Remarks by Susan Coppedge Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons And Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State 2016

Remarks by Susan Coppedge Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons And Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State 2016 International Workshop on Strategies for Combating Trafficking July 27, 2016


OT-1614E | Date: 07/27/2016 | (As Prepared for Delivery)

Howard Civil Service International House
Taipei, Taiwan

Good morning. Thank you, Sandy, for that kind introduction. It’s certainly a pleasure to be here in Taipei and I’d like to thank the National Immigration Agency for inviting me to speak today. More importantly, thank you for organizing this meeting and convening leaders from around the world. Secretary Kerry recently noted that “the magnitude of the human trafficking challenge cannot be overstated,” so this is a great opportunity to collaborate on strategies to combat human trafficking.

This is my first trip to Taiwan, and it is really striking when you think about how far our societies have progressed: we’ve built huge skyscrapers, engineered cars and planes, and manufactured computers that fit in our hands and connect us to the world. Yet, notwithstanding all of these technological achievements, we still need advancements in justice and compassion; mankind’s moral compass still needs direction. People continue to be seen as commodities to be exploited. And the scourge of human trafficking plagues our world. Despite this seemingly bleak outlook, however, there are some encouraging signs in the global fight against trafficking in persons. Today, I’d like to discuss these encouraging trends and highlight where more needs to be done.

As Ambassador to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, I lead the State Department’s efforts to combat all forms of human trafficking around the world through multilateral and bilateral diplomacy, targeted foreign assistance, and public engagement.

The TIP Office, as we refer to ourselves, was established in 2000 pursuant to the United States’ comprehensive anti-trafficking law, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (or TVPA), and we opened our doors in 2001. Our Office leads the United States’ global engagement on human trafficking and supports the coordination of the federal government’s efforts to combat the crime.

The TIP Office forms part of a larger global anti-trafficking movement, and our law in the United States is consistent with the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children. This protocol, known as the “Palermo Protocol,” supplements the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

My office engages foreign governments regarding human trafficking issues and prepares the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. The TIP Office and U.S. missions worldwide meet regularly with foreign officials to encourage increased anti-trafficking efforts, gauge government progress, and identify and examine trafficking trends. The Report also provides specific recommendations for governments to better address trafficking. I’ll discuss some trends from the 2016 TIP Report shortly.

My Office also administers a foreign assistance program dedicated solely to combating human trafficking. Our foreign assistance targets both sex trafficking and labor trafficking by awarding grants to strengthen legal frameworks, build government capacity, enhance victim protection, and conduct other anti-trafficking activities. The global trends and country-specific recommendations in the annual Trafficking in Persons Report guide the Office’s foreign assistance strategy each year in places that have political will to fight trafficking, but may lack resources. During Fiscal Year 2015, the Office awarded 30 new grants in 35 countries worth more than $19 million. With the addition of these projects, at the start of Fiscal Year 2016, we were funding approximately 100 projects in 70 countries. Here are two examples:

• In the Philippines, a 10-year-long partnership with a TIP Office grantee has helped to combat sex trafficking by assisting law enforcement with investigations, prosecuting cases in Philippine courts, and working with social workers to prepare victim witnesses to testify in court. Through many years of continuous training and mentoring, the project has helped lead to an increase in the number of prosecutions and successful convictions, and the creation of a dedicated anti-trafficking unit in the capital.

• And in Sierra Leone, a grantee continued to provide comprehensive, holistic care to trafficking victims at a recovery center—the first residential aftercare shelter for trafficking survivors in Sierra Leone. The grantee’s work included long-term reintegration support, including building survivors’ skills to enhance economic empowerment.

We also work with the U.S. Congress, other government agencies, NGOs, corporations, academic and research institutes, the media, and the general public. We support Secretary of State Kerry as Chair of the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, a Cabinet-level entity that annually brings together more than 14 federal departments and agencies to ensure a whole-of-government approach. I chair what we call the Senior Policy Operating Group, which consists of senior officials designated as representatives of the Task Force. I’ll touch on our interagency work later in my remarks.

Across all of our efforts to combat human trafficking through our bilateral diplomacy and the publication of the TIP Report, our foreign assistance, and public engagement, the TIP Office is guided by the “3Ps:” prosecuting trafficking offenses, protecting trafficking victims, and preventing the crime from occurring in the first place. We also work towards a 4th P – Partnerships. Partnerships with advocates and NGOs, partnerships with other governments and with international organizations like the United Nations, and partnerships with the faith community and the private sector. Building partnerships is part of the reason I am here today.

I just arrived yesterday from Kuala Lumpur where I met with senior Malaysian officials to discuss the importance of enforcing anti-trafficking laws and providing necessary services to trafficking victims. I am thrilled to be here today with so many prominent officials, law enforcement officers, NGO representatives and academics. We need a concerted global effort to fight human trafficking that includes collaboration across national borders and industry sectors and between governments and others. Government partnerships are vital because human trafficking cannot be eradicated by governments alone. NGOs, international organizations, the faith community, and the private sector are key to eradicating trafficking. Victims need critical services like shelter, essential health services, and job training. Assisting victims increases the chances of successfully prosecuting traffickers and can provide lessons on how to improve prevention efforts. That’s why it’s encouraging to see such a diverse audience this morning. This broad collaboration leads to more holistic and effective anti-trafficking solutions. It will also shed light on different perspectives, ideas, and best practices related to anti-human trafficking efforts.

And speaking of best practices, I would like to commend Taiwan for consistently meriting a Tier 1 status in our annual TIP Report since 2010. This is, indeed, a reflection of Taiwan’s unyielding efforts to continuously strengthen its own capacity and to build a broad coalition of partners locally and abroad to combat human trafficking. Last October, Taiwan’s National Immigration Agency partnered with the American Institute in Taiwan to organize a week-long advanced TIP training program, in which 140 representatives from various agencies as well as county and city authorities and NGOs gathered to discuss gaps in investigation, prosecution, and trial of TIP cases. To date, Taiwan has signed 16 memoranda of understanding (MOUs) with countries around the world, most recently, Panama and El Salvador to increase information sharing and cooperation in stemming the flow of trafficking. We are very appreciative to have such a reliable partner as we seek to end modern slavery.

Now, I’d now like to spend a few minutes talking about the 2016 TIP Report, which Secretary of State John Kerry released a few weeks ago. The Report is the product of a year of research and analysis by my office, regional bureaus, U.S. embassies and posts around the world and is informed by the Department’s engagement with foreign officials, NGOs, faith groups, and international organizations. The Report analyzes governments’ efforts across the 3Ps and countries are placed on one of four tiers representing the extent to which their governments meet the “minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking” as outlined in the TVPA – Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 2 Watch List, and Tier 3. Governments of countries on Tier 3 may be subject to certain restrictions on foreign assistance.

Of the 188 countries and areas analyzed in the 2016 Report, 36 were placed on Tier 1, 78 on Tier 2, 44 on Tier 2 Watch List, and 27 on Tier 3. No matter which tier a government falls in, all of us can and should do more to combat human trafficking, which is why the TIP Report offers recommendations for improvements for every country, even Tier 1 countries.

Here are a few quick statistics from this year’s Report, which demonstrate some of the Report’s impact as a diplomatic tool. Since last year, thirty trafficking laws have been adopted or amended, one of the highest numbers in recent years. Three nations became parties to the landmark Palermo Protocol: the Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, and Singapore. The 2016 Report documents higher numbers of prosecutions and convictions, in large part as some governments reported much more data.

Although an increase in convictions is a good sign, the total still pales in comparison to the size of the problem as a whole. With more than 20 million estimated trafficking victims around the world and fewer than 11,000 prosecutions and 5,000 convictions reported by governments in 2015, we clearly have much more work to do. Further, some governments are not imposing sentences for traffickers that are sufficient to deter their criminal activity or reflective of the heinous nature of this crime. Luxembourg, for example, was downgraded to Tier 2, due, in part, to the decreased prosecutions reported and because the country continued to issue short and suspended sentences for convicted traffickers. This shows that even Tier 1 countries need to show continued improvement in combating human trafficking year to year.

In addition to narratives for each country, this year’s TIP Report Introduction focuses on effective strategies to prevent human trafficking. The international community is demonstrating some enhanced efforts to prevent trafficking in persons. Several countries and NGOs have increased efforts to reach at-risk populations. For example:

• In Vietnam, an NGO helped register more than 2,000 ethnic minorities in areas at high risk for human trafficking. Legal registration facilitates access to formal education, health care, and employment in the formal economy and significantly decreases risk factors for potential victims.

• In Guatemala, a leading coffee company, with government support, partnered with a U.S. labor rights organization to better understand the risks of recruitment abuses that lead to forced labor. The partners are strengthening communication between workers, the employer, and the government to better report and monitor recruitment practices in the coffee sector.

• And in Slovakia, the government launched a public awareness campaign that warned citizens seeking employment abroad to be wary of too-good-to-be-true employment offers, reaching 750,000 Slovak-language Facebook users with a prevention message. The government also launched a website that allows Slovaks traveling abroad for employment to register their family or friends and have the website send alerts should the user fail to check in online on a pre-established schedule.

We are encouraged by such prevention efforts. Yet much work remains. The 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report draws attention to several areas for improvement in the country narratives, but I would like to highlight two that are of particular importance: the need for increased protection for domestic workers and stronger efforts to root out corrupt and complicit officials who are themselves engaged in or benefiting from trafficking. I know the next sessions this afternoon focus on prevention strategies and domestic workers, so I am glad to hear that other organizations and offices recognize similar concerns.

In addition, this year, my office has paid considerable attention to the issue of nonpenalization of trafficking victims. We are urging other governments to put in place protections for victims so they are not penalized for crimes committed as a direct result of their victimization. Prosecuting victims for crimes committed as a direct result of being trafficked compounds their plight and results in further victimization. Traffickers increase their leverage over victims by warning that if they notify police of their exploitation, they will be deported or punished as criminals. When justice systems treat victims as criminals or do not allow them to leave government shelters or the country until they testify against their trafficker, they have reinforced traffickers’ threats and discouraged victims from seeking help.

As a former federal prosecutor, I can attest to the importance of nonpenalization. In one of my early cases we indicted Jimmy Jones for the sex trafficking of adults, some of whom were young women in college. He promised these young women modeling jobs and appearances in music videos. Then, he blackmailed them with threats to expose them to their friends and families and ruin their credit, if they did not engage in commercial sex acts and give him the proceeds. In some cases he beat the young women into complying. We indicted the case initially with a few victims, and then more came forward. These young women had never gone to the police for fear of being arrested; for fear that the police would not believe them and instead charge them with prostitution. Fear of law enforcement meant more young women were victimized by the trafficker. When more victims of human trafficking feel confident they will not be prosecuted, it is likely they will also be more willing to report their victimization.

This is an issue I have discussed at a Vatican conference for judges and prosecutors, with Congress, and at the U.S. National Association of Attorney Generals. And I will continue urging legislatures, prosecutors, and law enforcement that victims of human trafficking must be treated with compassion and fairness, and not as criminals. While the terror of modern slavery is indelible, no survivor deserves to be locked up, deported, or haunted by the past when applying for a job, apartment, or loan. Rather, they need to be treated with compassion, offered appropriate services, and given support to rebuild their lives.

While my office regularly engages with foreign governments on the issue of human trafficking through the report and direct communication, the TIP Office is also focused in the United States on working at a national, interagency level. Combating human trafficking requires a comprehensive, multidisciplinary effort. Within government, this means the participation and coordination among agencies with a range of responsibilities such as law enforcement, labor enforcement, victim outreach and services, public awareness, education, trade policy, international development and programs, immigration, intelligence, homeland security, and diplomacy. Coordinated efforts are essential to an integrated response to human trafficking that leverages resources and amplifies results.

For this reason, the United States engages in robust interagency coordination and advocates that other foreign governments undertake interagency coordination efforts as well. As I mentioned before, my office supports Secretary Kerry in his role as Chair of the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. The departments and agencies of the Task Force work together to make certain our efforts complement each other and are not redundant. Strong encouragement from the White House has fortified our coordination. Our combined efforts have led to significant progress to strengthen federal efforts to combat human trafficking.

In the 16 years since our TVPA was first enacted, the United States has made significant strides. We have gained a better understanding of what this crime looks like and who both the victims and perpetrators are. And we have made great progress in implementing a victim-centered approach in our law enforcement efforts.

In the U.S., many states have local task forces dedicated to implementing effective policies and procedures to combat human trafficking through the collaboration of prosecutors, law enforcement, and service providers. I served on two of these task forces as a prosecutor, one of which coordinated with community leaders to educate the public and law enforcement regarding the crime of trafficking. The other task force encouraged collaboration across law enforcement agencies with a goal of increasing prosecutions. The Task Force developed new leads in trafficking cases from labor inspectors who saw indicators of trafficking, such as document retention or the employer controlling the housing or transportation of workers. These indicators were then relayed to specialized trafficking investigators.

And, federally, we have taken another step forward. On December 16, 2015, President Obama announced the appointment of the first U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking. It consists of 11 survivors of sex and labor trafficking who provide recommendations to the U.S. government to strengthen federal policy and programming efforts.

This type of direct engagement with survivors of human trafficking is essential to ensure that government anti-trafficking policies and programs are grounded in the experience of those most affected by the crime. And the same is true for the efforts of international and nongovernmental organizations.

Earlier this year, I spent time with the Advisory Council members and a primary recommendation from our first meeting was the inclusion of survivors of human trafficking in every aspect of our collective anti-trafficking efforts. More than anyone else, survivors are uniquely situated to inform the full range of our prosecution, protection, and prevention work. And this is something I really want to stress at this conference: in order to pass effective anti-trafficking legislation and successfully apply laws to obtain convictions, we need to first work to understand this crime from the point of view of survivors. Our work will be more effective if we understand why they did not come forward to commit the crime; why they feared telling law enforcement the truth; and what, if anything, could have been done before they were victimized to prevent their exploitation. Besides providing services to victims, we also need to engage with them directly on how to implement better policy. I hope you will join me in committing to the inclusion of survivors in our work in this area.

I would also like to touch on an issue that has gained extensive media coverage and is particularly relevant here in the Asia Pacific Region; one that has also been well-documented in past TIP Reports: illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing or “IUU” fishing.

As you may know, forced labor in fishing vessels occurs concurrently with IUU fishing, and labor trafficking in the seafood sector has become a key battleground in the fight to end modern slavery. Guarded by the vastness of the sea, human traffickers rely on isolation and infrequent contact with law enforcement to exploit workers. Luring fishers with promises of good wages, traffickers force fishermen to work under extreme conditions and deny them compensation or the freedom to leave. Once on the boats, some victims are forced to work 18 or more hours per day, threatened and in some instances exposed to physical or sexual abuse. Living quarters are unbearable, fresh water is scarce, and food supplies are rationed and hidden away from crewmembers. Medical treatment for sick or injured victims can be inadequate or nonexistent.

At our recent TIP Report Rollout, Secretary Kerry told the harrowing tale of Lang Long, who left Cambodia with the promise of a construction job that would help him earn money for his family. But when Long arrived in Thailand with the help of a recruiter, he was not greeted with a new construction job; instead, he was greeted by his captors who forced Long to work on a fishing vessel for the next three years. Long was beaten regularly with metal poles, forced to drink water from fish barrels, and given little rest. When he wasn’t working, he was regularly chained by a rusty metal collar to an anchor post, so that he would not escape.

While we’ve seen some measured progress in government efforts to combat forced labor in conjunction with IUU fishing, the story of Lang Long, unfortunately, is not uncommon. IUU fishing also threatens the preservation of marine resources. Testimonies from survivors of forced labor on fishing vessels have revealed that many of the vessels on which they suffered exploitation used banned fishing gear, fished in prohibited areas, failed to report or misreported catches, operated with fake licenses, and docked in unauthorized ports—all illegal fishing practices that contribute to resource depletion and species endangerment. Without proper regulation, monitoring, and enforcement of laws governing both fishing practices and forced labor, criminals will continue to threaten the environmental sustainability of oceans and exploit workers with impunity.

In recent years, a growing body of evidence has documented forced labor on inland, coastal, and deep sea fishing vessels, as well as in shrimp farming and seafood processing. This evidence comes from investigative reports by the New York Times, which published Lang Long’s story, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, South China Morning Post, and the Associated Press, which won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. The quality and frequency of reporting by international media has helped raise awareness of forced labor in the seafood industry among governments, businesses, and consumers. I admire the work of these journalists who shed light in the dark corners of the world.

Increased awareness has prompted the international advocacy community to increase pressure on governments and private sector stakeholders to address the exploitation of men, women, and children, who work in the commercial seafood sector. Businesses are paying attention. Seafood caught and/or processed using forced labor ends up in the freezers and on the shelves in grocery stores and restaurants, and eventually on a consumer’s plate. And these consumers are paying attention as well. Both the public and private sectors have a role in preventing human trafficking in global supply chains. Purchasers of fish on the international market should map and monitor their supply chains, and ensure fishers are recruited without paying recruitment fees and treated fairly. Understanding how supply chains operate, where key suppliers are located, and what working conditions exist in those locations and sectors is vital to helping a company gain control of its supply chain. We have developed a resource in collaboration with a labor rights NGO called that addresses these very issues. Also, business leaders can choose to operate in places with strong human rights records, including on combating human trafficking. The TIP Report can be used as a resource for companies to better understand the efforts of governments to combat this crime. Clearly, the public sector has a large role in eradicating human trafficking from the fishing industry and supply chains, as well. Governments have a responsibility to prosecute traffickers, enforce labor laws, treat all workers fairly, including lawfully present and irregular migrants, and root out corruption.

As I close out my remarks, I would again like to thank the National Immigration Agency for organizing this workshop and inviting me to speak. I would also like to reiterate my opening point that technological breakthroughs, alone, do not make a civilization advanced. We must measure our achievements not just in size and splendor, but also in how we treat each other and how we address the injustices that some of our fellow citizens face. Our world cannot run unbridled into the future bent simply on innovation and discovery without a sense of compassion. We need to intervene where we see people being forced to work in inhumane conditions or against their will. We must encourage our governments, businesses, civil societies, and peers to take a stronger stance against human trafficking. I am optimistic that this message is resonating, and I am encouraged by meetings like this where partnership and determination give increasing hope for a future free of modern slavery.