Washington, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Eliot L. Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, delivered the below remarks as prepared for delivery at Tuesday's committee hearing, “Local and Private Sector Initiatives to Combat International Human Trafficking."
The statement follows:
Supervisor Knabe, Mr. Myles, and Dr. MacDonald, welcome to the Foreign Affairs Committee. I look forward to hearing your testimony on creating successful local and private sector initiatives in the fight against human trafficking and modern-day slavery.
And thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing. I know that California has been particularly progressive on measures to stop human trafficking.
The International Labor Organization estimates that there are 21 million victims of trafficking worldwide, including five and a half million children. The Department of Justice and the FBI reported over 1,200 human trafficking investigations in 2011 in the U.S. In reality, it’s likely that there are many more victims of trafficking since it is a wildly underreported crime.
Unfortunately, trafficking is a thriving industry found in all regions of the world. It generates more than $30 billion dollars in profits every year from the sale of human beings and the estimated proceeds from the activities or goods produced by its victims.
Human trafficking is a crime that requires the coordinated action of governments to stop and prosecute. But the private sector also has a key role to play. By engaging with NGOs and governments to combat trafficking, members of the private sector admit a difficult truth - that human trafficking in their supply chains, factories, farms, and plantations, and restaurants, is a serious problem. Only by working hand in hand with private sector partners can we put an end to modern-day slavery.
Since 2001, I have been deeply involved in a closely related issue – ending child labor in the global cocoa industry. After learning of horrendous abuses involving children being sold into slavery in the cocoa fields in Cote d’Ivoire, Senator Harkin and I formulated the Harkin-Engel protocol to put an end to these despicable practices.
This approach was the first of its kind. Over the past 12 years we have worked with the governments of Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana and the global chocolate industry to formalize engagement with the private sector. The private sector has supported these efforts with $10 million – matched by $10 million in US government funds. The protocol has supported active civic engagement of local communities to fight exploitation.
We must do even more to promote greater certification and verification efforts across a wide range of industries to ensure that the products we consume at home are not tainted by trafficked labor.
Working to end human trafficking is a bipartisan cause. I’m pleased that the Trafficking Victims Protection Act was reauthorized in February of this year, along with the Violence Against Women Act, which included some important trafficking provisions. I also want to recognize President Obama’s executive order, Strengthening Protections Against Trafficking in Federal Contracts, which he issued late last year.
The original Trafficking Victims Protection Act -- championed by our colleague, Chris Smith -- established a plan to eliminate the scourge of human trafficking that included the “3Ps”: Prevention, Protection and Prosecution. And under the leadership of Secretary Clinton – a fourth “P” was established – Partnerships with local governments and organizations, the subject of today’s hearing.
I have been impressed by Supervisor Knabe’s efforts to raise awareness of trafficking in the Los Angeles area, Polaris’ partnership with Google to create a global anti-trafficking hotline, and Verite’s [Vare-it-tay’s] work on ensuring that companies adhere to international labor standards down their supply chain.
I’m interested in hearing more from today’s witnesses on how to bring more businesses to the table to fight human trafficking and learn how the U.S. can lead by example for the rest of the world.
One last point - I’d like to commend the work of the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons or J-TIP. Their annual reports on human trafficking worldwide is key in making sure both Congress and the public understand the extent of the problem and the progress being made towards its elimination. I look forward to this year’s report.
Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you again for holding this important hearing and I look forward to the testimony.