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Corker Opening Statement at Hearing on Ending Modern Slavery

United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
Hearing: Ending Modern Slavery: What is the Best Way Forward?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

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

We have convened this hearing to examine modern slavery and what is being done about it. We recognize that the United States Congress and our executive agencies have worked hard to draw attention to and address modern slavery. But, I believe we have come to a point where we can do more. We need to take these efforts to the next level.

I think most Americans would be stunned to know that slavery still exists in this world.

Let me pause to state that again.  It is difficult to imagine that in this modern day more than 27 million people around the world are forced to live as slaves.

At this hearing, in addition to our expert witnesses, we will hear from two individuals who suffered and ultimately escaped this experience and went on to help others.  And we thank them for being with us today.

Modern forms of slavery thrive where the rule of law is weakest. Corruption, crime and cultural attitudes contribute to a climate of low risk and impunity for those who profit from modern slavery. In many instances, modern slavery is a crime of opportunity for perpetrators. It is often practiced quite openly, for example in brick or rug manufacturing or in bars and brothels.

Under U.S. law, such conditions are defined as the most severe forms of trafficking in persons, including forced sexual servitude of minors and adults and bonded and other forced labor conditions. Women, children and men alike are subjected to involuntary labor or sexual exploitation. According to a leading non-governmental organization, forced labor accounts for 74% of victims and forced sexual servitude accounts for 26% of victims. Women and girls are especially vulnerable, accounting for 54% of victims. Children under the age of 18 account for 26% of victims.

We have been to countries and met people who have survived this horrific experience and heard from people who work to end modern slavery. U.S. government and private philanthropic funding are spurring increasingly sophisticated efforts to combat modern slavery.

There is growing consensus that in order to end the practice of modern slavery, reliable baseline data and consistent and effective monitoring and evaluation are needed to deal with this issue. Leveraging and coordinating private and government funding are also seen as key challenges by many in the anti-modern slavery community.

Today, we will explore these questions to help inform our thinking how 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.