News/OSCE: US Statement on Trafficking in Human Beings

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Subject: News/OSCE: US Statement on Trafficking in Human Beings
From: Walsh, Maureen (Maureen.Walsh@mail.house.gov)
Date: Sun Jul 02 2000 - 15:43:47 EDT


On June 19-20, 2000, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
(OSCE) hosted a meeting on trafficking in human beings in Vienna, Austria.
The following statement was delivered by the U.S. Delegation to that
meeting.

Statement of Anita L. Botti
Deputy Director for International Initiatives
President's Interagency Council on Women, Department of State
and Chair of the U.S. Interagency Taskforce on Trafficking
June 19, 2000

Mr. Chairman, the OSCE's institutions and political leaders have given the
issue of trafficking a great deal of attention over the past year, including
at the Istanbul Summit and through the promulgation of the Action Plan on
trafficking issues. Today's meeting has given us an opportunity to hear
firsthand from expert NGOs and others about the realities of the trafficking
problem and what is needed to combat this problem effectively.

The stories we heard today about the fate of the victims and the lack of
accountability for traffickers reinforce the critical need for OSCE states
to take coordinated action to protect countless women, men and children from
the violence, enslavement, and other human rights abuses that trafficking
entails. The OSCE region includes trafficking source, transit and
destination countries. For this reason, the OSCE is a natural forum for
bringing States together to develop anti-trafficking strategies
cooperatively.

Trafficking in humans is, first and foremost, a human rights issue. But
trafficking is also a transnational crime issue, a migration issue, a
socioeconomic issue and a public health issue. Protecting the human rights
of trafficked persons also helps control illegal migration and deprive
transnational crime of a key source of revenue. We must focus our efforts
not only on the rehabilitation of persons who have fallen prey to
trafficking but also on alleviating the factors which cause people to be
susceptible to trafficking in the first place such as a lack of economic
opportunity in their native communities or discrimination on the basis of
sex or race.

Mr. Chairman, the United States welcomes OSCE efforts to address
trafficking. The Proposed OSCE Action Plan on Trafficking is an excellent
resource for OSCE institutions, field activities and, most importantly,
participating States to consider as they develop strategies to fight
trafficking. The U.S. fully supports the OSCE projects underway through
ODIHR to facilitate NGO and government cooperation on trafficking, to mount
public awareness campaigns, and to assist legislatures with legal reform
related to trafficking. OSCE States should consider ODIHR's trafficking
experts as valuable resources in tackling this issue.

We are also pleased by the attention paid to trafficking by our OSCE
Missions in the Balkans. The need for assistance for trafficked persons in
the Balkans is enormous and the OSCE Missions, in coordination with other
international organizations in the region, are well-suited to respond to
this need as well as to work with officials in developing effective laws and
enforcement strategies to prosecute traffickers. To demonstrate concretely
our support for the OSCE's efforts to combat trafficking, the United States
is contributing $250,000 to ODIHR trafficking projects and $50,000 to the
OSCE Mission in Kosovo to support expansion of a safehouse. But the OSCE
should also place full-time experts on trafficking in all of the OSCE
Missions in the Balkans. And we need to take a high-level initiative within
the OSCE to protect victims of trafficking, such as through a series of safe
houses like that in Kosovo. Finally, we believe the OSCE should develop a
Code of Conduct and other trafficking awareness-raising measures aimed at
our own staff, and the staff of other international organizations, in order
to discourage international personnel from inadvertently creating a demand
for the services of trafficked persons.

Mr. Chairman, we estimate that some 45-50,000 women and children are
trafficked into the United States each year. The U.S. Government strategy
to combat trafficking includes educating the public, assisting the victims,
protecting the vulnerable and apprehending and punishing the perpetrators.
The U.S. Congress is working hard to pass new legislation to mandate severe
punishment for traffickers and to provide assistance for trafficked persons,
including medical treatment, shelter, and the opportunity to remain in the
United States in some cases. We are hopeful that effective legislation will
be enacted before year's end.

Sending, transit and destination countries share a common interest in
fighting trafficking. There are several recommendations, therefore, that
the U.S. would like to make regarding steps that OSCE States can take to
address this issue. First, we encourage OSCE States to support a
coordinated, concerted global push to end the trade in human beings through
the adoption of a U.N. Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime and
its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons,
Especially Women and Children. This protocol sets forth standards for
effective law enforcement while providing for protection of trafficked
persons.

Second, we recommend the development of a system for sharing basic
information between countries in order to respond rapidly and effectively to
cases of suspected trafficking. These cases demand quick action to
safeguard the lives of trafficked persons, but to date there is no agreed
procedure on how to intervene or even which authorities in each state can be
called upon for assistance. In this regard, we support the appointment by
each OSCE State of a coordinator on trafficking to coordinate national and
local efforts against trafficking and to serve as the point of contact for
NGOs and other governments when a case arises that needs response.

Third, we encourage OSCE States to develop national strategies to prevent
trafficking, to prosecute traffickers, and to protect and rehabilitate
victims. We also recommend a follow-up meeting at which States would share
their national strategies with one another and consider possibilities for
further inter-state cooperation.

Finally, we stress that the only way that the victimization of women through
trafficking will be reduced is for governments to focus on economic
opportunities for women. Trafficking of women, in particular, is often the
tragic consequence of denying equal economic opportunity to women. When
women suffer from extreme poverty and the lack of economic opportunities,
they are easy prey for sophisticated traffickers who promise the women good
jobs, new homes and the opportunity for travel. Women cannot be fully
protected against the exploitation and violence of trafficking unless and
until they are able to fulfill their potential in their own home country.
Employment practices and laws that deny or limit women's employment
opportunities on the basis of sex deny women equal access to the economic
opportunities available to men. We encourage all OSCE States to address the
lack of economic opportunity for women by enacting laws against
discrimination in employment on the basis of sex. Such laws must provide
women, or men, the right to collect monetary damages if the employer
violates the law. Without anti-discrimination legislation, employers
can-and are-discriminating against women with impunity and thereby creating
fertile ground for traffickers. We also believe this issue should be
followed up under the economic dimension of the OSCE.

Mr. Chairman, no one country alone has the power to eradicate this modern
day slavery. Only by working together, bilaterally and through regional and
multilateral organizations, will we ever have the power to end this barbaric
assault on human rights and human dignity.

Maureen T. Walsh
General Counsel
Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe
   (Helsinki Commission)
234 Ford House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-1901 tel
(202) 226-4199 fax
http://www.house.gov/csce


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