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 You are in: Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs > From the Under Secretary > Remarks, Testimony, and Releases from the Under Secretary > 2003 Remarks, Testimony, and Releases from the Under Secretary

Progress Against Trafficking in Persons in Southeastern Europe"

Paula Dobriansky, Under Secretary for Global Affairs
Opening Remarks at Conference
Washington, DC
August 1, 2003

Good morning.  Iím Paula Dobriansky, Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs.  It is a pleasure to welcome such a distinguished gathering of diplomats, government officials, law enforcement officers, policy makers, activists, service providers, advocates, and others to our conference to examine Progress Against Trafficking in Persons in Southeastern Europe. 

In particular, I want to welcome Ambassador Sorin Ducaru of Romania,  Ambassador Igor Davidovic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Ambassador Usha Jeetah of Mauritius.  We are honored to have you here with us and thank you for your commitment to this issue. 

I also want to recognize another Ambassador, one of our own, Ambassador Richard Shifter, who was instrumental in the creation of the Southeast European Cooperative Initiative. He recognized long ago that transnational crime would require transnational cooperation. This prescient understanding fed his determination to bring nations together to battle transnational crime. Thank you, Dick, for your pioneering work on this issue.

Southeastern Europe has come a long way since the collapse of communism and the wars in the Balkans. Over the last few years in particular, we are heartened by continued improvement in the development of democracy, rule of law, and human rights in the countries in the region. Still, the effects of conflict, ethnic cleansing, and the forced displacement of approximately four million people are not easily erased, and indeed, serious challenges remain.

One of the more horrific of these challenges is that of trafficking in human beings, especially women and children, a problem which has increased exponentially during this time of turmoil. Over the last decade, traffickers have set up and solidified regional and global networks that include recruiters, transporters, buyers, sellers, and others. Once established, trafficking networks and routes can also be used for drug trafficking, arms trafficking, and movement of other illicit materials. These networks operate across national, ethnic, linguistic, and geographic barriers. With estimates of tens of thousands of people being moved across borders in this region alone over the past decade, the transnational crime of trafficking has created significant political, economic, and social challenges for countries of origin, transit, and destination. It also threatens regional stability and prosperity, and some would even say, contributes to national and international security threats. Today, crime and corruption pose as great a threat as any that countries in this region have faced. Clearly, this is a law enforcement problem that requires our immediate and concentrated efforts.

In addition, those working to help victims see on a daily basis the lives shattered by the heinous exploitation of innocent people. Countless men, women, and children are subjected to abuses we cannot begin to imagine. People seeking better lives are tricked, forced, and coerced into slavery and slavery-like situations. In this region, the stories of young women and children trafficked into sexual slavery are especially horrifying. Clearly this is a human rights abuse that requires our immediate and concentrated efforts.

Because trafficking is a transnational problem, it requires a transnational or regional solution. Organized crime doesnít stop at a countryís borders Ė neither can our law enforcement efforts. How can we build bridges between our countries and our regions to combat trafficking in persons? How can we insure that a victim rescued in one country is safely returned and reintegrated in another? How can we forge closer ties among law enforcement agencies, service providers, civic and religious leaders and lawmakers to ensure that we are maximizing efforts? In short, how can we cooperate and collaborate to stop trafficking?

Today, we have an opportunity to examine both the problem and some of the successful programs and projects. The SECI Center Against Trans-Border Crime is one example of a successful regional cooperative effort that has yielded results. It is our intent today to discuss how to create a regional law enforcement response, as well as to look at recent operational successes, examine obstacles encountered and lessons learned, and finally, to discuss future steps.

The United States is firmly committed to eradicating human trafficking around the world. Both the executive and legislative branches have come together to design strategies to eliminate this inhumane practice. As many of you know, in October of 2000, Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, a comprehensive law to address trafficking in persons. The law takes a victim-centered approach to trafficking. Beyond increasing penalties for traffickers from 5 years to 20 years to life, the law provides protection and services to victims of trafficking. The Act provided for the creation of a new T visa for trafficking victims that allows them to apply for a three-year temporary residency, with possible permanent residency after that.

President Bush has made clear his strong commitment to eradicating this transnational crime. The President signed a Directive to all relevant agencies last December, outlining his policy on trafficking and instructing agencies to increase their efforts and strengthen coordination within the US Government. He created a Presidentís Interagency Task Force on Trafficking, a cabinet level task force chaired by Secretary of State Colin Powell and consisting of many Cabinet level officials. Last June, the Department of State issued its third annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which assesses government progress in addressing trafficking. This has been an extremely effective tool for increasing dialogue with other countries and raising awareness about trafficking. This year, the report included 30 additional countries, a result of increased awareness of the extent of the problem. We are also working aggressively to increase prosecution, assist more victims, and make Americans and our allies abroad more aware of this terrible problem so they can join the fight to end it.

The United States has made reducing corruption and enhancing transparency a top foreign policy priority because we believe both are central to stable democracies, sustainable development, and national security. We have also passed new legislation making document fraud a crime. We are working with countries to draft and pass strict money-laundering laws as we know that money made from trafficking in one part of the world is often laundered in other countries in other regions of the world. We do this because we believe that a counter-crime approach that connects trafficking to corruption, money-laundering, border patrol, document forgery, terrorism, and other transnational criminal activities is essential.

In Southeastern Europe, the State Department has welcomed the renewed efforts of countries to address the problem. We have supported the drafting and passing of new anti-trafficking laws. We have worked, and will work, to help countries enforce their laws through intensive training programs in investigative procedures, and prosecutorial and judicial training. We have encouraged countries to design victim-friendly programs that include witness protection, shelters, a comprehensive set of services for trafficking victims, and repatriation, resettlement and reintegration programs where necessary. During the opening session, and the two panels to come, we will look at some of these programs and examine in detail some of the successful operations on the ground.

While we have come a long way, we still have much to do. The United States looks forward to working with our friends and allies, not only in Southeastern Europe but around the world, to abolish trafficking and related transnational criminal activities. We share a common goal, a common determination, and a common strategy to succeed. We must not fail. Thank you.

 

 



Released on August 4, 2003

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