NEW YORK — President Barack Obama addressed the global issue of human trafficking Tuesday at the noon special remarks session of the Clinton Global Initiative. The U.S. plans to combat the practice.
Obama introduced human trafficking under a new moniker, highlighting the gravity of “the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name: modern slavery.
“Now, I do not use that word, ‘slavery,’ lightly. It evokes obviously one of the most painful chapters in our nation’s history,” Obama said.
Noting the recent 150-year anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Obama exposed the issue as “a debasement of our common humanity.”
The scope of the issue makes it a threat to every community, nation, business and individual, he said.
Whether one considers the life of a man or woman working without fair compensation, or a child drawn away from home with the illusion of hope, it should be universally understood that “it has no place in a civilized world,” Obama said.
“As President, I directed my administration to step up our efforts and we have,” Obama said.
According to Obama, theose efforts include expanding the annual trafficking report to include the U.S., renewing sanctions on offending nations and increasing incentives for instituting and enforcing laws and supplementing the inter-agency task with federal agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“And most of all, we’re going after the traffickers,” Obama said.
Obama then introduced a new set of efforts that his administration intends to put forth, the first of which lies in improving efforts “to spot it and stop it.”
After completing the new assessment, new enforcement training will be put into place to “treat victims as victims, not as criminals,” Obama said.
Training for teachers and educators will be implemented to help them with recognizing the issue among the youth, an extremely vulnerable sector of populations affected by trafficking.
His second plan includes using technology, a tool frequently exploited by traffickers to lure victims, to “turn the tables” on the traffickers themselves. This includes challenging local enforcement and technology companies to create programs and applications that help the people stay safe online and otherwise.
The third aspect includes providing resources to current victims to aid in the reconstruction of their lives.
“We’re working to simplify visa procedures for ‘T’ visas so that innocent victims from other countries can stay here as they help us prosecute their traffickers,” Obama said.
He also addressed his role as president of one of the largest consumers of goods and services on the globe. He ensured that American tax dollars would never represent profits obtained from human trafficking.
“I’ve signed a new executive order that raises the bar. … We will have zero tolerance. We mean what we say. We will enforce it,” Obama said.
In closing the speech, Obama reminded all those present that government alone cannot solve the problem and that there must be participation from the ground up. Whether a business leader or an individual, there is something that can be done to combat the activity.
Emphasizing the fight against human trafficking as one of the great human rights causes of the time, he spoke out to the victims.
“We see you. We hear you. We insist on your dignity. And we share your belief that if just given the chance, you will forge a life equal to your talents and worthy of your dreams,” Obama said.
Obama also recognized the impact of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, signed by former President Bill Clinton and continued through the presidency of George W. Bush.
In introducing the President, Clinton applauded Obama for attending CGI every year that he has held the office.
Obama responded in relaying a tweet that suggested he make Clinton “Secretary of Explaining Things,” likely referring to Clinton’s speech at this year’s Democratic National Convention.
Check out Julian Boireau’s coverage of Romney’s speech at CGI here.