When Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation nearly 150 years ago, he underscored the commitment of the United States to the enduring cause of freedom. President Obama has called upon everyone to ‘educate themselves about all forms of modern slavery and the signs and consequences of human trafficking,’ pledging to combat this crime within our borders and join ‘with our partners around the world… to end this injustice.’ One such important partner is the International Labor Organization, which today released a new global estimate on forced labor that indicates approximately 21 million individuals, including 15 million adults and 6 million children around the world, continue to be, in the words of the report, ‘trapped in jobs… which they cannot leave.’ These numbers provide more precise estimates and focus our attention on the magnitude of this global crime and on the plight of those who continue to be coerced or deceived into forced labor or sexual exploitation, and are a welcome addition to the research in this important area.
The Department of Labor commends the ILO for the transparency of its research process and for its commitment to improving survey methodologies to estimate hidden and vulnerable populations. The department funded the ILO’s efforts to develop survey guidelines to estimate forced labor of adults and children, and worked with four governments to conduct national forced labor surveys. When the tools of research are used to inform policies and programs, the effectiveness of our efforts to eradicate modern slavery will be long-lasting. The department commends those governments that contributed to the global estimate by opening their doors to data collection in order to better understand the complexities regarding modern slavery, and we encourage other governments to do so as well.
The United States will continue to bring resources to bear on the scourge of modern slavery through the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, in partnership with civil society and the private sector. Today we reaffirm our commitment to eradicating this affront to human dignity and justice.