Hello, everyone. I want to thank all of you for your efforts to stem the tragic tide of human trafficking. I especially want to thank the Alliance Against Trafficking in Persons and OSCE Special Representative Eva Biaudet for organizing this very important conference.
Human trafficking flourishes in the shadows and demands attention, commitment and passion from each and every one one of us.
Today, millions of people are living in bondage around the world. Under threat of violence, they are forced to labor in fields and factories, to work as domestics in homes that might as well be their prisons, and to walk the streets as prostitutes and beggars.
Trafficking weakens legitimate economies, it breaks up families, and fuels violence. It threatens public health and safety, and it shreds the social fabric. It also undermines our efforts to promote peace, prosperity and human rights worldwide.
I have seen firsthand the suffering that trafficking causes. In Thailand, I met girls who had been trafficked as young children and were dying of AIDS. I’ve met mothers I met in Eastern Europe who had lost daughters to trafficking and had nowhere to turn for help. I’ve been on every continent, and I have met those who have suffered because of this scourge.
Thanks in part to the efforts of activists and leaders like you, we have seen some progress. More than half of all countries have enacted laws prohibiting all forms of human trafficking. New partnerships between law enforcement and nongovernmental organizations, including women's shelters and immigrants' rights groups, have led to thousands of prosecutions, as well as assistance for many survivors.
But despite this progress, today at least 12 million people worldwide are victims of trafficking -- and that estimate is certainly too low. New economic pressures are likely to aggravate the problem further.
So this conference comes at a time of renewed urgency. It is an opportunity to place a renewed focus on prevention and the root causes of trafficking. Along with prosecution and protection, prevention is one of the “3 Ps” of the anti-trafficking fight.
In the United States, we've found our national trafficking report to be an effective tool in guiding our efforts. And we're eager to share from our experiences and learn from yours. I would like to encourage each OSCE participating state to consider preparing your own national report on human trafficking, including recommendations for further actions.
Together, we must implement a comprehensive approach that both confronts criminals and cares for survivors.
So, thank you again for your hard work and your commitment to this critical issue. Let’s redouble our efforts and make a real difference this year. Thank you, all, very much.