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National Freedom Day: Deepening Our Resolve to Fight Human Trafficking
February 1, 2021

Women standing with her back facing.
Image from Department of State’s 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report (credit: Sara Hylton)



Today marks National Freedom Day, a day that commemorates President Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the joint resolution that established the Constitution’s 13th Amendment abolishing slavery in the United States.  It is a day when, thanks to the decades-long push of Richard R. Wright and his fellow civil rights advocates, we commemorate our dedication to the ideal of freedom for all.

National Freedom Day also marks the culmination of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.  More than 150 years after President Lincoln’s promise of freedom, an estimated 24.9 million individuals around the world are exploited by human traffickers.  Our nation struggles to overcome the consequences of both the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the ensuing campaigns of oppression against newly freed people and their descendants.

As we reflect on the work ahead of us to combat human trafficking and the entrenched disparities in laws and public policies, the Department of State will do everything in its power to revitalize its commitments and strengthen efforts to address these issues globally.

On this day, the Department renews its commitment to work with our global and multilateral partners – including governments, civil society organizations, the private sector, and survivor leaders – as well as the U.S. Congress and federal agencies to address the vast scale and complexity of human trafficking.  We look forward to working together to better integrate anti-trafficking measures into other key policy areas like trade, migration, humanitarian response, and the environment.  The Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report allows us to anticipate emerging trafficking trends including due to the COVID-19 pandemic, engage our partners, and lend our assistance to ensure progress around the world.

The Department will ensure its anti-trafficking policies and programs address all forms of human trafficking and are intentional about acknowledging and addressing systemic disparities that marginalize certain communities and embolden traffickers.  To this end, the Department is launching a new project through the Human Trafficking Expert Consultant Network, comprised of survivor leaders and other subject matter experts, to learn more about the ways institutional racism relates to human trafficking and determine how to integrate an equity-based approach into our work.

In the two decades since Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the first federal law to tackle human trafficking comprehensively, the Department has elevated the fight against human trafficking as a policy priority in the United States and around the world.  On this day, we pause to recognize the heroes who have fought against injustice to ensure freedom for all.  Looking forward, we must intensify our efforts and revitalize our role as a leader in the global fight to end human trafficking, reaffirming our pledge to engage meaningfully with survivors and combat human trafficking in all its forms.