On December 31, 2013, President Barack Obama proclaimed January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. He called upon private businesses, civil society groups, faith leaders, families, and individuals to recognize the vital role they can each play in ending all forms of modern slavery.
For governments, now is the time to take the next steps forward in this struggle. That requires stepping up efforts to bring traffickers to justice, protect survivors, and prevent trafficking, while at the same time pushing for new standards in procurement and labor recruitment that will help ensure governments aren’t making this problem worse.
For leaders in the private sector, now is the time to embrace the idea that fighting modern slavery is good business, and to make this effort a part of corporate policies and practices. That requires taking a hard look at supply chains and labor recruitment to make sure goods and services are coming to market free of abuse and exploitation.
For advocates, activists, and service providers, now is the time to come together to share and replicate effective practices and develop new innovations, and to leave behind any ideological divisions that have fractured this movement in years past. That requires keeping our focus fixed on victims and survivors, listening to what they can teach us, and making sure they have the support and services they need to heal and move forward with the lives they choose for themselves.
For individuals everywhere, now is the time to learn about the way this crime intersects with our lives, and to learn what we can do to contribute to a solution. That requires sharing information about how consumer practices fuel the demand for forced labor, and being aware of this crime in our communities and of what to do if we see it.
And for countries and communities that still deny the existence of this problem or their responsibility to address it, now is the time to join us. That means adopting and enforcing laws consistent with international standards. It means treating all victims of this crime—victims of sex trafficking and forced labor; immigrants and citizens; adults and children; men, women, and transgender individuals—with compassion and dignity. And it means providing survivors of this crime with the help and support they need to move on with their lives, and listening to their voices as we chart the path forward in this effort.
This month, I urge you to educate yourself and others about this crime. Learn the red flags that may indicate human trafficking and take the Human Trafficking Awareness Training created by the Departments of State and Homeland Security. Be prepared to report tips on potential human trafficking activity to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-3737-888. Become a conscientious consumer by visiting Slavery Footprint to determine “How many slaves work for you?” and learn what you can do in your own life to fight human trafficking. For more ideas, visit 20 Ways You Can Help Fight Human Trafficking and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
- Cross posted from DipNote, the official blog of the U.S. Department of State