Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and welcome to Minister Kanerva, and to everyone who has joined us this morning.
Minister, I appreciate your commitment as Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE to keep the fight against human trafficking at the top of the OSCE’s agenda. Recently I was appointed the OSCE PA President’s Special Representative on Human Trafficking, and so I look forward to working with you on this issue.
The OSCE countries have made a lot of progress in the fight against trafficking. Many of them have passed national legislation and created national programs of action, above all for helping the victims of trafficking. But much remains to be done: each year within the OSCE region between one and two hundred thousand people are trafficked in the OSCE region. We cannot accept this!
So I welcome the energy your country, Finland, has brought to the fight against trafficking, especially its stress on prevention as well as its attention to child victims. In this regard, I understand that Finland plans to convene a series of meetings later this year on human trafficking. I would like to suggest that the OSCE put a more sustained focus on the sexual exploitation of children through trafficking, sex tourism and child pornography. The nature of these heinous crimes against children demands concerted cooperation and action on the part of the OSCE countries.
As you may know, my good friends Senator Ben Cardin and Representative Alcee Hastings and I used this Commission as a forum to lead a bipartisan effort to raise the issue of human trafficking. This Commission held its first hearing on trafficking in June 1999, and I vividly recall the dismissive attitudes so many took at that time. Irrefutable evidence of the prevalence of this horrible crime has since convinced the doubters.
The result of those efforts was that we passed three major pieces of trafficking legislation – The Trafficking Victim’s Protection Act of 2000 and the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Acts of 2003 and 2005, while another reauthorization has passed the House and is awaiting action in the United States Senate.
So this Commission has a great history of achievement in the fight against trafficking, and I thank Representative Hastings for maintaining that focus, both on the Commission and as one of the things this Commission brings to the OSCE.
I also want to stress the importance of keeping the OSCE sharply focused on anti-Semitism—one of the most persistent evils in the OSCE region.
Also as a result of hearings held by this Commission, my good friends and I convinced the OSCE to take up the fight against anti-Semitism. We held annual conferences, and the OSCE States made commitments in fact-gathering and education that should make a real difference in the fight against anti-Semitism.
But two weeks ago, at a hearing called by my good friend Mr. Hastings, we learned that many OSCE countries have not followed through. Within the OSCE, when it comes to the fight against the pernicious hate of anti-Semitism, human rights fatigue and indifference is all too apparent. I saw it myself at the OSCE conference in Bucharest last June.
I appeal to you, in your term as Chairman-in-Office, not to allow the OSCE to give in to this fatigue and indifference! Anti-Semitism remains what it has always been, a unique evil, a distinct form of intolerance, the oldest form of religious bigotry, and a malignant disease of the heart that has often led to murder. It continues to threaten our Jewish brothers and sisters, and so the OSCE must redouble its efforts in the fight against the scourge of anti-Semitism.