U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
Other State Department Archive SitesU.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
Home Issues & Press Travel & Business Countries Youth & Education Careers About State Video
 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > Former Secretaries of State > Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell > Speeches and Remarks > 2004 > June

Our Trafficking Signal: Stop!

Our Trafficking Signal: Stop!

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Secretary Colin L. Powell
Op-Ed
Op-Ed
International Herald Tribune
International Herald Tribune
June 14, 2004

Today I presented the 2004 State Department Report on Trafficking in Persons to the President and the Congress, as mandated by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. It’s no secret that Congress sometimes requires Executive Branch agencies to do things they might not otherwise choose to do, but in this case we have an example of complete institutional mind-meld.

Trafficking in persons is high on President Bush’s priority list, as he emphasized during his UN General Assembly speech this past September. “There’s a special evil in the abuse and exploitation of the most innocent and vulnerable,” the President said, and all the agencies represented on the Interagency TIP Task Force that I chair agree.

We are genuinely “seized of the matter,” to use the standard diplomatic parlance, and the reason is obvious: The more you learn about how the most innocent and vulnerable among us are savaged by these crimes, the more impossible it becomes to look the other way. Women and girls as young as 6 years old being trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation; men are being trafficked into forced labor; children are being trafficked into war as child soldiers.

And the victims are not few. We estimate 600,000-800,000 cases each year of trafficking victims taken across international frontiers. And that does not include those who are victimized within their own countries. The vast majority of victims, international and otherwise, are women and children.

Numbers so large can freeze our imaginations. But every case is different, and every case is monstrous. Consider just one example. Southeast Asian traffickers took Khan, an 11-year-old girl living in the hills of Laos, to an embroidery factory in a large city. She and other children were made to work 14 hours a day for food and clothing, but no wages. When Khan protested this, she was beaten. When she protested again, she was stuffed into a closet where the factory owner’s son fired a gun pellet into her cheek and poured industrial chemicals over her.

Such horrors, multiplied hundreds of thousands-fold, must not stand unchallenged. Under the President’s direction, we have drawn unprecedented attention to the trafficking problem. The 2004 Report, like its predecessors, puts pressure on countries whose performances are deficient. Our TIP monitoring system has three tiers, and if a country’s practices land it in Tier 3, it faces significant sanctions. Several countries have cleaned up their acts to avoid Tier 3 status, and real people have been helped, real lives have been saved, as a result.

We’re also exerting ourselves more than ever to help victims of trafficking. The State Department supports Angel Coalition, which assists NGOs in Russia and is building an international hotline to improve investigations of trafficking rings and to get more convictions in court. USAID funds the International Justice Mission, an NGO active in fighting trafficking in Cambodia. The work of these and other groups is heroic, and gives us hope that ever more people are joining the battle against trafficking worldwide.

But we are not satisfied with our progress. Up to 18,000 cases a year afflict our own country, despite the redoubling of our efforts under the Protect Act. And we are not satisfied with our progress abroad, because trafficking is linked to other problems of the gravest concern.

Trafficking is linked to international crime syndicates that peddle drugs, guns and false documents as well as people. Trafficking is a global public health threat that helps spreads HIV/AIDs and other terrible diseases. And trafficking is a global security threat, because the profits from trafficking finance still more crime and violence.

A host of international covenants and national laws already condemn and outlaw trafficking, and that is good. But agreements and laws must be honored and enforced, fairly and consistently, if they are to matter. As we know from the campaigns of the past against piracy and the African slave trade, new norms take root only when the power of enforcement stands behind them.

That power cannot be just American power. Trafficking in persons is a transnational problem requiring transnational cooperation, and that cooperation is still wanting. We call upon all states to work harder and more closely together to close down trafficking routes, prosecute and convict traffickers, and protect and reintegrate victims.

All nations, too, must redouble their determination to prevent people from being lured into trafficking in the first place. We are not naïve. The underlying sources of trafficking run deep. In many societies there is still a lack of basic respect and economic opportunity for women. Civil strife and corruption drive people to desperation, and into the clutches of traffickers. Racism plays a role, too, in some parts of the world.

Such evils cannot be eradicated in a single generation. Perhaps we cannot ever eradicate them entirely, but we can reduce and contain them. We won’t know what we can achieve, however, if we don’t try. So we try; we fight. Other barbarities in human society have been made taboo and conquered. After all, legalized slavery and piracy were once common practices. Many believed such evils could never be eliminated, just as some thought that polio and small pox would be scourges of humanity forever.

They were wrong, and their fatalism was a part of the problem. As we know, for evil to triumph it is enough that good men and women merely do nothing. We will not do nothing. Our goal regarding the crimes of trafficking in persons is the same as our goal regarding terrorism -- to stigmatize and stop both.

We fight not just for the victims, and potential victims, of human trafficking. We fight also for ourselves, because we cannot fully embrace our own dignity as human beings unless we champion the dignity of others. We recognize this obligation as a variant of the Golden Rule, and that gold still shines as brightly as ever. It lights our path, and we will follow that path.

The 2004 Report is one step toward our ultimate success, and every step matters. I urge everyone to read this Report-it’s posted at http://www.state.gov/ -- and to do what you can, in your own communities, to help us confront this challenge. We in Government will not stop until we put a stop to the crimes of human trafficking once and for all -- but we welcome everyone’s company on the journey.


Released on June 14, 2004

Released on June 14, 2004

  Back to top

U.S. Department of State
USA.govU.S. Department of StateUpdates  |   Frequent Questions  |   Contact Us  |   Email this Page  |   Subject Index  |   Search
The Office of Electronic Information, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department. External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.
About state.gov  |   Privacy Notice  |   FOIA  |   Copyright Information  |   Other U.S. Government Information

Published by the U.S. Department of State Website at http://www.state.gov maintained by the Bureau of Public Affairs.