February 11, 2015

Corker Opening Statement at Hearing on “Ending Modern Slavery: The Role of U.S. Leadership”

U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
Hearing: “Ending Modern Slavery: The Role of U.S. Leadership”

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Chairman
Opening Statement

This hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will come to order.  Thank you so much for being here. 

I will introduce you in one moment.  Thank the other committee members for their interest.

We have convened this hearing to understand how U.S. leadership can best be deployed to deal a mortal wound to modern slavery. 

Last week, the Committee heard from two panels of private witnesses. We received testimony from leaders in the effort to combat modern slavery. We also heard from brave individuals who escaped from modern slavery and went on to help others.

Today, we welcome Dr. Sarah Sewall -- whom I have heard many good things about -- the Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights at the U.S. Department of State. The State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons falls under your purview, and we appreciated your efforts.

Conflict exposes vulnerable people, especially women and children, to being enslaved and exploited. The horrifying examples set by ISIL and Boko Haram could not be starker.

But, even in countries with laws and institutions, insidious forms of modern slavery exist. Perversely, labor recruiters extract money from impoverished people with empty promises and deliver them into bondage and sexual exploitation.

For fourteen years, as defined and authorized by Congress, the State Department has issued an annual Report on Trafficking in Persons. This report, as secretary Kerry has said, sets the gold standard.

The report reviews the efforts of countries to address trafficking in persons, especially the most severe forms. Its findings are not always welcomed, but they have made a difference.

Under Secretary Sewall has said that almost every issue she touches has implications for human trafficking. Whether working with the Bureau of Counterterrorism; Democracy, Human Rights and Labor; Population, Migration and Refugees; International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs; Conflict and Stabilization Operations; often there is a trafficking angle.

Today, we hope to learn how U.S. leadership is already making a difference and how, working in partnership with the State Department and reaching out to likeminded governments, we can take our efforts to the next level and define the best way forward to begin the process in earnest of putting an end to modern slavery.