Ambassador Callista L. Gingrich
“Combatting Human Trafficking: Action in a Time of Crisis” Symposium
International Union of Superiors General (UISG)
October 14, 2020
Your Eminence, Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, and friends – good morning and welcome!
I’d to thank Sister Pat Murray and UISG for your support and collaboration today.
I would also like to thank Ambassador John Cotton Richmond for his participation by video.
Ambassador Richmond serves as the U.S. Ambassador at Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
I would also like to thank our colleagues from the Holy See who are with us this morning. We are grateful to his His Eminence, Cardinal Michael Czerny, for offering closing remarks.
Finally, I would like to thank our moderator, Barbie Nadeau, and our distinguished group of panelists for their participation.
The scourge of human trafficking is a stain on all of humanity. It invades borders, destroys communities, and robs millions of their human dignity.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, human traffickers continue to prey upon the most vulnerable.
Unlike other industries, human trafficking is impervious to our current health crisis. In fact, in many communities, exploitation, abuse, and modern slavery are on the rise.
Countless victims, especially women and children, face growing threats.
As the economic fallout of this pandemic continues, additional men, women, and children are likely to become victims of forced labor and sex trafficking.
Confronted with this great challenge, we must increase our efforts in the fight against human trafficking.
President Trump and the United States Government are committed to protecting trafficking victims, prosecuting traffickers, and ending modern slavery.
On September 21 Attorney General William Barr announced that the U.S. Justice Department will provide more than $100 million dollars in grants to combat human trafficking.
This money will go to special task forces working to defeat traffickers, support research and evaluation, and to provide services and housing to victims.
Combatting the global evil of human trafficking is a top priority for our embassy, and a cornerstone of our relationship with the Holy See.
Governments, however, cannot act alone. Human trafficking is a global crisis and requires global solutions – across all sectors of society.
Indeed, faith-based organizations, are among some of our best partners in this endeavor, at home and abroad.
The U.S. Embassy to the Holy See is honored to promote and support the courageous work of Catholic sisters. Our grants have funded anti-trafficking programs for women religious around the world.
We applaud the work of Talitha Kum — a global organization, led by Sister Gabriella Bottani and comprised of over 2,000 Catholic sisters in 92 countries – all working to eradicate human trafficking.
Faith-based organizations like Talitha Kum labor tirelessly to save men, women, and children from horrific fates.
They are also key partners for law enforcement, braving the omnipresent threat of criminal and terrorist organizations that profit from this global crime.
Our symposium comes at a historic moment in the fight against human trafficking.
First, 2020 marks the 20th anniversary of the United States’ Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
This act, signed into law on October 28, 2000, established the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons – our country’s first office solely dedicated to combating all forms of human trafficking.
This act also mandates an annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which has become a critical tool of U.S. diplomacy.
2020 also marks the 20th anniversary of the Palermo Protocol, adopted by the United Nations on November 15, 2000, as a multilateral tool to prevent, suppress, and punish trafficking in persons.
Today, 178 countries are signatories to this Protocol, making it one of the most widely adopted international accords in history.
I look forward to our discussion and hope each of us will leave this symposium with renewed dedication and resolve to eradicate human trafficking.
Together we can save lives and end this horrific injustice.