A White House task force set up to combat human trafficking held its annual meeting today, chaired by Secretary of State John Kerry. The cabinet-level group, called the President's Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (PITF) coordinates the U.S. government's efforts to eradicate the phenomenon commonly likened to "modern-day slavery."
At the meeting, Secretary Kerry stated he had been "stunned by the stories and examples of the evil... It is nothing less than the most predatory, extraordinary modern slavery that you can conceivably imagine."
The PITF was not the only human trafficking-related event this week.
On Monday and Tuesday, the United Nations convened a high-level General Assumbly meeting on the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons. The Plan of Action commits governments around the world to fully implement key anti-human trafficking treaties and to join forces to counter the multi-billion dollar industry which has trapped some 21 million men, women and children in forced labor. At the meeting, actress Mira Sorvino, the United Nations Goodwill Ambassador to Combat Human Trafficking, described human trafficking as "one of the great social justice issues of our time." The United States also addressed the meeting, stating, "(t)he solution in face of this scourge is clear – joint action across nations and across UN agencies." United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that "(h)uman trafficking devastates individuals and undermines national economies," and called on governments to prevent trafficking by ratifying relevant treaties, implementing the U.N.'s Global Plan of Action against trafficking, and making contributions to the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund to help victims.
The ACLU endorses these measures and encourages the U.S. to do more to address human trafficking through better monitoring and enforcement of existing anti-trafficking laws, policies and practices.
For years, the ACLU has worked with other organizations to protect the human rights of victims of labor trafficking. That work has included:
Today's PITF meeting and Monday and Tuesday's UN meetings were important reminders that despite some progress, much more must be done by governments and civil society to combat human trafficking in this country and to provide redress and other support to victims.
In the words of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, "(h)uman trafficking is a vicious chain that binds victims to criminals. We must break this chain with the force of human solidarity."