Opening Statement of the U.S. Delegation to the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children Supplementing the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime
Vienna, Austria, January 18, 2000

Thank you Madam Chair:

As we begin our negotiating session here in Vienna on the UN Protocol Against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children associated with the UN Convention Against Transnational Crime, the United States wants to reaffirm its unwavering commitment to combating trafficking, a modern day form of slavery.

With this protocol we are addressing a terrible problem that our countries share --modern-day slavery that manifests itself as trafficking in persons, especially women and children. We believe that we have a historic opportunity now to agree upon an unprecedented instrument of international cooperation that will give us the tools we need to be tough on traffickers and protect trafficking victims.

This organized crime agreement targets the full range of severe forms of trafficking in persons--those which are coercive--whether they arise in the sex industry or in any other form, including domestic servitude, bonded sweatshops, and other forced labor. If we can reach agreement to stand united to fight together against this broad scope of trafficking--truly among the most heinous crimes that human beings inflict upon one another--it will be a remarkable achievement. What we are trying to do here has never been done before. We must not lose this opportunity.

The United States continues to support and enforce laws and policies to end prostitution in all of its forms. The exploitation of the prostitution of others is an offense against human dignity. At an appropriate time we will propose language to be included in the text of the Protocol, calling on states to take appropriate measures to discourage prostitution, including efforts aimed at combating the root causes of prostitution such as poverty, and encouraging them to provide women with economic alternatives so that they do not return to prostitution as a result of poverty. In addition, we support, as do the vast majority of delegations, including in this Protocol, a savings clause that makes it clear that nothing in the Protocol affects the rights, obligations, and responsibilities of states and individuals under international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

Right now, we have an unique opportunity to demonstrate to traffickers that the nations of the world are united against trafficking. We must not lose this opportunity.

We are interested in hearing the views of other delegations as the negotiations proceed. We intend to offer additional language at an appropriate time reflecting the views we have expressed.

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