Remarks at the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report Ceremony

This report is the product of really an entire year-long effort…And this report is important because it really is one of the best means that we have as individuals to speak up for adults and children who lack any effective platform whatsoever through which they are able to speak for themselves. Because of its credibility, this report is also a source of validation and inspiration to activists on every single continent who are striving to end this scourge of modern slavery.

I want to emphasize, as I did last month when we issued a report on our human rights observations around the world, the purpose of this document is not to scold and it’s not to name and shame. It is to enlighten and to energize, and most importantly, to empower people.

And by issuing it, we want to bring to the public’s attention the full nature and scope of a $150 billion illicit trafficking industry. And it is an industry.

We want to provide evidence and facts that will help people who are already striving to achieve reforms to alleviate suffering and to hold people accountable.

We want to provide a strong incentive for governments at every level to do all that they can to prosecute trafficking and to shield at-risk populations.

And in conveying these messages, let me acknowledge that even here in the United States, we Americans need to listen and improve. Like every nation, we have a responsibility to do better – a better job of protecting those who live within our own borders, whose passports are taken away from them, who are imprisoned for labor purposes or for sex trafficking…

The more we ask these questions, the more each of us will understand that not only is this a fight that we have to attempt, not only do we have a responsibility to bring every aspect of our institutions of our government together in order to push back and to educate and to make people aware of this, but it’s a fight we absolutely have to win. It is a modern-day human rights challenge of enormous proportions…

That is why this TIP Report needs to be read as a call to action.

  • Governments need to strengthen and enforce the laws that they have on the books, and prosecutors must take pride in turning today’s traffickers into tomorrow’s prisoners.
  • The private sector also needs to be a part of this effort by blowing the whistle on companies that use labor that is under age, under paid, and under coercion.
  • Investigative journalists can continue to assist by shining the spotlight – as The New York Times, Reuters, AP, and The Guardian, CNN and others recently have – on abuses in the seafood and other industries.
  • Advocacy groups, faith groups, faith leaders, educators, and researchers should continue to intensify the pressure for bold action so that together we will win more battles in a fight that will surely last for some time to come.

And throughout, we have to be true to the principle that although money may be used for many things, we must never, ever allow a price tag to be attached to the heart and soul and freedom of a fellow human being.