By Hillary Clinton
Last year I met a group of young girls in Cambodia living in a shelter for survivors of human trafficking. They wanted the same things we all desire for our children: the opportunity to live and learn in safety, to grow up free to fulfill their God-given potential. But for these girls, those basics seemed nearly insurmountable. They had already endured traumas that defy description and shock the conscience.
A decade since the United Nations adopted the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, there are more slaves living in the world today than at any point in history. The story of those girls in Cambodia, and the many others like them around the world, should serve as a call to action for us all. It’s time to redouble our efforts and renew our resolve to end this scourge once and for all.
The United States has made combating human trafficking a priority at home and around the world. It devastates communities, undermines the rule of law, tears families apart, exploits the most vulnerable in society, and offends our most fundamental values.
Fighting slavery is part of who we are as a nation, but this crime affects us all individually as well. When we eat produce that was picked by enslaved hands, when we buy clothes stitched in sweatshops by unpaid workers, when we look the other way on street corners where prostitutes are forced to sell their own bodies, consciously or unconsciously, we all contribute to this crime. We must also all contribute to stopping it.
Over the last 10 years, governments around the world have joined this struggle. To date, more than 120 countries have adopted anti-trafficking laws consistent with the U.N. Protocol, which established the 3P Paradigm of prevention, protection, prosecution. That progress has been reflected in the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which assesses government efforts to curb sex and labor trafficking.
This week we are releasing a new report ranking 184 countries and territories. It finds that we are at a critical moment in this struggle.
We cannot allow the momentum of the past decade to slow. Instead, it should be accelerated.
That’s why going forward, the measure of success for government action – including our own – cannot merely be whether legal frameworks and protection mechanisms exist, but whether those tools are being implemented effectively and are making a real difference.
To live up to those promises, the next 10 years need to be a decade of delivery.
That means governments everywhere must improve their efforts to combat all forms of trafficking, whether for sex or labor, domestic or transnational, affecting men, women, or children.
Partnerships among governments can improve our ability to combat exploitation in all its forms, whether by cracking down on fraudulent recruitment practices in source countries, screening migrant populations for potential victims, or aggressively prosecuting those who hold individuals in compelled service.
This is a crime that affects every nation, including the United States, and every government must take responsibility for stopping it.
The story of those girls in the Cambodian shelter is heartbreaking, but it should also give us hope. Their experience shows how effective law enforcement, comprehensive protection measures, and the commitment of good people can bring victims out of the horror of slavery and help them live healthy and productive lives. The United States is committed to this goal. We will do our part to move from the decade of development to the decade of delivery. But we can’t do it alone. For the millions of people who toil in the shadows, unseen and unheard, all of us must make this effort a priority.
Hillary Clinton is the U.S. secretary of state. It was distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. Contact Secretary Clinton at U.S. Department of State, 2201 C Street NW Washington, DC 20520 or through the Main Switchboard: (202) 647-4000 or (800) 877-8339 (Federal Relay Service).