February 24, 2015

Corker, Menendez Introduce Bipartisan End Modern Slavery Initiative Act of 2015

Legislation to Create Powerful Effort in Concert with the Private Sector and Foreign Governments to Help Eliminate Modern Slavery

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today introduced bold, bipartisan legislation that will create a powerful effort in concert with the private sector and foreign governments to help eliminate modern slavery around the globe. The End Modern Slavery Initiative Act of 2015 (S. 553), also cosponsored by Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), would establish a private, non-profit grant-making institution known as “The End Modern Slavery Initiative Foundation” to reduce forced labor and sexual servitude around the world. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote on the bill on Thursday.

“Today more than 27 million people, many of them women and children, suffer under forced labor and sexual servitude in over 165 countries around the world, including our own,” said Sen. Bob Corker. “As I have seen firsthand, the stark reality of modern slavery is unconscionable, demanding the United States and civilized world make a commitment to end it for good. Despite the pervasive nature of this horrific practice, modern slavery is a crime of opportunity that thrives where enforcement is weak, so raising the risk of prosecution can achieve significant results. That’s why I’m proud to join my colleagues and a number of other supportive organizations to introduce a transformative initiative that will work in concert with foreign partners and other private entities to help end slavery worldwide.”

“Human trafficking, in the form of forced labor and sexual exploitation, debt-bondage, involuntary servitude and the sale and exploitation of children – is one of the great moral challenges of our time,” said Sen. Robert Menendez. “We must end modern slavery in all its forms and U.S. leadership is critical in the effort to combat this grave injustice. Democrats and Republicans speak with one voice on this vital issue. I am proud to stand with Chairman Corker and look forward to the speedy passage of this legislation.”

A number of advocacy groups and faith-based institutions have issued support for the effort including, the Alliance to End Slavery & Trafficking (ATEST), International Justice Mission (IJM), United Way Worldwide, Freedom House, Rotary International, and Circle of Friends, Inc., among others.

The introduction of the legislation coincides with the End It Movement’s push this week to raise awareness about modern slavery by encouraging supporters to mark their hands with a red “X”. The “Shine a Light on Slavery Day” will culminate on Friday, February 27.

The act will charter a 501(c)(3) non-profit grant-making foundation in the District of Columbia to be known as “The End Modern Slavery Initiative Foundation”. 

The initiative will fund programs outside the United States that:

  • Contribute to the freeing and sustainable recovery of victims of modern slavery, prevent individuals from being enslaved, and enforce laws to punish individual and corporate perpetrators of modern slavery;
  • Set out clear, defined goals and outcomes that can be empirically measured; and
  • Achieve a measurable 50 percent reduction of modern slavery in targeted populations.

The U.S. contribution of $251 million over eight years will be used to raise a total of $1.5 billion, including $500 million from foreign governments and $750 million from private resources. For the Foundation to receive all of the U.S. government funds authorized, $500 million would need to be obtained from foreign governments and $250 million from the private sector. Projects that fail to meet goals will be suspended or terminated.

As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Corker has been shining a spotlight on the growing epidemic of slavery and human trafficking and has held two hearings about the issue this year. On February 4, 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. The following week, on February 11, Sarah Sewall, Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, testified on the role of U.S. leadership in international, anti-trafficking efforts. Sewall is responsible for overseeing the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP).

Click here for the bill text and here for a summary of the legislation.