THE United States Embassy on Friday night held a reception at the residence of Ambassador Brent Hardt and Mrs. Hardt which commemorated the sesquicentennial of the abolition of chattel slavery in the United States. The reception highlighted the continuing American promise of freedom from involuntary servitude and slavery, now often described under the umbrella term of “human trafficking.” September 22 marks the 150th anniversary of the date on which President Lincoln
issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. This, together with a final executive order on January 1, 1863, and the 13th Amendment to the Constitution three years later, formally freed slaves in the United States.
In remarks to the gathering on Friday night, US Ambassador, Brent Hardt said that because freedom is core aspiration of all democracies, all democratic nations face the challenge of ensuring that all their people enjoy liberty.
He added that Foreign Secretary Hillary Clinton reminds us that, unfortunately, slavery has not been completely eliminated, but exists in its modern guise of illicit trafficking of persons and the victims of modern day slavery – human trafficking – are citizens of our nations who are denied their liberties and their human dignity.
The Diplomat said: “And tonight, we commemorate the historic abolition of slavery by calling attention to the ongoing need to deliver the promise of freedom of those suffering under the modern-day slavery of “trafficking in persons. To understand the historic roots of this challenge and its modern day scope, we are pleased to present Friday evening a video developed by the Department of State’s Office to Prevent Trafficking in Persons and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Centre in Cincinnati. The film traces the history of involuntary servitude from the plantations of the antebellum south to the sweatshops and brothels, farms and fishing boats of today, where egregious forms of human exploitations continue.”
Hardt stated that modern day slavery – “trafficking in persons” – captures a range of criminal actions by which one individual obtains or holds a person in compelled service – essentially any form of enslavement, entrapment and coercion that is used to victimize a fellow human being and this includes forced labour, sex trafficking, or any prostitution of a minor.
He pointed out that to meet the challenge posed by these criminal actions, countries around the world, including Guyana, have enacted laws and adopted international instruments to end slavery as a legal institution and to eliminate it as a criminal practice.
The US Ambassador added that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude and more recently, the United States’ Palermo Protocol had made the abolition of modern-day slavery a part of international law and a policy-making priority. Through these commitments, governments across the globe have signaled their unity in this struggle.
Hardt said that United States TIP efforts have been built around the so-called “3P” paradigm of prevention, protection, and prosecution and the Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons employs diplomatic, economic, political, legal and cultural tools of partnership to advance global progress in preventing, protecting victims, and prosecuting perpetrators of modern day slavery.
The Diplomat noted that in fact, the US believes that partnership is the only way to successfully prevent and liberate trafficking victims.
Hardt said: “That is why our Embassy has been working with the government of Guyana and civil society organisations here to develop coordinated strategies to address to trafficking in Persons and assist trafficking victims. Earlier this year, we arranged a digital video conference on TIP and held a productive exchange between leaders of Guyana’s TIP Task Force and our Embassy for Combating TIP that helped align our perspectives and chart a path to closer cooperation. In February, the government of Guyana and the Embassy collaborated to organize a comprehensive stakeholder meeting to address TIP awareness, investigation and prosecution that included workshops facilitated by the U.S. Department of Justice.”
He added that and, yesterday they held a TIP roundtable in Bartica in collaboration with the Regional Democratic Council of Region Seven to foster understanding of the scope of the problem in that region and to explore ways to strengthen efforts to combat TIP there.
Hardt disclosed that 28 participants, including representatives from Help and Shelter, Red Thread, the Guyana Women Miners Association, the Bartica Police, Toshaos, the Department of Education, The Guyana red Cross, and the Hope Foundation, came up with several thoughtful recommendations to boost anti-TIP efforts including the establishment of a Bartica safe house or shelter for trafficking victims, a locally hired child protection officer, temporary guardianship mechanisms to support victims, decentralized response networks with access to discretionary funding, procedures to make the transportation industry an ally in preventing trafficking and more.
He stated that Embassy officers encouraged Bartica stakeholders to continue meeting to strengthen the partnerships needed to combat the criminal networks that perpetuate TIP.
The US Ambassador added that in fact, collaboration, sharing of information and openness to best practices are vital to the success of national and global to combat TIP, as it is a phenomenon that respects no boundaries and requires a coordinated response.
He said, “I should also point out that the media also plays a vital role in building public awareness of TIP by giving voice to the voiceless and in recognizing the bravery, and persistence of civil society partners to rescue victims from abusive conditions.”
Hardt noted that despite the adoption of treaties and laws prohibiting slavery and all of the efforts made by governments and dedicated individuals worldwide, the sad fact is that many men, women and children continue to live in conditions of modern-day slavery, as was seen in the compelling film on Friday night that traced the life of modern day slavery survivor and 2012 TIP Report Hero, Prum Vannak, who was held in forced labour for three years on a fishing boat.