WASHINGTON, D.C. (Sept. 25, 2012) — More than 20 million men, women, and children worldwide are victims of human trafficking.
Companies around the world are taking steps to eliminate the potential for trafficked labor in their operations and supply chains, and President Barack Obama on Tuesday said the United States would be committed to protecting vulnerable individuals as government contractors and subcontractors perform vital services and manufactured goods. As the largest single purchaser of goods and services in the world, the U.S. Government has a responsibility to combat human trafficking at home and abroad, and to ensure American tax dollars do not contribute to this affront to human dignity.
“It ought to concern every person, because it’s a debasement of our common humanity,” Obama said. “It ought to concern every community, because it tears at the social fabric. It ought to concern every business, because it distorts markets. It ought to concern every nation, because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime. I’m talking about the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name — modern slavery.
“Our fight against human trafficking is one of the great human rights causes of our time, and the United States will continue to lead it,” he added.
Building on the Obama Administration’s existing efforts to end human trafficking, the President signed an Executive Order to strengthen protections against trafficking in persons in federal contracting. The importance of taking action to end human trafficking in government contracting is a matter of significant bipartisan agreement, and the Executive Order issued tincorporates approaches supported by business leaders, researchers, and members of Congress for how to effectively achieve that shared goal.
The order strengthens the efficacy of the U.S. Government’s zero-tolerance policy on trafficking in persons by directing the Federal Acquisition Regulatory (FAR) Council, working with the appropriate agencies, to amend federal contracting regulations to:
• Prohibit contractors and subcontractors from engaging in specific trafficking-related activities. The Executive Order expressly prohibits federal contractors, subcontractors, and their employees from engaging in certain trafficking-related practices, such as misleading or fraudulent recruitment practices; charging employees recruitment fees; and destroying or confiscating an employee’s identity documents, such as a passport or a driver’s license.
• Apply new, tailored compliance measures for larger contracts performed abroad. The Executive Order requires that for work exceeding $500,000 that is performed abroad, federal contractors and subcontractors must maintain compliance plans appropriate for the nature and scope of the activities performed. Such plans must include: an employee awareness program, a process for employees to report trafficking violations without fear of retaliation, and recruitment and housing plans. Each of these contractors and subcontractors must also certify that neither it nor any of its contractors has engaged in trafficking-related activities.
The Executive Order also:
• Establishes a process to identify industries and sectors that have a history of human trafficking, to enhance compliance on domestic contracts. Once identified, contracting agencies will adopt appropriate safeguards, guidance, and compliance assistance to prevent trafficking in industries or sectors where there is a history or current evidence of trafficking.
• Augments training and heightens agencies’ ability to detect and address trafficking violations. The Executive Order stipulates that the Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy will provide guidance to agencies on how to improve monitoring of and compliance with actions to prevent trafficking and will implement improved training for the federal acquisition workforce on policies and procedures for combatting trafficking.
In March 2012, President Obama directed his Cabinet to redouble the Administration’s efforts to eliminate human trafficking, which afflicts more than 20 million people around the world, including in communities here at home. Today, building on the strong record of the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and its member agencies, the President is announcing several initiatives:
• Executive Order Strengthening Protections in Federal Contracts: To strengthen the U.S. Government’s existing zero-tolerance policy on human trafficking in government contracting, the President has issued an Executive Order that outlines prohibitions on trafficking-related activities that will apply to all federal contractors and subcontractors, requires compliance measures for large overseas contracts and subcontracts, and provides federal agencies with additional tools to foster compliance.
• Tools and Training to Identify and Assist Trafficking Victims: The Administration is providing human trafficking training and guidance to federal prosecutors, law enforcement officials, and immigration judges; to commercial transportation officials; to state and local law enforcement partners; and to state workforce agencies and educators. Through this training, these professionals will be better equipped to detect trafficking wherever it exists, and to help ensure that victims are always treated as victims and not criminals.
• Increased Resources for Victims of Human Trafficking: The Administration is announcing initiatives to expand services and legal assistance to victims of trafficking, and will partner with Humanity United, with support from the Goldman Sachs Foundation, to launch $6 million in Partnership for Freedom Innovation Awards to challenge local communities to develop collaborative and comprehensive solutions to help trafficking victims. The Administration also will work to streamline current procedures for the existing T-visa process, which allows victims to remain in the United States and aid the prosecution of their traffickers. In addition, the President is announcing his intent to establish a new Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons, which will be awarded annually to incentivize and recognize exceptional contributions in the field.
• Comprehensive Plan for Future Action: The President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Human Trafficking in Persons will develop the first-ever federal strategic action plan to strengthen services for trafficking victims. In a related effort, the interagency Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center (HSTC) will develop its first-ever domestic human trafficking assessment to track trends within the United States, enabling both law enforcement and service providers to deploy resources more effectively. These efforts will be assisted by the intelligence community, which is increasing its focus on human trafficking internationally, and working more closely with the HSTC here at home.
The Administration’s efforts augment the work of business, non-profits, educational institutions and foundations to combat trafficking. Key announcements that will help to advance this shared work include:
• The creation of the Global Business Coalition Against Trafficking, a business-to-business network that will mobilize its members to fight trafficking, including through the identification and development of best practices;
• The U.S. Travel Association’s compilation of an anti-trafficking “toolkit” to drive awareness within the travel and tourism industry;
• The Administration’s launch of the Counter-Trafficking in Persons Campus Challenge to raise awareness and inspire activism among college students and to develop innovative technology approaches to combatting human trafficking;
• The Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health’s cross-disciplinary research partnership with the Goldman Sachs Foundation and the Advisory Council on Child Trafficking, which will focus on the prevention of child sex trafficking and treatment for survivors; and
• The launch of the Made in a Free World initiative to help buyers and suppliers identify and eliminate supply chain vulnerabilities, and demonstrate their commitment to combatting human trafficking.
In addition, the faith-based community has been a leader in combatting human trafficking at home and around the world, raising awareness and providing services. The President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships will focus its efforts on the issue of trafficking and identify opportunities to expand partnerships with faith and community-based groups.
Finally, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Council on Women and Girls are convening advocates, law enforcement leaders, technology companies and researchers to brainstorm ways to share information more effectively with law enforcement; harness the power of the Internet to reach victims; and explore other innovative approaches to provide victims of child sex trafficking with the help they need.