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Good morning, Excellencies and distinguished participants in this important conference.  My name is Cindy Dyer, and as the United States Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, I head the office at the U.S. Department of State that leads the United States’ global engagement to combat human trafficking and supports the coordination of anti-trafficking efforts across the U.S. government.

I am deeply honored by the opportunity to address conference participants.  I would first like to thank President Bio [Bee-oh] and Vice President Jalloh [JAH-low] for your leadership on this issue and hosting us today.  We are thrilled by your participation in this conference and look forward to continued cooperation to combat human trafficking.

I would also like to recognize and thank the Member States of ECOWAS and the ECOWAS Secretariat.  Human trafficking is a shared global challenge, and we are grateful for the partnership with leaders from across the governments of West Africa, ECOWAS, and civil society, many of whom are participating today.

The gathering of so many stakeholders is a unique moment.  I urge you all to seize this opportunity. We often speak of partnership as the “fourth P” that is critical to the success of anti-trafficking efforts under the 3P framework, including the prosecution of traffickers, the protection of victims, and the prevention of human trafficking.  We appreciate your ongoing commitment to progress – including through the soon to be updated regional action plan for ECOWAS.

I want to touch on a few key anti-trafficking themes in my remarks this morning.  First, engaging survivors in meaningful ways is critical to establishing effective victim-centered and trauma-informed anti-trafficking policies and strategies.  The Biden-Harris Administration has prioritized these types of efforts in our own anti-trafficking work.  Last December, for example, the U.S. Congress passed new legislation making the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking – comprised of survivors of human trafficking – a permanent entity.

Meaningful engagement means collaborating with survivors in all aspects of anti-trafficking efforts, as well as prioritizing survivor leadership of those efforts whenever possible.  It also means compensating them for their time, including through employment in anti-trafficking organizations.

Similarly, we all have a responsibility to ensure victims and survivors have appropriate and adequate access to protection services.

Quality protection services are crucial to a comprehensive response to combating human trafficking.  This involves proactively identifying victims and ensuring a wide array of protections are available that are victim-centered and trauma-informed.

Partnership among different sectors of the anti-trafficking community offers an opportunity for all of us to work together to protect victims, especially those from vulnerable or under-identified communities.  For example, men and boys are often not thought of as trafficking victims, and as a result many countries do not have trafficking shelters that can accommodate them; we must ensure that we are providing protection to all survivors.

Holding traffickers accountable is paramount in our efforts to sustainably address this crime, but we cannot do so effectively without an adequately trained criminal justice sector.  Our law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and judges require comprehensive and consistent training on human trafficking, including in proactively identifying and interacting with victims in a trauma-informed and victim-centered manner.

Trafficking victims should have the choice whether to participate in law enforcement proceedings, and when they do, have access to appropriate victim-witness assistance, including psychosocial, legal, and shelter resources.

In our annual Trafficking in Persons Report, we have seen a decrease across the globe in the number of prosecutions, a trend borne out recently in the UNODC 2022 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, where globally prosecutions declined and convictions steeply declined, a phenomenon observed across criminal justice efforts and accelerated by the pandemic.  It is essential that all governments hold traffickers accountable for their crimes.

Prevention efforts are equally important in combating human trafficking.  We must directly address the tactics of human traffickers.

Since my time as a prosecutor in Dallas, Texas, the United States has made significant strides in developing both local and national level task forces.  This reflects the need for a comprehensive multidisciplinary approach to combat this crime.

National level task force agencies collaborate to advance our National Action Plan, and regularly gather, including at the Cabinet level, to advance policies and promote action.

Strong state and local level task forces can share best practices, promote holistic approaches, and coordinate on detecting, investigating, and prosecuting human trafficking crimes and supporting survivors.

In all these areas, the Department of State’s TIP Office is committed to working with the Member States of ECOWAS to support your efforts.  Our office has currently committed over $32 million worth of foreign assistance in the region.

Of note, the TIP Office has signed Child Protection Compact (CPC) Partnerships with Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire.  These partnerships are multi-year commitments with governments to achieve shared objectives to combat child trafficking in all its forms.

My office also supports evidence driven programming in Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone through our Program to End Modern Slavery.  These projects seek to improve the effectiveness of anti-trafficking interventions by collecting baseline data.  We appreciate the efforts of one of our implementers of this program, the Center for Human Trafficking Research and Outreach, in co-hosting today’s event with the Government of Sierra Leone.

We are deeply committed to engaging with both government and civil society stakeholders in the region to support and strengthen anti-trafficking responses.  As my boss, Secretary of State Tony Blinken, has said, human trafficking is a global problem that requires a global coalition to confront it.  I want to again thank the Government of Sierra Leone for inviting me to say a few words to start the conference this morning.  I look forward to visiting many of you in your home countries in the future.  Through the power of partnerships, together we can improve services for survivors, include their voice and expertise, and hold human traffickers accountable.  Thank you.

U.S. Department of State

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