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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > Former Secretaries of State > Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell > Speeches and Remarks > 2004 > June

Remarks at the Rollout of the 2004 Trafficking in Persons Annual Report

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
June 14, 2004

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(2:05 p.m. EDT)

Secretary Powell at the rollout of the 2004 Trafficking in Persons Annual ReportSECRETARY POWELL: Well, good afternoon, everyone. I'm very pleased to be here with Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky and Ambassador John Miller1, who heads our trafficking program, and our purpose is to roll out this year's Trafficking in Persons report.

The crimes of trafficking in persons are very high on President Bush's priority list, as you all know, and that's why he emphasized it in his UN General Assembly speech this past September. As the President said then, "There is a special evil in the abuse and exploitation of the most innocent and vulnerable. The trade in human beings for any purpose must not be allowed to thrive in our time."

To stop it from thriving, the President committed an additional $50 million more funding on our part, on top of the $70 million already allocated for the past year. And he did so to battle this debasing and illegal, awful business. The more you learn about the most vulnerable among us who are savaged by these crimes, the harder it is to look the other way, and the easier it is to understand the President's determination that we act to put a stop to all trafficking in persons.

We're talking about women and girls, as young as six years old, trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation; men trafficked into forced labor; children trafficked as child soldiers. The victims are not few, and the vast majority are women and children. We estimate between 600- and 800,000 cases each year of people illegally transported across international frontiers.

Numbers so large can be numbing. They can freeze our imaginations. So consider just one documented example from many, many thousands of cases. Traffickers in southeast Asia took Khan, an 11-year-old girl living in the hills of Laos, to an embroidery factory in a large city. She and dozens of other children were made to work 14 hours a day for food and clothing, but for no wages. That's called slavery. When Khan protested this, she was beaten. When she protested again, she was stuffed into a closet where the factory owner's son poured industrial chemicals over her and disfigured her.

I'm happy to report that we're making progress against this kind of evil. We're making progress against such outrages. We're drawing unprecedented attention to the problem through this annual report of ours. And the report that we are presenting today, like its predecessors, isn't shy about naming names.

We pressure countries whose performance is deficient, and we do that, in part, through our three-tiered monitoring system for TIP. If a country's practices land it in Tier 3, it faces sanctions. So last year and this year, several countries made significant progress in dealing with their trafficking problem to avoid being designated into Tier 3. As a result of those improvements, real people have been helped and real lives saved.

We're pleased that some countries have moved up and out of Tier 3 status: Belize, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Dominican Republic, Georgia, Greece, Kazakhstan, Surinam, Turkey and Uzbekistan. Unfortunately, several countries have slipped downward to take their place.

Aside from the intolerable human rights violations that trafficking involves, trafficking is linked to other very grave problems that we must not allow to persist, let alone to grow. Trafficking is linked to international crime syndicates that peddle drugs, guns and false documents, as well as peddling people. Trafficking is a global public health threat that spreads HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases. Trafficking is also a global security threat because profits from trafficking finance still more crime and violence, including, very likely, terrorist violence.

Now, it's true that the world community comes together and condemns slavery in all forms. Many international covenants and national laws condemn and outlaw trafficking. And that's important. And that's good. But agreements and laws have to be honored and enforced fairly and consistently, if they are to make any difference.

So, again, we call upon all states to work together to close down trafficking routes, prosecute and convict traffickers, and protect and reintegrate victims back into society. We ask no less of destination countries than we do of sending countries; if anything, we ask more of them. All nations, too, must redouble their efforts to prevent people from being lured into trafficking into the first -- in the first place.

Clearly, and we all understand this, the underlying sources of trafficking are deep. In many societies, there is 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 its part as well.

Clearly, these evils won't be uprooted in a day, but we have reason to be optimistic. We have seen improvement over the years. And that optimism is epitomized by three special guests that we have with us today that you saw come in with me. Paramount Chief Togbega Hadjor from Ghana has fought child trafficking like a warrior throughout his country, his Lake Volta region. Good to have you with us, Paramount Chief. Pierre Tami from Switzerland is the Director of Hagar, a program fighting to stop trafficking and helping victims in Cambodia. Pierre, it's a delight to have you with us as well. And, of course, the honorable Francisco Sierra, Colombia's ambassador to Japan, who is a tireless fighter against trafficking in his own country, and against the criminal syndicates who ply this terrible trade worldwide. Mr. Ambassador, good to have you with us as well.

We fight trafficking in persons not just for the sake of the victims and potential victims of these crimes, we do it also for ourselves because we can't fully embrace our own dignity as human beings unless we champion the dignity of others. That's why I am so grateful to all of the State Department workers here and around the world, and to workers from other agencies represented on the TIP task force who labor so hard to fulfill our nation's promise, the Congressional Charter, to stop human trafficking once and for all.

And now, it is my pleasure to turn the session over to the leader of our effort, Ambassador John Miller. John has done a great job with this program, and he will now take you through the major themes of this year's report and answer your questions. Thank you very much.

John, all yours.

1 Director John Miller

Released on June 14, 2004

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