White House Adviser Ivanka Trump on Thursday marked the State Department’s 20th year in fighting human trafficking — an issue she has personally worked to elevate within the administration.
“This year marks a milestone in our fight against trafficking in persons,” Ivanka Trump said at a ceremony in the State Department’s historic Treaty Room.
Twenty years ago, the landmark Trafficking Victims Protection Act was signed into law, which established the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, she said.
Trump said in January, the White House convened a summit on human trafficking to recognize the 20th anniversary of the law. There, she and President Donald Trump met with trafficking victims to hear their stories.
There are 25 million adults and children suffering from labor and sex trafficking worldwide, in what Trump and others called a form of “modern-day slavery.”
Trump also introduced the State Department’s 20th Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, as well as ten TIP Report Heroes chosen by the department for their efforts to combat human trafficking.
“This report serves as a key diplomatic tool for the U.S. to engage foreign governments through its country-specific recommendations to end trafficking in persons,” she said.
Amb. John Richmond, who leads the Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, said the report is one of the government’s strongest indications of its commitment to end modern slavery.
“For 20 years, we have been at this work together. We remain steadfast in declaring there is no excuse for human trafficking and the governments must take bold action in order to bring the reforms that are necessary,” he said.
“Today we celebrate progress and lean forward with hope into the work that remains,” he added.
To date, the U.S. has honored 146 men and women from 75 countries as TIP Report Heroes. This year, ten Heroes from nine countries are recognized.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Ivanka Trump a “major catalyst” in putting the fight to end human trafficking “front and center” in the Trump administration’s foreign policy and domestic agenda.
The United States, throughout its history has stood in defense of human rights like no other nation … America was founded on a promise. A promise to uphold unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The Trump administration’s work to end human trafficking is an important part of that noble tradition.
Pompeo said last year, President Trump restricted certain types of assistance to the governments of 15 countries that were ranked “Tier Three,” the lowest possible designation in the TIP report for a country’s efforts to combat human trafficking.
He said the president also signed an executive order to combat online child exploitation in the United States.
In addition, he said the administration has ensured that nearly half a billion dollars is dedicated to the global fight against both sex and labor trafficking. “Today, we continue this good work,” he said.
He said in this year’s TIP report, 22 countries received an upgrade — 13 of them from sub-Saharan Africa.
He said Namibia received a Tier One rating — the best possible. Namibia is the first and only African country to do so since 2012, he added.
He recognized Singapore as the report’s other newly Tier One-ranked country and praised progress in Bolivia to increase trafficking convictions and victim identifications, among other significant improvements.
However, he singled out China, Cuba, and other countries for not doing enough. He said in those countries, patterns of state-sponsored forced labor have put them in the Tier Three category.
He said the Chinese Communist Party and its state-owned enterprises often force citizens to work in horrendous conditions on Belt and Road projects.
He said the Cuban government has forced up to 50,000 Cuban doctors into trafficking situations in more than 60 countries around the globe as the regime’s top source of income.
He said some governments in Central Asia have a long history of compelling people to work in the cotton industry and other sectors. He said, however, Uzbekistan’s “significant efforts” to address this are setting a new standard for others in the region.
“We take government-sponsored trafficking very seriously,” Pompeo said, adding:
The United States will not stand by as any government with a policy or pattern of human trafficking subjects its own citizens to any kind of oppression. We will work tirelessly in the United States to free those who are still enslaved. We will help restore the lives of those who have been freed. And we will punish their tormentors.