Ambassador Bernstein’s remarks at Virtual Trafficking in Persons Conference

Ambassador Robin S. Bernstein Remarks at

Virtual Trafficking in Persons Conference

Thursday, July 30, 2020 at 9:00 a.m.


¡Buenos días! Estoy muy feliz de estar aquí con ustedes desde mi casa en la hermosa República Dominicana este Día Mundial contra la Trata para hablar de un tema muy cerca de mi corazón.

We find ourselves in a very different global scenario than when we came together this time last year. Many of our countries are grappling with the reality of daily increases of COVID-19 cases and deaths as well as continued quarantine and curfew measures to mitigate the spread of the virus. This new reality has impacted each of us in different ways, but it has particularly affected the world’s most vulnerable, making them – among other things – more susceptible to human trafficking. Measures we are taking to curb the spread of COVID-19 globally, like social distancing, have also pushed those already in captivity with aggressors further out of reach of life saving assistance. Our changing patterns of human interaction have also encouraged traffickers to change their methods and increase online exploitation. Now more than ever, we must fortify our efforts to prevent human trafficking, prosecute perpetrators, and protect victims of this heinous crime. That is why I am grateful to the International Association of Women Judges, all the event organizers, and each of you for taking the time to participate in this conference to share best practices at a most critical time.

Last month, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released the twentieth annual Trafficking in Persons Report. As many of you know, the report assesses what governments around the world are doing to combat trafficking in persons in line with international standards. I believe one of the most important sections of each country report is the recommendations. The recommendations provide us with a pathway to improve the situation for so many vulnerable people within our borders. The 2020 report, recommends the United States, the Dominican Republic, and countries around the world increase their investigations of forced labor. From my own time on the Palm Beach County Florida Trafficking in Persons Task Force, I can attest that much of our work focused on stopping sexual exploitation networks. Yet, a 2017 report from the International Labor Organization tells us that labor exploitation makes up the majority, 64 percent, of all global trafficking. I am glad that this two-day conference will have multiple sessions focused on this important, but at times neglected, aspect of human trafficking.

What we are facing is a transnational crime that requires global partnership. To this end, the U.S. government not only produces an annual report, but also implements programs with countries around the world in an effort to stop human trafficking. In the Dominican Republic, the United States currently invests more than $1.8 million dollars to support the Dominican fight against trafficking in persons. This year’s Trafficking in Persons Report downgraded the Dominican Republic’s ranking to Tier 2 Watch List. Since this announcement, I have had encouraging conversations with the current Dominican government and incoming leadership on ways to improve its fight against trafficking. The U.S. Embassy looks forward to working with the incoming administration of president-elect Luis Abinader to increase investigations of both labor and sex trafficking, improve protections for victims, and strengthen government institutions, including the Attorney General’s Office, to combat trafficking. We will also continue the partnership with UNODC, the Dominican government, and civil society actors to ensure the new draft trafficking in persons law is passed and implemented.

In these increasingly challenging times, the United States remains steadfast in our partnerships across our region and world to protect the most vulnerable.

Espero que aprendan mucho a lo largo de esta conferencia para apoyar su lucha contra la trata de personas. Juntos, seguiremos mostrando que siempre logramos más cuando estamos unidos.