February 04, 2015

Congress Can Create and Lead a Vision for Ending Modern Slavery

WASHINGTON – During a hearing to examine the challenge of modern day slavery today, U.S. Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called for Congress to “create and lead a vision” to end this deplorable practice world-wide.

“Congress can create and lead a vision to end modern day slavery,” Corker said. “With the U.S. behind it; we can lead; we can solve; we can bring others to the table.”

The committee heard testimony from leading non-governmental organizations and slavery victims that elevated the scope of this global problem and offered successful strategies for combating human trafficking. More than 27 million people around the world are enslaved. Forced labor accounts for 74 percent of victims and forced sexual servitude accounts for 26 percent of victims. Women and girls are especially vulnerable to slavery and human trafficking, accounting for 54 percent of victims. Children under the age of 18 account for 26 percent of victims.

“Number one, slavery is as brutal as ever. Number two, it’s more vast than ever, but thirdly, it’s more stoppable than ever,” said Gary Haugen of the International Justice Mission in his testimony before the committee. Haugen emphasized the need to improve local law enforcement as a deterrent to traffickers who thrive in communities that turn a blind eye to their activities.

“We’ve measured trafficking fall off by more than 80 percent and even higher in larger populations when impunity ended,” added Haugen.

Witnesses identified the role of public-private partnerships, especially for leveraging scarce resources and raising awareness of human slavery, as an important priority for policy makers.

"The business of human trafficking is too large to allow fragmentation of efforts, which is why bringing government, business, and civil society together is key," David Abramowitz of Humanity United said.

Organizations focused on ending modern day slavery have developed reliable methods of measuring their efforts, which allows for greater accountability of public investments devoted to ending slavery.

“We can measure how much sex trafficking, forced labor is actually taking place by infiltrating the criminal networks who are operating and get a baseline. Then you can actually carry out your intervention and measure…at the end whether or not there has actually been…an increase…in enforcement and then a correlated decrease in the actual prevalence of the slavery,” Haugen said.

The committee also heard the compelling stories of James Kofi Annan and Shandra Woworuntu, both trafficking survivors who have dedicated themselves to victims’ advocacy so that others will not fall prey to similar violence and captivity.

“I want to thank you for the courage to be here but also for taking your experiences and using them to help other people,” said Corker in thanking the victims for their testimony. “One of the easier outcomes to produce is to make sure people are more fully aware and that parents understand what is happening in various countries with their young ones; and to understand the tremendous plight of victims who in many cases are not dealt with as victims.”

Testifying at today’s hearing were Gary Haugen, President, International Justice Mission; Shawna Bader-Blau, Executive Director; Solidarity Center; David Abramowitz, Vice President, Policy and Government Relations, Humanity United; James Kofi Annan, Trafficking Survivor & Founder, Challenging Heights; and Shandra Woworuntu, trafficking survivor.

For complete testimony and archived video footage of the hearing, visit: http://1.usa.gov/18OLlQX.