Letter From Secretary Kerry
Trafficking in persons is an insult to human dignity and an assault on freedom. Whether we are talking about the sale of women and children by terrorists in the Middle East, the sex trafficking of girls lured from their homes in Central Europe, the exploitation of farm workers in North America, or the enslavement of fishermen in Southeast Asia, the victims of this crime each have a name. And they each have been robbed of their most basic human rights.
The fight against modern slavery matters deeply to me. When I was a prosecutor outside of Boston in the 1970s, I worked to put people behind bars for rape and sexual assault. We were one of the very first jurisdictions in America to set up a witness protection program so that people weren’t twice victimized—once by the crime and once for daring to tell the truth.
My time as a prosecutor brought home to me the simple lesson that justice is not simply a matter of having the right laws on the books; we have to back those words with resources, strategies, and actions that produce the right results. As Secretary of State, I am proud that the United States is using the tools at our disposal to deter, expose, apprehend, and prosecute those who seek to profit by trafficking in their fellow human beings.
Modern slavery doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s connected to a host of 21st century challenges, including the persistence of extreme poverty, discrimination against women and minorities, corruption and other failures of governance, the abuse of social media, and the power and reach of transnational organized crime. That is why the United States is working with our international partners at every level to attack the root causes of trafficking, warn potential victims, put perpetrators behind bars, and empower survivors as they rebuild their lives.
One thing is clear: No nation can end modern slavery alone. Eliminating this global scourge requires a global solution. It also cannot be solved by governments alone. The private sector, academic institutions, civil society, the legal community, and consumers can all help to address the factors that allow human trafficking to flourish. But governments have a special responsibility to enforce the rule of law, share information, invest in judicial resources, and espouse policies that urge respect for the rights and dignity of every human being. Human trafficking is not a problem to be managed; it is a crime to be stopped.
This year’s Report places a special emphasis on human trafficking in the global marketplace. It highlights the hidden risks that workers may encounter when seeking employment and the steps that governments and businesses can take to prevent trafficking, including a demand for transparency in global supply chains.
The bottom line is that this is no time for complacency. Right now, across the globe, victims of human trafficking are daring to imagine the possibility of escape, the chance for a life without fear, and the opportunity to earn a living wage. I echo the words of President Obama and say to them: We hear you, and we will do all we can to make that dream come true. In recent decades, we have learned a great deal about how to break up human trafficking networks and help victims recover in safety and dignity. In years to come, we will apply those lessons relentlessly, and we will not rest until modern slavery is ended.
John F. Kerry