am very pleased to have this opportunity to meet with you-to gain the benefit of your collective experiences in counter trafficking and share the focus behind our new policy.
Although we don’t have precise numbers, as many as 27 million men, women and children may be essentially enslaved in sex or labor exploitation-more than double the population of New York, Los Angeles and Chicago combined.
We know that human trafficking thrives in the shadows of poverty and conflict-and affects men, women and children in every country in the world. It is fundamentally linked to development challenges we face every day – from limited education and employment opportunities to the tenuous rule of law.
We know that trafficking is a highly lucrative business, grossing an estimated $32 billion a year and perpetuating a vicious cycle.
And we know that with the right research, tools and approaches, we can effectively combat it.
Under the strong leadership of President Obama and Secretary Clinton, we are fundamentally transforming our work-pursuing more effective, efficient and results-oriented approaches in counter-trafficking.
Because we have lacked basic survey data about victims in trafficking or program effectiveness, going forward every USAID mission in a high-risk county will conduct baseline surveys and develop clear metrics to accurately assess our work. And we will use this information to focus on efforts where they are needed most-in countries like the DRC, Haiti and Afghanistan.
Because rapid technological advances-like the widespread use of mobile phones and online social networks-are providing new opportunities for traffickers, we are now prioritizing investments in technology-like mapping platforms and phone apps-that can help locate vulnerable individuals.
In Moscow, we’re working with a local organization to pilot a new phone app that provides users with a map of the nearest shelters, hospitals and police stations. It also includes a panic button that sends an alert to pre-loaded emergency contacts.
Because we know that even developed countries don’t always have standardized internal systems to address trafficking, we are helping 10 countries in Eastern Europe establish the world’s first uniform online database for tracking and assisting victims. Operating in more than a dozen languages, it safeguards victim identities and connects them to critical services, like emergency care and legal aid, so that victims-especially children-who find themselves in danger far from home don’t fall through the cracks. And since this net is more effective the broader it gets, we’re working to expand it into neighboring countries like Hungary and Turkey.
Because we know that, as an Agency, we need to make sure that our actions and those of our partners reflect our principles, we have adopted a Code of Conduct to ensure our personnel, contractors and grantees abide by the highest ethical standards.
Let me share a brief story about the impact that these efforts can have. For three years, a Cambodian boy and his three friends had been essentially enslaved on a Thai fishing boat. Just a few weeks ago, their boat docked at a port in Thailand-and the young man happened to catch sight of a MTV documentary about trafficking.
The video flashed a free hotline number in both Thai and Cambodian-so the men could read it. They called the number on the screen, and immigration authorities responded immediately, helping free the men and repatriate them back to Cambodia. This happy ending was as a result of a program we helped establish over a decade ago called MTV-EXIT.
Through a partnership that leveraged over $100 million from our initial investment of $8 million, MTV-EXIT reaches 300 million households worldwide and 650,000 every year young people at concerts to raise awareness.
But our most effective partnerships are not just with the private sector players.
For decades, faith-based communities have demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to protect victims and fight trafficking. Tomorrow, I am going to visit Bethel University outside of Minneapolis-a member of the Christian College Consortium. There 15 students chose to spend their winter holiday in Cambodia, learning about the risk of child trafficking and what they could do to help.
Whether it is Shared Hope International conducting assessments in Arizona, Washington and Virginia to better understand the scope of trafficking in the U.S., or Catholic Relief Services working to scale up counter-trafficking efforts in the aftermath of emergencies like the 2004 tsunami and the Haiti earthquake, the leadership of faith-based organizations in counter-trafficking represents the very best of America.
But despite these efforts, there is no doubt that more work must be done.
Today’s conversation and this policy are important steps in establishing more analytical, effective approaches to combat trafficking. These efforts are not only critical to saving lives and ensuring freedom, they are critical to our own global security and prosperity.
When you fight forced labor, you empower legitimate trade over illicit businesses, energizing the global economy. When you rehabilitate former child soldiers, you’re breaking a cycle of violence that devastates societies and destabilized regions. And in times of crises, when you can ensure that even the most vulnerable individuals are safe, you advance the values that unite us as a people: compassion, equality and a belief in the dignity of every individual.
Read more about USAID’s Counter-Trafficking In Persons Initiative here: http://www.humanrights.gov/2012/02/23/strengthening-the-fight-against-modern-slavery-usaids-counter-trafficking-in-persons-initiative/