Ambassador Hachigian Remarks
Launch of the Regional Review on Laws, Policies and Practices within ASEAN Relating to
the Identification, Management and Treatment of Victims of Trafficking Especially Women and Children
Le Meridien Hotel, Jakarta
Wednesday, September 28th, 2016
Good Morning. Let me add my welcome to my esteemed co-panelists.
Mdm. Lily Purba, Chair of the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC)
Dr. Dinna Wisnu, Representative of Indonesia to the ASEAN Inter-Governmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR)
H.E. Francisco Fontan Pardo, EU Ambassador to ASEAN
H.E. Vongthep Arthakaivalvatee, Deputy-Secretary General for ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community, ASEAN Secretariat
H.E. Amb. Dr. Sujatmiko, Deputy of Coordinating Minister for Human Development and Cultural Affairs
And to this high-powered audience.
I am honored to be with you today to celebrate the launching of the ACWC’s regional review on victims of trafficking. President Obama has called human trafficking “modern slavery.” Between 600,000 and 800,000 victims are trafficked across borders globally each year and women are disproportionately affected. He has said that “no government, no nation, can meet this challenge alone,” and asks every person and every nation to end it.
The United States is committed to abolishing slavery in all its forms, and it is very gratifying to have a partnership with ASEAN to address this complex trafficking problem. The fact that we got to work closely with our friends from the European Union in this important effort made it all the more worthwhile.
To remind us why we are all here, I want to share with you a story of a trafficking survivor that highlights the global nature of this problem and hits close to home for me. IMA MATUL was born and raised in Indonesia. When she was only a teenager, she got an offer to work in the United States. It seemed like a blessing and a wonderful opportunity for her to pursue a better life. A labor recruiter said everything would be taken care of: passport, visas, and tickets.
She promised Ima would make far more than she could earn here in Indonesia. However, when Ima arrived in my home city of Los Angeles, her dream was shattered. It turned out the labor recruiter was a trafficker. When Ima arrived at a house to work, the owner explained what was expected of her: cooking, cleaning, laundry, caring for the children, gardening, and washing the car. The house became a prison. Ima worked 18 hours a day – sometimes more – 7 days a week, no days off. She never saw a single dollar of the promised pay. She was forbidden to talk to anyone. She was physically and verbally abused daily. Ima wanted to run away, but abuse and threats about what would happen to her if she did made her too terrified to leave. She had nowhere to go, no money, and no one she could turn to.
Ima didn’t even know where she was. And unable to speak much English, she didn’t know she had any rights. After 3 years –3 whole years of her life — Ima could not take it anymore. With the abuse growing worse by the day, Ima secretly wrote a letter to the nanny next door. It took her a long time to compose that letter; she struggled writing in English and was scared she would get caught. Finally she saw an opportunity, and she gave the nanny the letter.
A few days later, her neighbor arranged Ima’s escape. They drove far from the house where she had been held captive for three years. Ima’s neighbor took her to the offices of a CSO or NGO called the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, known as CAST, in Los Angeles. CAST provided Ima with counseling, support groups, legal assistance, and job skills training. She learned to speak and write in English and joined a leadership development program offered by CAST.
Well, it turns out that Ima was a natural leader.
She now works at CAST to help the fight against trafficking, and to help other victims. Ima has become a powerful speaker and advocate for the rights of immigrant laborers in the United States. Ima’s story illustrates what we know to be true – that to effectively combat trafficking, many parts of government and non-government groups must work together. And there is no better source of advice on how best to combat trafficking than trafficking survivors themselves.
In late 2015, President Obama appointed 11 trafficking survivors to an Advisory Council to advise and make policy recommendations to the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. Ima proudly serves on the Council and a meeting earlier this year, she said, “Together, we are changing perceptions, fighting for justice, and ultimately, over the years, contributing to one shared goal—to end modern slavery everywhere it exists.”
And that, of course, is the shared goal of all of us here.
The ASEAN Convention against Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, is the manifestation of that goal and affirms at the highest levels ASEAN Member States’ commitment to an effective response to TIP. I want to offer my warm and sincere congratulations to Singapore, Cambodia and Thailand for ratifying the convention. I commend the other ASEAN member states that are making ratification a top priority, and hope it takes place soon.
I am glad that the ACWC regional Review we are releasing today will provide ASEAN Member States with information and insight to support implementation of the ACTIP in this very important area of victim identification, management and treatment. Ima’s story shows that victim support services can make all the difference in helping survivors start a new life. The Review has involved a lot of hard work from researchers, officials, and especially the representatives of the ACWC, who have released these findings into the arena of public debate at a time when the momentum from the leaders’ endorsement ACTIP is still palpable. The report highlights best practices within ASEAN member states and bilateral cooperation agreements between member states, as well as international and regional instruments and standards.
I am impressed by the level of detail in the Review and the comprehensive list of recommendations provided. I hope that ASEAN will draw upon these recommendations to further accelerate its fight against trafficking in persons. I congratulate and offer my highest respect to ACWC Representatives, particularly representatives of the ACWC TIP Advisory Group from Lao PDR, the Philippines, and Malaysia. The TIP Advisory Group gave their full-time commitment to ensure that the regional review captured the most salient available data to make the report relevant and supportive of the implementation of ACTIP.
This Review is one way the U.S. is helping with TIP but we are also focused on cultivating emerging leaders in the region. We are empowering young people with information and tools to lead in their communities on critical issues, including the fight against trafficking. President Obama’s Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative has addressed trafficking specifically through dedicated workshops and outreach programs. We also partner with the International Organization for Migration to support safe migration through an innovative communications campaign that targets persons vulnerable to trafficking. The campaign also challenges social attitudes in destination countries that drive demand for goods and services produced by trafficked labor. Also, as announced by President Obama at the ASEAN-U.S. Summit on September 8, the United States, through USAID, will commit $21.5 million for a five-year regional Counter Trafficking in Persons program to combat trafficking in persons in Asia. The activity will focus on strengthening cross-border collaboration between source, transit, and destination countries. It will leverage the private sector to reduce human trafficking in global supply chains, and support improved research and data collection to ensure human trafficking interventions are targeted and effective.
During the rest of this Administration and beyond, the United States will remain a strong global advocate for increased international cooperation and responsibility-sharing on migration and human-trafficking challenges including the surge in people risking their lives on the high seas. We will continue to raise this issue at the highest levels. At the East Asia Summit (EAS) early this month, the region’s leaders responded to President Obama’s call for better cooperation by endorsing the EAS Leaders’ “Declaration on Strengthening Responses to Migrants in Crisis and Trafficking in Persons,” sponsored by the U.S., Myanmar and the Philippines.
I understand there will be a high-level discussion among relevant ASEAN bodies to provide representatives the opportunity to comment and discuss the Regional Review. I hope you have an enlightening substantive exchange and hope you continue open dialogue and debate on this most important of topics. Because when all of the ASEAN bodies represented here today remain in joint dialogue and joint action, then the Convention will achieve its highest potential. I can commit to you today that the United States will continue to support these cross-sectoral efforts against the terrible scourge of human trafficking in whatever way we can.
We look forward to working with you in partnership in the months and years to come. Thank you!