AMBASSADOR RICHMOND: Good morning and welcome to the Department of State. My name’s John Richmond, and I am delighted that you all are here for the rollout of this year’s Trafficking in Persons Report and to honor these eight TIP heroes.
Let me give you a quick word about this morning’s program. Secretary Pompeo will begin by giving the keynote remarks. And following that, Secretary Pompeo and Mrs. Trump will honor our eight heroes who have dedicated their careers to fighting trafficking, despite resistance and opposition as they move towards justice.
After the presentation of the awards, we’ll hear brief remarks from one of this year’s TIP heroes, and then I will give a few remarks before you’re able to pick up your copy of the Trafficking in Persons Report in the Thomas Jefferson Room.
So without further ado, let me introduce Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (Applause.)
SECRETARY POMPEO: Good morning, everyone. Welcome.
First, I want to welcome all of the human trafficking survivors in attendance here today. You are all heroes. This is a very special morning. You are all standing up to ensure that no one else suffers the abuse that you endured. And we are proud of your commitment and inspired every minute by your courage.
Let me also thank Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump for joining us here today and for continuing to speak out with absolute moral clarity on the issue of human trafficking. She calls it what it is: modern-day slavery.
I’m also honored to welcome members of Congress from both parties. If there was ever an issue that was bipartisan and transacts the politics of the moment, human trafficking is most certainly it.
That’s also clear from the attendance today of all the living former heads of the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Office from the past two administrations. Thank you all for being here, and welcome.
And finally, we’re glad to see ambassadors and representatives from around the world who have joined us today. Human trafficking is indeed a global crisis, and it requires a global response. So thank you all for being here and coming to join us this morning.
In just a moment, we’ll salute those who are leading the fight against human trafficking: Our 2019 TIP Report Heroes.
But before we do, I want to speak for just a moment about why the fight to end modern slavery strikes at the very core of our moral responsibility as human beings.
Consider one of the stories documented in this year’s report – the story of a woman from Venezuela who I’ll call Melinda.
After Maduro came to power, Melinda found herself trapped in poverty and desperate to provide for her family. One day she met a man. She met a man who offered to cover expenses to travel to Spain, where he promised he would find enough work to send money back home so that she could take care of her family and those around her. He then forced her into prostitution and threatened to hurt her daughter if she resisted. So she stayed silent, and after years and much anguish she finally was able to get the police, and a raid finally set her free.
I wish that I could stand here this morning and tell you that her story is uncommon. But our report reveals the grim reality: there are 25 million adults and children suffering from labor and sex trafficking all over the world – including in the United States and, indeed, in this very city in which we’re sitting here today.
It’s a strain. Human trafficking is a stain as well on all of humanity. We detest it because it flagrantly violates the unalienable rights that belong to every human being.
Every person, everywhere, is inherently vested with profound, inherent, equal dignity.
America was founded on a promise to defend those rights – including life, liberty, and the pursuit of justice. But too often we’ve fallen short, and we cannot fall short on this challenge.
Human rights trafficking is not a natural disaster. It’s caused by man. And therefore, we have the capacity to solve this. And I hope that this report helps each us know the way to achieve this.
You’ll see that the focus of the 2019 TIP Report is to encourage governments to address forms of human trafficking occurring within their country’s own borders.
That may seem surprising to many of you. Indeed, I think one of the biggest misperceptions about human trafficking is it’s always transnational. It’s not the case. Every individual and every individual country must confront this challenge on its own sovereign territory. Because in reality said traffickers exploit an estimated 77 percent of victims in their own home country.
Human trafficking is a local and a global problem. Shockingly, many victims never leave their hometowns. I think the focus of this report appropriately reflects that challenge.
National governments must empower local communities to identify and address trafficking in specific forms prevalent in the areas in which they live.
The report identifies a few success stories too, like Senegal, where the government identified a growing problem of child begging rings, ran campaigns to raise awareness among the public, convicted perpetrators, and provided care to many, many victims.
The report commends those countries that have taken action, nations like Senegal, as well as Mongolia, the Philippines, Tajikistan, and others. But we also call out those nations that aren’t doing enough.
Tier 3 designations – the lowest possible designation – were given once again to China, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Syria, and Venezuela, among others. A few countries were added to the Tier 3 list, including Cuba.
Some of these governments allow human traffickers to run rampant, and other governments are human traffickers themselves.
In North Korea, the government subjects its own citizens to forced labor both at home and abroad and then uses proceeds to fund nefarious activities.
In China, authorities have detained more than a million members of ethnically Muslim minority groups in internment camps. Many are forced to produce garments, carpets, cleaning supplies, and other goods for domestic sale.
These designations – Tier 1, 2, 3 – aren’t just words on paper. They carry consequences. Last year, President Trump restricted certain types of assistance to 22 countries that were ranked for Tier 3 in our 2018 TIP Report.
That action and the messages that flows with it is very clear: If you don’t stand up to trafficking, America will stand up to you.
President Trump has proven this. And he has mobilized our federal government to make human trafficking a true top priority for the United States. This is highly appropriate.
Last October, the President hosted – and I chaired – a meeting of the Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
It was the first time that a president had attended a meeting of that task force in its 19 years of existence.
The President that day vowed that we would not rest, quote, “until we have stamped out the menace of human trafficking once and for all,” and he instructed every agency to take on that action.
Here at State, we’re doing our best to answer that call.
We engage in year-round activity with our partners in more than 80 countries to support anti-trafficking programs all across the world.
Last fall, the Department – with important input from survivors – worked to produce a video about the risks of human trafficking and inform visa applicant of their rights. It’s on display in the waiting rooms at most of our embassies and consulates all across the world.
And one of our greatest contributions to the anti-trafficking movement is the report we’re launching today – for the 19th year in a row.
I want to thank Ambassador Richmond and his team for leading the efforts to produce this year’s report and all the dedication that his team has shown. They spent many long hours making sure that it lives up to its reputation.
And now that they’ve completed their work, it’s up to the rest of us to ensure that it doesn’t just sit on a dust – on a shelf and collect dust. We must remain steadfast in our twin goals of freedom for every victim and justice for every trafficker.
I now have the pleasure of introducing someone who shares an unwavering commitment to those two goals. She has valiantly made this issue a priority for the administration, including by attending this event three years running.
With that, please join me in welcoming Advisor to the President Ms. Ivanka Trump as we present the 2019 TIP Heroes Awards. Thank you all. (Applause.)
AMBASSADOR RICHMOND: Thank you, Mr. Secretary, for those meaningful words and your leadership on this important issue. It’s now my pleasure to help recognize the heroes that are identified in this year’s Trafficking in Persons Report.
We’ll start with Adelaide Sawadogo from Burkina Faso. (Applause.) In recognition of her decades of leadership to ensure human trafficking survivors receive the best possible care, including securing pro bono legal counsel and designing programs to foster economic stability and her extraordinary bravery in challenging traditional norms to advocate for the protection of children. (Applause.)
Next we have Daniel Rueda and Veronica Supliguicha from Ecuador. These two heroes from Ecuador, they cofounded an organization to care for trafficking survivors. They operate a shelter and provide personalized and holistic support for hundreds of survivors. We’re grateful for their tireless engagement with the Ecuadorean Government to prevent human trafficking, and we recognize these two heroes. (Applause.)
Agnes De Coll from Hungary, in recognition of her exceptional contributions to strengthen the capacity of Hungarian Government institutions to combat human trafficking and raise public awareness, and for her steadfast efforts in leading the anti-trafficking unit of one of Hungary’s premier civil society organizations. (Applause.)
Sister Gabriella Bottani from Italy, in recognition of her dynamic leadership of an extensive international network of Catholic sisters committed to preventing human trafficking and connecting survivors to critical services and her relentless resolve to elevate the importance of combating human trafficking in communities around the world. (Applause.)
Roseline Eguabor from Italy, in recognition of her unwavering commitment to forge trusting relationships with survivors throughout their recovery and her tenacity in drawing from her personal experiences to find creative solutions for helping human trafficking survivors reintegrate into society. (Applause.)
Judge Raoudha Laabidi from Tunisia, in recognition of her key role as the driving force behind Tunisia’s efforts to implement a new human trafficking law and her impressive ability to marshal scarce resources and overcome bureaucratic hurdles to establish and build on effective interagency and national authorities dedicated to improving the government’s ability to advance a comprehensive anti-trafficking strategy. (Applause.)
And finally, Camilious Machingura from Zimbabwe, in recognition of his critical role in leading grassroots efforts to empower and increase the resiliency of human trafficking survivors, particularly in rural communities across Zimbabwe, and for his relentless advocacy work to elevate the issue of human trafficking as a policy priority for the government. (Applause.)
I’d now like to invite Sister Bottani to the podium to speak on behalf of this year’s TIP Report Heroes. And we’re grateful to Ambassador Gingrich and her team for nominating her and the support of her important work. Sister Bottani stands as one of the preeminent influencers around trafficking as she advocates within the Catholic community and leads Talitha Kum.
Welcome, Sister Bottani. (Applause.)
SISTER BOTTANI: Mr. Secretary of State Pompeo, Ms. Trump, Ambassador Richmond, distinguished guests, on behalf of the 2019 TIP Heroes – TIP Report Heroes and those we represent, the recognition we receive today honor us and the many people, often unknown, committed to counteracting human trafficking around the world.
The annual nomination by the Department of State has become a powerful symbol of the commitment to combat human trafficking at an international level. Ambassador Richmond, thank you for this significant contribution and our inclusion in the global network of freedom keepers. This is a great responsibility for all of us who are being recognized today.
I am here because of the work of Talitha Kum, a global network of women of faith challenged by the violence and the serious violation of human right caused by human trafficking and any kind of exploitation around the world. This year is our tenth anniversary, and I would like to thank you, Ambassador Gingrich, the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, for the support.
With 50 national and regional networks led by sisters, by women, Talitha Kum is active on every continent and in more than 70 countries. The organization is an on-the-ground network whose members are involved in raising awareness, preventing human trafficking, and protecting survivors. These include the management of shelters and the provision of support for their socioeconomic rehabilitation and reintegration.
It is an initiative that mirrors the great work done by my fellow TIP Report Heroes, and we are learning a lot together. Thank you very much for the work you are doing.
Talitha Kum also promote an annual word of prayer and awareness against human trafficking, which take place on the 8th of February, and it is support by Pope Francis.
Like the individuals and organizations represented here this morning, we work in dialogue and in collaboration with people of different faith traditions, and with people of good will. We seek to overcome any kind of ideological, religious, and political differences in anti-trafficking measures and activity, promoting instead a holistic person, survivor-centered approach, listening their realities and respecting the inherent dignity of each person.
All of us being honored today hope that every person and institution which is committed to combat trafficking in person would address the causes and vulnerabilities that contribute to human trafficking. There are many, but I would love to quote three: an equal power structure in our societies, especially regarding women, children, and indigenous people, in terms of their rights and access to services; inadequate migration policies that leave people vulnerable in an increasingly interconnected world; and economic models that exploits human and environmental resources for the profit of a few in contrast with the exploitation of the many.
Talitha Kum is an Aramaic expression which mean, “Younger, I say to you, stand up.” This is a call all the heroes make today to courageously raise the bar and our dreams in order to open new pathways towards freedom. This freedom is possible when it is based on a mutually transformative relationship at the personal level between survivors and anti-trafficking activists, and also at the organizational level, but also at the geopolitical level between countries of a region, transit, and destination. Let us stand up together. (Applause.)
AMBASSADOR RICHMOND: Thank you, Sister Bottani, for your words and the way that you inspire us. These heroes can attest that having strong, comprehensive human trafficking laws on the books is an important accomplishment. We can honestly celebrate that the UN protocol against trafficking in persons is one of the most widely adopted international instruments that there is. And now we can also look at every country in the world has some sort of law against trafficking in persons. Indeed, this is a first time in history we have this grand consensus that trafficking is wrong and that we should do something to stop the traffickers that are infringing on individuals’ inherent rights to be free, that it – their crime strikes at the fundamental truth that every person has value.
But having laws and protocols alone is not enough. Parchment promises of protection have to be put into action if the millions of global victims around the world are to obtain relief, and this is the work of our generation, to build delivery systems of justice that protect victims, that prosecute traffickers, and that prevent this crime by dismantling the systems that make it easier for traffickers to operate. The assessments and recommendations in this year’s TIP Report are all directed at how each country, including the United States, can improve those delivery systems of justice that are essential to end trafficking.
And I want to let you know that the team at the Trafficking in Persons office, they are people of action. This small but impressive team of dedicated experts has worked incredibly hard, and having been a fan and a consumer of the TIP Report for years, having often sat where you’re sitting or stood where we used to stand, I would get the TIP Report and plow through it each time. But now, you might think that having peered behind the curtain, having seen how the sausage is made, I might be disillusioned or discouraged, but that has not been my experience at all.
The detailed and thoughtful way that they have gone through this process of building a fact-based report is inspiring. And they bring that same resolve to combating trafficking through international programming, technical assistance, developing meaningful metrics, and through the public conversation around trafficking, and I’m incredibly proud to be a part of this team. Their quality and their work is only surpassed by their professionalism and their commitment to this mission.
I also want to take a moment to recognize the family members of our team, because as we work long hours and we travel the world – almost a hundred countries on six continents last year – it’s often the families that bear the burden, and we recognize that we do not do this work alone.
I’m also grateful for our colleagues at embassies around the world and for the bureaus here at home. Together this year, we faced seemingly insurmountable challenges in the production of this year’s report, and yet everyone stayed focused on the goal. Our work could not have been possible without the good collaboration and productive conversations within the Department and with our interagency partners and with the input from the human trafficking community.
This is an issue that transcends our typical political divides. We are all united in this cause. And it is in that spirit that I think it is worth noting, as the Secretary did, that every living former trafficking ambassador is present in this room today. And everything that we’re doing has been built on the shoulders of people like Ambassador Nancy Ely-Raphel, the first director of this office, Ambassador Mark Lagon, Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, Ambassador Susan Coppedge. I am so grateful for your kindness and friendship to me. And I’d just ask if you would please stand, and could we give them a round of applause? (Applause.)
I’d also like to take a moment and pay special tribute to Ambassador John Miller, who passed away in 2017. Their dedication to this work, their leadership of this office, their advancement of the anti-trafficking movement has been meaningful, and we stand on their shoulders.
This is a season of action, and I hope we can find inspiration from the heroes and their stories. I hope we can partner together, as we spread hope that we can make a difference in this crime. The crime of human trafficking is an affront not just to the dignity of every individual, but it’s an affront to who we are.
And as the Secretary said, trafficking is not inevitable. If governments, businesses, civil society, faith communities, survivors, and everyone bands together, it can be stopped. We are in a fight for freedom, and I am glad we are in this fight together.
Thank you all for coming today. Please remain in your seats as the Secretary of State and Ivanka Trump exit and depart the stage, and then afterwards, you can pick up your copy of the Trafficking in Persons Report in the Thomas Jefferson Room. Thank you again for joining us today. (Applause.)