On January 1 in the United States, we marked the 150th anniversary of the date President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring that millions of men, women, and children held in slavery were forever free. A century and a half later, President Obama said that through the Proclamation, Lincoln "reaffirmed the commitment of the United States to the enduring cause of freedom. Then as now, we remain steadfast in our resolve to see that all men, women, and children have the opportunity to realize this greatest of gifts."
Yet we are still a long way from achieving the vision of a world free from all contemporaneous forms of slavery. As many as 27 million people are victims of modern-day slavery, also known as trafficking in persons. This crime appears in many ways. It could be the abuse of domestic workers trapped in their employers’ homes or the enslavement of a man on a fishing boat. It could be the prostitution of a young girl in a brothel or the compelled service of a boy as a child soldier.
Whatever form it takes, at its core human trafficking is a crime of exploitation that robs its victims of their freedom and dignity. Modern slavery occurs in every country in the world, and every government has a responsibility to respond to it. Ireland’s own authorities are working hard to confront the trafficking problems which exist here, and the excellent cooperation of US and Irish authorities in this field is important to combat this global phenomena.
The Obama Administration is committed to fighting modern slavery at home and around the world using the “3P” approach—prosecuting traffickers, protecting their victims, and preventing this crime in the future. We're also eager to partner with governments – like that of Ireland - that take this problem seriously, and we are working with stakeholders in civil society, the faith community, and the private sector, which all bring unique capabilities and expertise to this struggle.
A major part of our work is raising awareness about this issue and promoting greater activism in finding, stopping, and preventing this crime.
I recommend an excellent film Journey to Freedom produced through a partnership between the State Department and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio which explores the present day reality. It can be viewed online at www.state.gov/j/tip. Take the time to see how this problem affects all of our communities today.
After all, it’s going to take all of us--learning how to identify this crime, knowing what to do when we see it, and preventing it from harming our communities - if we’re going to succeed in the fight against modern slavery. And this struggle deserves nothing less than our full support. As President Obama said, the “fight against human trafficking is one of the great human rights causes of our time.” The United States remains committed to this work, and we are glad to have Ireland as a partner in this effort.
John Hennessey-Niland is Chargé d’affaires of the Embassy of the United States in Dublin