Bringing together leaders from government, the private sector, advocates, survivors, faith leaders, law enforcement and academics, the White House Forum on Human Trafficking was held on April 9th. Valerie Jarrett, Advisor to the President, Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary Janet Napolitano, and Secretary of State John Kerry (video) gave remarks that outlined the efforts of the Obama administration has made, including the developments since President Obama outlined specific commitments at the Clinton Global Initiative in September. At that meeting, President Obama said, “Our fight against human trafficking is one of the great human rights causes of our time, and the United States will continue to lead it-in partnership with you.” The President called on everyone to increase his or her efforts to end the scourge of modern slavery. In particular, he directed his Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons to look at new and strengthened initiatives.
The White House Forum described many of these including the release of the first-ever federal strategic action plan, increased innovations in technology, new partnerships with business and recommendations from the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. As Attorney General Holder said, “Over the next five years, the strategic action plan will enable us to reinforce our relationships with nongovernmental allies-and build public-private partnerships. It will lead us to develop innovative new strategies for identifying, assisting and seeking justice on behalf of those trapped in some form of slavery, bonded labor or forced prostitution.”
The strategic plan will increase support for legal and service providers. This is key, as we in the NGO world know that supporting survivors is paramount as long as this crime continues. Technology, the criminal justice system, and supply chain issues are all important as means of preventing, prosecuting and ending human trafficking, but cannot exist in a vacuum and must have survivors and their rights at the center.
A highlight of the Forum was the presentation of the first Presidential Awards for extraordinary efforts to combat trafficking in persons. Two awards were presented by Cecilia Munoz, Director of the White House Policy Council and Ambassador Luis CdeBaca of the Office to Monitor and Combat Human Trafficking of the Department of State. The first award was presented to Florrie Burke, Chair Emeritus of Freedom Network and NY Anti-Trafficking Network member, “for her sustained dedication and unparalleled leadership in combating modern slavery through the development and delivery of comprehensive services, the empowerment of survivors to move from slavery to independence, and the transformation of policy to eradicate all forms of human trafficking.” The second was presented to Carlson Company “for its demonstrated commitment and corporate leadership in combating modern slavery through the adoption and promotion of business practices that seek to protect victims of human trafficking, and the development of proactive measures to train employees and encourage its partners and the broader business community to take a stand against human trafficking.” Secretary of State, John Kerry, said of the award, “With this Presidential Award, we honor those who have played an extraordinary role in advancing our common cause. They have been pioneers in this effort-from developing the 3P approach of prevention, protection, and prosecution in the earliest days of the movement, to championing innovations in corporate social responsibility that will help carry this work forward for years to come. This award pays tribute to their leadership and commitment.”
The Freedom Network commends the Obama administration for their plans to better coordinate federal funding and better align federal, state, tribal and local policies. We especially commend the objectives of the strategic plan that seek to build capacity to better identify and serve victims among service and health care providers, law enforcement and other first responders.
At the White House Forum to Combat Human Trafficking yesterday, Freedom Network founder and Chair Emeritus Florrie Burke was presented with the first ever Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons. The award is for her “sustained dedication and unparalleled leadership in combating modern slavery through the development and delivery of comprehensive services and the empowerment of survivors to move from slavery to independence, and the transformation of policy to eradicate all forms of human trafficking.” It is signed by President Barack Obama.
The award was presented by Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the Domestic Policy Council and Ambassador Luis CdeBaca of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, U.S. Department of State.
In a subsequent ceremony, Secretary of State John Kerry presented a medal to Florrie at the White House Forum on Human Trafficking. Congratulations Florrie!
Yesterday, in honor of Shine the Light on Slavery Day, President Obama’s Interagency Task Force (PITF) to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons released a draft five-year strategic plan. The Task Force includes fifteen federal agencies with a mission to ensure a whole-of-government approach that addresses all aspects of human trafficking, including enforcement of criminal and labor law, victim identification and protection, and education and public awareness.
The White House convened a forum yesterday at the White House to kick off this new plan. Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Obama and the Chair of the White House Council on Women & Girls; Eric Holder, the Attorney General; and Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, all gave opening remarks.
Suzanne Tomatore and Bill Bernstein, co-chairs of the Freedom Network, attended the forum. Ms. Tomatore stated that “it’s wonderful that there is so much attention on the issue of human trafficking from the White House and the federal government. At the same time, we all must continue to work on the root causes of human trafficking, including poverty, lack of educational opportunities for women and girls, and lack of protection for low-wage workers.”
A draft of the Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking in the United States can be found here. There is a 45 day comment period on the draft.
It is always exciting to get an invitation from a White House address, but this one was especially thrilling-President Obama to sign the Violence Against Women Act and Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. Freedom Network members and others have worked long and hard to get this done. It is reprehensible that it has taken so long to reauthorize. Senator Leahy, at the last minute, inserted the TVPA amendment (S. 1301) into the VAWA bill and it was passed. It is not a perfect bill, but it does allow us to continue our important work of preventing human trafficking, enhancing the prosecution of perpetrators, and protecting and serving the needs of survivors.
On Thursday, March 7th, the auditorium at the Department of the Interior was packed with enthusiastic, jubilant advocates and others who have worked so hard for the provisions in the VAWA Act. Tribal leaders and their members were raucous and elated as President Obama Vice President Biden, and a survivor spoke of the importance of the section of the Act that holds non-Indian men accountable for sexual assault and domestic violence on reservations. The other controversial pieces of the Act were the inclusion of LBGTQ and immigrant victims-controversial only for the Republicans as 138 of them voted against the Bill. As President Obama said yesterday, “this is a country where every woman should be free from violence-no matter who you are, who you love or where you’re from.”
The audience reflected the partnerships and collaborations necessary to work on issues of human trafficking and violence against women. Prosecutors from the HTU at DOJ, Alice Hill from DHS, Kat Chon from HHS, Laura Rundlet from the TIP office at Department of State, and Bea Hanson from OVW were just a few of the government folks that I chatted with. I met people from many advocacy groups, NGOs, other government offices, survivors, law enforcement-all there to celebrate and share in the recognition of necessary legislation and the appreciation of successful advocacy.
It was a thrill to hear President Obama talk about Joe Biden’s long history with VAWA and their shared commitment to the administration’s efforts for both VAWA and TVPA. In September I was present at the Clinton Global Initiative when President Obama declared that the fight against modern slavery is “one of the great human rights causes of our time.” He has been working tirelessly to bring together federal agencies, NGOs and the private sector to advance our work on human trafficking. The Freedom Network applauds these efforts and continues to be at the forefront of discussion and dialogue about moving forward.
Our twelve-year history of providing social and legal services to survivors was recognized in many ways at yesterday’s event—both the President and the Vice President said, “today is about the survivors and the hard work of advocates.”
The Freedom Network is proud to announce a new policy paper in honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day. Historically, the agricultural system in the United States has relied on the labor of poor and disenfranchised people, many of whom have lacked full legal protections, including indentured and bonded laborers, slaves, sharecroppers, temporary workers, and undocumented migrants. Even U.S. citizen farmworkers can be vulnerable to exploitation due to poverty, limited legal protections, and a lack of knowledge about their legal rights. The production of food is one of the most basic and critical services a worker can provide, yet agricultural workers are commonly mistreated and abused by labor recruiters, employers, and traffickers. To read more, click here.
Confronting Human Trafficking: Defining Priorities in 2013
April 17 & 18, 2013
The 11th Freedom Network Annual Conference “Confronting Human Trafficking: Defining Priorities in 2013″, is being held in the Washington DC area, April 17 and 18, 2013.
DETAILED AGENDA NOW AVAILABLE! CLICK HERE!
This year’s conference includes a specific law enforcement track as well as tracks generally dedicated to legal services and social services, and the Freedom Network Training Institute. Plenaries include: one with the Trafficking divisions of the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security; another “New Federal Initiatives to Combat Human Trafficking”; and a third by the Department of Defense on their efforts to combat human trafficking.
Conference keynote speakers are:
Tonya T. Robinson
Special Assistant to the President for Justice & Regulatory Policy
Domestic Policy Council│The White House
Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
U.S. Department of State
A great deal of information about all aspects of human trafficking is conveyed at this annual conference by experts with years of experience working in the field, such as case managers, researchers, legal advocates, counselors, prosecutors, enforcement agents, etc.
The conference is being held at the Doubletree Crystal City, a short shuttle from the airport and from the Pentagon City Metro stop, with a special rate for conference attendees.
The latest agenda is available here.
The conference will be held at:
300 Army Navy Dr.
Arlington, VA 22202
A special rate of $224 per night for the Freedom Network conference attendees is available. To reserve a room for the conference, please click here.
Freedom Network members Keeli Sorensen, co-chair Bill Bernstein & Ivy Suriyopas were in Washington, DC this week. Along with Naomi Tsu, they met with members of the House of Representatives earlier this week to advocate for the passage of the Violence Against Women Act and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (it was passed in the House earlier today!).
Various members of the Freedom Network are speaking on a panel entitled “Promoting Human Rights and Ending Trafficking in Persons”, a parallel event at the NGO Commission on the Status of Women Forum on March 6 at 8:30 AM in New York. Trafficking in persons continues as a severe violation of human rights around the world. Women and girls, in particular, are vulnerable to human trafficking in a variety of sectors, and they experience coercion, abuse, and a climate of fear in their work. This panel will feature discussion by program and policy experts as they examine the dynamics of vulnerabilities, and the promotion of human rights-based and long-term solutions to trafficking in persons. Speakers include Sienna Baskin, Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center, Florrie Burke, Consultant, Shani Jamila, Human Rights Project at the Urban Justice Center, Avaloy Lanning, Safe Horizon Anti-Trafficking Program, Suzanne Tomatore, City Bar Justice Center Immigrant Women and Children Project and will be moderated by Ivy Suriyopas, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. For more information and to register for the free event, click here.
For generations, people have been trafficked from the Tlaxcala region in Mexico to New York City and elsewhere in the United States. Freedom Network members The Sex Workers Project and our colleagues at the New York Anti-Trafficking Network are hosting a breakfast next week to review their findings along with researchers from Mexico. The event is sold out, but you can view the report here.
The U.S. Department of State reports that as many as 27 million individuals are trafficked worldwide,and estimates show that more than half of victims subjected to forced economic exploitation are female and 98% of sexually exploited victims are female. A significant number of individuals are born in the United States and trafficked domestically, many of whom are girls and women.
Individuals trafficked into any form of labor are at high risk of sexual assault, STD transmission, HIV transmission, and sometimes irreparable damage to their reproductive health. Trafficked women are also in danger for unwanted pregnancy. Survivors of trafficking into the sex industry, servile marriage, and domestic work are particularly vulnerable. To read our new paper please click here.