President Obama recently wrote, "We stand with all those who are held in compelled service; we recognize the people, organizations and government entities that are working to combat human trafficking; and we recommit to bringing an end to this inexcusable human rights abuse."
In the United States, we make an annual effort to document and work to combat modern slavery and human trafficking worldwide through the release of the State Department Trafficking in Persons Report, which was released Monday, including the country narrative for Lebanon.
The U.S. government considers trafficking in persons to include the conduct involved in reducing a person to/or maintaining a person in a state of compelled service for labor or commercial sexual exploitation.
While nearly 150 countries are now party to the U.N. Trafficking in Persons Protocol, estimates tell us that up to 27 million men, women and children worldwide may be victims of trafficking in persons.
All governments have a responsibility to prevent trafficking, protect those who have been abused, and punish abusers. That's why, throughout the year, we focus our efforts not only to confront this crime within our borders, but also to partner with governments around the world as they work to eradicate modern slavery. No country is untouched by this crime, and Lebanon is no exception. The U.S. will continue working with the Lebanese government and civil society to move forward in this struggle.
As we reiterate the importance of this issue as part of our foreign policy, we are optimistic based upon indications of change in Lebanon. The Lebanese government and civil society have taken important steps toward dealing with trafficking in persons.
In August 2011, the Lebanese government approved Law 164, which broadens the definition of individuals that are considered victims of trafficking. Alongside the efforts by the government, civil society has become increasingly engaged, and non-governmental organizations and grassroots movements are starting campaigns to raise awareness about human trafficking. Laws prohibiting trafficking are not useful if the society isn't made aware that a problem exists.
Nearly 130 countries have enacted anti-trafficking laws consistent with the Palermo Protocol, which established the victim-centered 3P Paradigm -- prevention, protection, prosecution -- as a model for fighting trafficking. Moving forward, the fourth P, partnerships -- particularly partnerships among governments -- will add to the global momentum to combat this scourge.
Such partnerships will allow us and other governments, including Lebanon, to share innovations and promising practices that are succeeding in stopping traffickers and protecting survivors. They allow cooperation to trace transnational trafficking from source to destination, and to crack down on perpetrators in both sending and receiving countries.
Efforts to combat trafficking in persons cannot be a "one size fits all" approach, as the nature and extent of trafficking varies from country to country. However, it is important for countries to share information and determine the best and most effective methods.
As governments work to stop this crime within their own borders, partnerships can improve information flows and promote an honest understanding of modern slavery, knowledge that is reflected in the country narratives that constitute the U.S. government's annual Trafficking in Persons Report.
The report assesses nearly every government in the world on its progress fighting trafficking in persons based on a set of benchmarks that are generally consistent with the framework for combating trafficking established in the Palermo Protocol. And while some governments meet those benchmarks and some do not, what the report ultimately tells us is that all governments -- including our own -- need to do more.
As we in the U.S. consider how our own government can improve the way it responds to modern slavery, we call on other governments to take the next steps in this struggle as well.
We encourage the Lebanese government to implement its new anti-trafficking law by moving forward with the adoption of implementing regulations for Law 164, currently under consideration by the Cabinet; investigating and prosecuting trafficking offenses, and convicting and punishing trafficking offenders; enacting the labor law amendment extending legal protections to foreign and domestic workers to limit their vulnerability; and enforcing the law that allows foreign migrant workers to keep their passports, or to re-examine the 'artiste' visa program, which is often used by people trafficking women into the sex trade.
On a societal and governmental level, we encourage Lebanon to strive for better treatment of workers who report violations. Often, workers who report problems are detained and arrested for violating immigration laws, thus discouraging the reporting of abuses. In an ideal world, foreign workers should never have to face abuse and mistreatment at the hands of their employers.
As we work to strengthen our own ability to meet this challenge, the U.S. stands ready to work with governments around the world to punish those who prey on the most vulnerable and to make freedom's promise a reality for all those who have been victimized.
Richard M. Mills, Jr., is the Charge d'Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut.
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