This year’s Trafficking in Persons Report sends a strong message to the world that global crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and enduring discriminatory policies and practices, have a disproportionate effect on individuals already oppressed by other injustices. These challenges further compound existing vulnerabilities to exploitation, including human trafficking. We must break this inhumane cycle of discrimination and injustices if we hope to one day eliminate human trafficking.
The U.S. Department of State strives to advance around the world the security, prosperity, and values that U.S. citizens share. We know recent events have led our country to grapple with unequal treatment and racism here at home that has reverberated around the world. As a government and society, we strive to correct past wrongs and advance racial equity in the United States and abroad. We commit to bringing this dedication to our efforts to fight human trafficking as well. We will seek to use our year-round engagement with governments, advocates, and the private sector to build a more effective anti-trafficking strategy rooted in equity. This must include coming to terms with our role in having perpetuated violence and dehumanized people, and we must work to right these past wrongs.
Systemic discrimination creates inequities between communities, whether the discrimination targets perceptions of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity, or any other social identities. It manifests in societal exclusion and prejudices against those communities, which help perpetuate an imbalance of opportunity and support. These inequities undercut our goal of combating human trafficking and embolden traffickers. We have seen, for instance, how deeply held racial biases and stereotypes inappropriately influence outcomes for those in our criminal justice system as they lead to racially disparate assumptions about who is identified as a trafficker and who is identified as a victim. This is not a new truth, but it is a somber, unacceptable reality.
Through this report, we call on governments to join the United States in improving our collective efforts to comprehensively address human trafficking. Doing so requires us to mitigate harmful practices and policies that cause socioeconomic or political vulnerabilities that traffickers often prey on. Part of this work requires us to acknowledge we will never be able to understand the full scope of what is needed without the expertise of those affected by systemic inequality. Representation and diversity of experience and thought matter. Therefore governments, including the United States, must foster an inclusive environment that allows for a thriving, diverse workforce at all levels.
I have said before, building a “more perfect union” is both an acknowledgement of our imperfection and a commitment to continue striving toward progress in a transparent way. I believe that is true here. I look forward to the work ahead, knowing there is much still to accomplish, and we will be more successful when we work together to achieve the goals of combating human trafficking and creating a more fair, equitable world.