Welcome to this Helsinki Commission hearing on “OSCE Efforts to Combat Human Trafficking: Outlook and Opportunities.” The Helsinki Commission has been an instrumental component in the leadership of United States Government efforts to combat human trafficking. Our Members have a strong history of contributions to the inception of U.S. anti-trafficking legislation and compliance. This coupled with close engagement with actors throughout the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) region on trafficking issues, have served to meet our human rights commitments within the Helsinki Final Act of 1975.
I last convened a hearing on human trafficking as Chairman of the Helsinki Commission in July 2010 when we commemorated “A Decade of the Trafficking in Persons Report.” This was the last time the Commission hosted Dr. Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, OSCE Special Representative and Coordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings. Much has changed in a short time since 2010 in terms of global awareness of the scourge of modern-day slavery, but also the sophistication of the methods employed by traffickers to exploit the vulnerable. Countless men, women, and children have faced the brutality of trafficking first-hand, aside from the social and economic costs that extend beyond their captivity. We must remain resolute in demanding immediate action from governments around the globe to support civil society efforts and ensure swift punishment of traffickers to interrupt this violent cycle of exploitation. OSCE initiatives are helping us take this action.
We are honored to be joined today by Dr. Giammarinaro. Since her last appearance before the Helsinki Commission, she was honored as a 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report Hero by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and traveled extensively to contribute her expertise and leadership around the globe. We are honored to have an opportunity for a candid discussion about the accomplishments during her tenure and how the OSCE has risen to the challenge by facing the evolving methodologies of traffickers with innovative research, country visits, and regional trainings. We look forward to examining the outlook for the initiatives of her office, including the prospect of an addendum to the 2003 OSCE Action Plan on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, as well as guidelines for OSCE cooperation with Partners for Cooperation in the Mediterranean and Asia.
I see this hearing as an opportunity to examine not only the OSCE’s institutional development on human trafficking, but to reflect on how the U.S. Government can make a greater commitment to ending modern-day slavery. President Obama’s reported substantial progress earlier this year in improving cooperation to prosecute traffickers and deliver life-saving services to victims. Additionally, the President signed an Executive Order last September to protect against trafficking in persons in federal contracts. We still have a long way to go and there are many more opportunities for partnership. We look to you, Dr. Giammarinaro, for recommendations regarding how we can be even more active in overall OSCE efforts to end human trafficking. Thank you for taking the time to join us.