Response to the Special Representative and Coordinator on Combatting Trafficking in Human Beings, Val Richey
As delivered by Ambassador Michael Carpenter
to the Permanent Council, Vienna
October 14, 2022
Thank you, Special Representative Richey, Val, it’s a pleasure to welcome you back to the Permanent Council. This has been an extraordinarily challenging year due to Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine. As you know all too well, one of the many unfortunate impacts of Russia’s aggression has been the enormous refugee and humanitarian crisis that, in turn, has created the conditions for a significantly increased risk of trafficking in human beings throughout the region. Additionally, of course, there’s also the phenomenon of state sponsored trafficking in persons, particularly vulnerable human beings, that Russia has undertaken under the euphemistic title of so-called “filtration operations” which have disproportionately impacted vulnerable populations primarily women and children and resulted in the forced deportation of these individuals to Russia and to Russia’s temporarily controlled territories in Ukraine. The United States strongly supports your office’s efforts to combat this scourge of trafficking in the OSCE area and we are grateful to you and your office for the important and innovative work that you do.
We welcome your comprehensive, excellent report which clearly illustrates just how much you and your team have accomplished, especially in the areas of demand reduction, prevention, protection, and prosecution. We are strong supporters of your extrabudgetary project on preventing and responding to trafficking in human beings as a result of the humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Ukraine. I encourage other participating States to consider backing this important project which we find great value in. The United States is deeply committed to helping prevent trafficking of Ukrainian citizens and third-country nationals fleeing the war and protecting those whom traffickers exploit.
We congratulate you, in particular, for your innovative collaboration with Thomson Reuters on the “Be Safe” digital campaign to provide critical information in Ukrainian and Russian about how to spot the warning signs, minimize risks, and advise potential and actual victims of trafficking on how to get help. This has been a huge breakthrough and we really do congratulate you on this partnership. As my colleague Under Secretary of State Uzra Zeya highlighted at last week’s Warsaw Human Dimension Conference, awareness-raising efforts such as these are pivotal to helping people avoid falling victim to human trafficking.
The United States is also proud to support your work through other CTHB-related extrabudgetary projects. We recognize your office’s substantial progress in providing participating States and International Organizations with practical tools to prevent trafficking in human beings in supply chains and in responding to technology-facilitated trafficking, and we encourage you to continue your work in these areas.
This year’s Alliance Against Trafficking in Persons Conference in April focused on protection, upholding victims’ rights, and strengthening assistance – all priority areas for the United States in combating human trafficking. We greatly appreciated the discussion on how to better identify victims and take individual needs into account to ensure assistance is provided unconditionally to all victims while adhering to the principles of non-punishment and non-discrimination. The United States considers this victim-centered and trauma-informed approach to be critical to the success of these programs.
We also commend your contributions to July’s Supplemental Human Dimension Meeting on Protecting the Rights of Trafficked Persons. As we noted then, the United States continues to support your office’s effective collaboration with ODIHR on these major initiatives and compliments you on the publication of the 2021 Survey Report on OSCE commitments and recommended actions to combat trafficking in human beings.
In closing, let me reiterate the United States’ full support for the work you and your team are carrying out. You’re helping people avoid falling victim to these cruel schemes, providing assistance to those who do, and helping states prosecute the perpetrators.