State Department Announces Bold Next Steps at the 2018 Meeting of the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons

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A woman picks cotton as part of the annual harvest in Uzbekistan. Many rural women serve as voluntary cotton pickers to supplement their income; however, government-compelled forced labor in the annual cotton harvest remains common in Central Asia. Photo

State Department Announces Bold Next Steps at the 2018 Meeting of the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons

Today, I was honored to join Secretary Pompeo as he chaired this Administration’s first meeting of the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (PITF) in the historic Indian Treaty Room at the White House.

As the meeting opened, the Secretary presented this year’s Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons to two distinguished anti-trafficking leaders: Ms. Minal Patel Davis, who serves as the Chair of the Houston Area Council on Human Trafficking and the Houston Mayor’s Special Advisor on Human Trafficking, and Mr. William C. Woolf III, who served his country for more than 15 years as a law enforcement officer and now leads an organization that empowers and raises awareness among youth. Their years of dedication and combined expertise were inspirational and provided us all a shining example of how individuals can have an extraordinary impact in local communities and in people’s lives.

President Trump and senior White House officials’ participation in the ceremony underscored this Administration’s unwavering commitment to combating this crime.

After the ceremony, Secretary Pompeo invited his fellow Cabinet members and other senior Administration officials to share the important achievements of their agencies and plans to chart a strong course forward to demonstrate the U.S. government’s dedication to eliminating modern slavery through meaningful action. 

We also had the honor of meeting members of the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking, whom the President appointed in March of this year, and hearing about the Council’s priorities for this term. The U.S. Advisory Council continues to serve as an invaluable partner in the U.S. government’s fight to combat human trafficking, ensuring agencies develop the most effective anti-trafficking strategies by incorporating survivor input.

Secretary Pompeo shared several Department of State initiatives at the meeting that reflect the central importance of our partnerships with civil society, the private sector, and most importantly, survivors of trafficking. For example, if not for the idea and persistence of the National Survivor Network, a coalition of more than 200 trafficking survivors from across the United States, to create a video on the legal rights and available resources for those applying for employment- or education-based nonimmigrant visas in consular waiting rooms, the Department of State would not be in a position to release later this month a new video that is understandable and accessible to its target audience.

To solidify survivor engagement as a central tenet of the Department’s anti-trafficking efforts and to incorporate survivor input meaningfully into our work while compensating them for their expertise, the Department awarded a new contract to develop a groundbreaking initiative, called the Human Trafficking Expert Consultant Network. This network will include survivors of trafficking, as well as other subject matter experts, to inform our anti-trafficking efforts and enhance our bilateral and multilateral engagement, foreign assistance programs, and interagency policy work.  

Further highlighting how indispensable our partners in the anti-trafficking field are in leading innovative solutions to combating this crime, earlier this month the Department awarded a second $25 million to the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery and the University of Georgia Research Foundation as part of our Program to End Modern Slavery. Made possible by Congressional leadership and funding, this U.S. foreign assistance program aims to support programs that seek to achieve a measurable reduction of modern slavery in specific countries or regions. Our ongoing hope is for this program to inspire other governments and private donors to contribute their own resources toward the shared goal of eradicating modern slavery in all its forms. This global scourge truly requires global partnership and serious resources to end it.

While the Department places great importance on supporting our foreign counterparts’ anti-trafficking policies and programs, we are also looking at what more we can do at home. For this reason, the Department will expand its Domestic Worker In-person Registration Program to two new cities in 2019. The Department developed this program to enhance protection and oversight of foreign domestic workers employed by foreign diplomatic mission and international organization personnel.

These initiatives only mark the State Department’s next key milestones. The world still has a challenging path ahead toward eliminating this crime. With the help of key partners, like this year’s Presidential Award recipients, the U.S. Advisory Council, and our partners in the field, we can win this fight against modern slavery.

About the Author: Kari Johnstone serves as Acting Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

Editor's Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State's publication on Medium.