Technical Working Group on Human Trafficking

Monday, December 10, 2012

Washington, D.C.

Technical Working Group on Human Trafficking


Good morning everyone. Welcome to your nation’s capital and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

It is a great pleasure to stand before you today.

It is a testament to your commitment to serving victims of human trafficking that you would take time away from your families during the holiday season.

When I was young and watched as President Kennedy’s assembled team of the nation’s best and brightest tackled challenge after challenge, I was worried that there’d be no problems left for me solve, no great movements left to join and no more suffering to alleviate.

I was naïve.

Standing before you today, we are on the cusp of the nation’s next great movement. The effort to once and for all end the trafficking in persons, the effort to once and for all end slavery, the effort to once and for all say to victims, as President Obama did in his September address to the Clinton Global Initiative, that “we see you, we hear you and we insist on your dignity.”

It has been 150 years since President Lincoln proclaimed an end to slavery and the Plantation Slave System. And it is time that we finally address the other forms of slavery that exists in this country and abroad.

There has been a grassroots groundswell propelling this movement forward. A great deal of energy to do something has electrified the NGO and provider communities, faith based groups, law enforcement and child welfare professionals, labor rights activists and concerned citizens.

As fledgling movements go, there have been some wonderful, innovative practices aimed at identifying victims and serving their needs through trauma-informed interventions. 

There have also been some very forward-thinking policies developed at the local, state and federal levels.

But as the movement matures, we all recognize the time has come for greater coordination among the many players.

The time has come for a plan that maximizes our efforts on behalf of victims, reduces barriers to cooperation and innovation, and creates efficiencies where financial and human resources are limited.

That is why we are here today.

Every one of you in this in this room is here today because of your demonstrated leadership and sustained commitment to this issue.

You are here because you answered your president’s call.

In his address to CGI, President Obama clearly spelled out his priorities.

He said first, we are going to do more to spot human trafficking and more to stop it.

We are going to better assess the problem so we can better address it.

We will better equip law enforcement to treat trafficked persons as victims, not criminals.

Second, he said, we’re going to turn the tables on the traffickers.

The third thing he said is that we’re going to do more to help “victims recover and rebuild their lives.” 

To do that he said, we’ll develop a new action plan to improve coordination across the federal government. 

A plan that is concrete, actionable, and scalable.

The plan we are here to develop will build on the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

This plan must provide clear guidance to the many government agencies charged with overseeing this effort and our many partners who will be on the front lines of this movement.

The plan we are developing must lay out goals and objectives for long-term and short-term improvements in victim services that can be achieved over the next five years. 

And, we must do this within the current budget and statutory authority.

At the same time we must also acknowledge and identify existing and projected gaps in services.

This way, should additional sources of funding be identified, this plan will provide guidance on how those funds could be used to most effectively improve victim services.

In order to fully develop this strategic action plan, A federal interagency group, co-chaired by the Departments of Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and Justice has come together to begin developing the core to help guide the development of a robust and effective trafficking victim service system in the United States. 

Broadly speaking, the Plan calls for a network that works collaboratively and comprehensively to ensure all victims are served appropriately and that the services are available when and where they are needed. 

To succeed, the Plan depends on a diverse array of public and private partners working transparently, effectively, and efficiently to leverage resources and eliminate duplication of efforts. 

When complete, we will have a plan that sees and treats victims as people, not just a legal issue in need of recourse.

We will have a plan that will provide for a person’s need for supportive housing, not simply view them as housing issue in need of placement.

We will have a plan that truly addresses the needs of the person for who they truly are, man, woman, boy, girl, foreign or U.S. citizen, labor victim or commercial sex victim.

We will have a plan that delivers a coordinated system of care – care that’s designed to restore the humanity that traffickers have so brutally taken away.

So, functionally speaking, just what does that mean to you, the drafters of this plan?

Here is what we want you to keep in mind as you go through your break-out sessions today.

You must discuss ways to build-up capacity in victim services by increasing leadership, collaboration, and civil engagement at the national and state levels.

You must keep in mind that the plan must be driven by solutions, innovation, and based on evidence.

The solutions you propose and the courses of action we will take must be cost-effective and rely on current resources and existing funding, while also prioritizing gaps to be addressed should additional funding be available.

And finally, the plan, when executed, must ensure accountability, be measurable and have clear outcomes.

So, as you go forward today in a spirit of inclusiveness and diversity, please remember that we all come from different backgrounds and perspectives, all of which we want included in the final plan.

Now it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work. I want each and every one of you to be engaged in this process and to push yourselves in a collegial sense, and most importantly I want you to use your imagination.

For in our minds we hold the answers to these questions, it is your job today to find them and develop them.

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