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Deputy Secretary Biegun’s Remarks on the 20th Anniversary of the UN Trafficking in Persons Protocol
October 9, 2020


Thank you, Ambassador Richmond, for the introduction. Good morning or evening to everyone participating from around the world, especially our distinguished speakers.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the landmark Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons in Palermo, Italy. The Protocol stands as proof of the tremendous achievements that can be realized when the international community comes together to combat human rights abuses and promote the rule of law.

As a key step in positioning the United States to join that treaty, the U.S. Congress enacted the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. That legislation was put into force on a bipartisan basis thanks to two tireless advocates for human rights: Representative Chris Smith in the House of Representatives – a Republican; and Senator Paul Wellstone in the Senate, a Democrat. Today, I am honored to gather with you to reflect on the power of that legislation over the past 20 years and look forward to how we can build on our work in the decades ahead.

Over the past 20 years, nearly every country in the world has enacted laws to criminalize all forms of trafficking in persons. There is nearly universal agreement on the importance of implementing policies and protocols to detect, investigate, and prosecute human trafficking cases and to assist its victims. The tools are there, but we need to insist on their use. In 2019, our trafficking in persons report indicated that only 119,000 trafficking victims were identified globally, although an estimated 24.9 million victims exist.

Together, we have formed groundbreaking partnerships. I am grateful today for the presence of our co-sponsors from the governments of Sierra Leone and Peru. I look forward to hearing from Sierra Leone’s Vice President Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh and Peru’s Attorney General Dr. Zoraida Ávalos about their countries’ efforts on anti-trafficking law enforcement and in assisting trafficking victims, particularly though civil society.

Here in the United States, Secretary Pompeo chairs the President’s Interagency Task Force on human trafficking, which coordinates our government’s effort across 20 federal agencies. At the international level, we continue to expand our foreign assistance. Since 2001, the Trafficking in Persons Office has managed more than $320 million in foreign assistance funds through more than 980 awards implemented.

I am particularly pleased to share that the State Department’s Program to End Modern Slavery is making a $15 million investment to combat child sex trafficking. We are also investing $5.6 million to implement impact evaluations across anti-trafficking projects.

So, as we come together today to reflect upon the progress we have made, let us recommit ourselves to the next decade of work.

I would like to conclude with congratulating Bangladesh, Nepal, Comoros, and Brunei who are the newest countries to accede to this critically important treaty. We hope they will join us in calling on those countries that have not yet agreed to follow their example. Together, we can prevent human trafficking and hold accountable those who seek to profit from the exploitation of human beings and do all that we can to support the dignity of trafficking survivors.

Thank you.