The International Labor Organization estimates that 21 million men, women, and children are in forced labor, the eradication of which is one of the great moral causes of our time. President Obama is committed to America remaining a leader in the global movement to end this terrible practice. That is why he proclaimed January 2016 National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month to encourage efforts to assist victims and combat human trafficking in all its forms.
This week, the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons gathered for its annual meeting to discuss the coordination of federal resources to strengthen our nation’s ability to combat human trafficking.
The Department of Labor is one of the 14 departments and agencies on the task force, and I was proud to represent the department at this meeting. We do important work to fight trafficking both here at home and overseas. One of our key initiatives on the international stage is the “Bridge Project (From Protocol to Practice: Building a Bridge to Global Action on Forced Labor).”
The Bureau of International Labor Affairs will award approximately $12 million over the next four years to fund the Bridge Project. The project was developed in close partnership with the International Labor Organization to implement the ILO’s new protocol and its supporting recommendation regarding Convention 29 on Forced Labor, which aim to advance forced labor prevention, protection and compensation measures around the world. The project will help raise awareness globally; invest in data collection to more accurately measure the problem around the world; implement measures to protect victims of forced labor and to provide them with access to remediation; and develop pilot projects in select priority countries, including Mauritania, Nepal and Peru. These pilot countries will serve as models for action we can take in other countries.
As the international community works to eradicate human trafficking, we know that the private sector is a key partner in any multi-stakeholder initiative. The Bridge Project will strengthen supply chain monitoring and law enforcement training and support a global supply chain summit focused on the role of business to address forced labor and prevent human trafficking.
At the Department of Labor, the Bridge Project is just one of many important steps we are taking to ensure that all people have the opportunity to reach their full potential.
Chris Lu is the deputy secretary of labor.