Response to the Annual Report by OSCE Special Representative and Co-coordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings

As prepared for delivery by Ambassador Ian Kelly
to the Permanent Council, Vienna
December 13, 2012

The United States warmly welcomes back Special Representative and Coordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings Maria Grazia Giammarinaro to the Permanent Council today.  We applaud Ms. Giammarinaro’s multifaceted approach to combat modern slavery in the OSCE region, and thank her for the comprehensive annual report.  We are pleased to congratulate her once again for being recognized by Secretary Clinton as one of our “TIP Heroes of 2012.”

We applaud the Special Representative’s advocacy regarding labor exploitation; the importance of which has been substantiated by the shocking statistics which emerged from the International Labor Organization this year.  We have been pleased that the Special Representative’s  groundbreaking work initiated in 2010 and 2011 on domestic workers has continued over the past year, including with the organization of a series of regional workshops on preventing domestic servitude in diplomatic households.  Having sent an American delegation to the first workshop in June, we strongly recommend that other participating States take advantage of future opportunities offered in the region.

We commend the initiative of the Special Representative and the collaborative spirit of those participating States involved in the 2012 country visits.  Country visits offer a key opportunity for the Special Representative to engage with participating States on their commitments and to call attention to areas of strengths and weaknesses.  The willingness of participating States to host these visits speaks volumes about their political commitment to achieve progress in the fight against modern day slavery.

We also applaud Ms. Giammarinaro’s coordination with internal and external partners at the OSCE.  We appreciate her collaboration with the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) whose programmatic work focuses on the intersection of human rights and rule of law in the fight against human trafficking.  We urge continued coordination between the Special Representative and ODIHR to establish a network of lawyers to assist with victim identification and protection in the OSCE region.  In our national experience, pro bono work and civil society lawyers are part of the fabric of our rich legal tradition and have been critical in improving our national response to trafficking victims, including on the important issues of accessing immigration relief and pursuing compensation for victims.

We also appreciate the Special Representative’s coordination with the relevant organizations in the international fora, including for example, UNODC, UNGIFT, GRETA, and IOM.  These strong partnerships are critical to advancing the OSCE’s specific contributions, avoiding duplication, and leveraging our resources in the fight against human trafficking.  The success of the Alliance Against Trafficking in Persons framework, steadily strengthened over Ms. Giammarinaro’s tenure, exemplifies the importance of that partnership.  The October 2012 Alliance Against Trafficking conference on “An Agenda for Prevention: Non-Discrimination and Empowerment” focused on the intersection of discrimination and trafficking in human beings illustrated a number of key themes which merit further work in the OSCE.

At the Alliance conference, a survivor shared her voice as a victim and as an agent of change.  Ensuring that we are listening to survivors to understand better the experience of victimization is a critical element in developing and adapting policies and practices which support a victim’s transition to a survivor.  We encourage more participating States to reflect on whether the survivor’s voice is factored into national responses in the fight against trafficking.

The Alliance event drew attention to the different types of discrimination that have a negative impact on our perception of trafficking victims and thereby also on victim identification and assistance.  In both sex and labor trafficking cases, there is a tendency to fixate on how victims got into their situation, their immigration status, and therefore, their “legitimacy” as victims.  In short, we often blame the victim, which prevents effective identification and response.  Under U.S. law, and consistent with the Palermo Protocol, individuals may be trafficking victims regardless of whether they once consented, participated in a crime as a direct result of being trafficked, were transported into the exploitative situation, or were simply born into a state of servitude.  While the United States continues to struggle with these challenges of victim identification, we have made significant progress in recognizing how discrimination creates true obstacles to combating trafficking in human beings.

We also support your call in the Report for another wave of anti-trafficking action: Indeed, not only must we recognize the human rights of victims, but we should improve international cooperation to prevent and eradicate this crime. Due to discrimination and social exclusion, members of vulnerable groups such as migrants, children on the move, persons belonging to minorities such as Roma and Sinti, are sometimes not recognized as victims of human trafficking.    We view the acknowledgement and identification of instances of human trafficking in the context of labor migration in the region as an essential step in our efforts to provide effective victims’ assistance and to punish the traffickers at the national level.  At the 2012 Alliance event, the United States highlighted its work on victim compensation through our equal protection laws and emphasized our unique path to long term immigration relief for victims.  We continue to see these as distinguishing features of the U.S. experience, worthy of emulation by participating States and as viable goals for our European partners.

Lastly, we commend the Irish Chairmanship for its work on the issue of discrimination including against migrants, women, and Roma, which laid the groundwork for the focus of the Special Representative this year.  Similarly, we look to the Ukrainian Chairmanship to enhance the OSCE’s efforts on combating trafficking in human beings in 2013.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.