Trafficking in Persons

UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime

Fifth Conference of the Parties
Vienna, Austria

Luis CdeBaca
Ambassador-at-Large, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking In Persons

Thank you, and good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I would like to thank the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime for inviting me to be part of this panel.

As you have heard, today States Parties and observers attending the Conference of the Parties to the Transnational Organized Crime Convention will devote attention to the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, and the efforts of governments to implement this Protocol. It was ten years ago since this Protocol was established. It mandates the criminalization of all forms of trafficking in persons as well as providing the foundational frameworks for governments centered around, what we call, the “3P” paradigm; the prevention of trafficking, protection for its victims and prosecution of the criminals who do it. The Protocol also gave us a universal declaration against human trafficking that moved us away from seeing trafficking simply as a cross-border movement issue, but rather looking at the underlying exploitation that people suffer. It is what I would call, “service neutral” in that it applies to people both in the sex industry and in labor settings alike. It recognizes as well that men, women and children can be subjected to trafficking internationally or within their own countries.

Building directly on the Palermo Protocol, ten years ago this week the United States passed its own comprehensive trafficking in persons law known as the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. This law is enforcement driven while maintaining a victim-centered approach towards victims. We feel that it is consistent with the international community’s approach to this issue. Since the passage of the law we have prosecuted successfully hundreds of traffickers, but perhaps more importantly, we have granted victim status and victim relief to over 2,000 victims of trafficking and under our law have been able to bring in and reunite family members with each them. Some of the people who initially received the immigration relief are now permanent resident status in the United States and even making the transition to becoming U.S. citizens. This year in the annual human trafficking report that the U.S. government does, for the first time we assessed and ranked the U.S. efforts using the same minimum standards we use to assess the actions of other governments. This decision by Secretary Clinton demonstrates our willingness to shine a light on our own efforts and challenges and to be true colleagues in this fight.

In my previous capacity as a prosecutor for the Justice Department I had the privilege not only of attending events here at the UN Office of Drugs and Crime but also of putting human traffickers behind bars, but most gratifying was seeing their victims, now the survivors, recover their dignity and lead productive lives. One thing that we are very concerned about as we go into the second decade of the coverage of the Palermo Protocol is that in too many countries, while there are ever-growing numbers of countries that have signed or are parties to the Protocol, while there are  ever-growing numbers of countries that have enacted legislation prohibiting all forms of trafficking and while there is an ever-growing number of identified victims (this year 49,105 worldwide, up from 30,000 the year before), at the same time there is a troubling tendency on the horizon. Rather than the “3P” approach of the Palermo Protocol, all too often the victims are subjected to what we would call the alternative, the “3 Ds” of detention, deportation and disempowerment.
Inspired by the work of the survivors themselves, inspired by the work of the NGOs and the law enforcement who seeks to help them, they are our inspiration to combat not only human trafficking but what we would call the 3D approach as well. And we look to our partners here at the UN and all of the Member States to the Protocol to join us in that fight.

Thank you very much.