UN Human Rights Council – 12th Session
Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
Delivered by Kristen McGeeney
Geneva, September 15, 2009
Thank you, Mr. President. We thank the Special Rapporteurs for presenting their reports and applaud their efforts over the last year. Our remarks today will focus on the SR on contemporary forms of slavery.
We are pleased to see in Ms. Shahinian’s report that she is working with other Special Rapporteurs to develop a work plan and schedule to ensure complementarity, in conjunction with the relevant UN agencies, human rights mechanisms and NGOs. We look forward to hearing about the substance of this work plan.
Forced labor, including bonded labor, is an egregious human rights violation. The U.S. recognizes that vulnerable populations –including women and children, indigenous groups, minorities, and migrant laborers – may become victims of forced labor when exposed to exploitative labor conditions or unfair labor practices.
The U.S. uses a number of legislative tools to fight forced labor, including Involuntary Servitude and Slavery laws dating to the mid-1800s; the Tariff Act of 1930, which prohibits the importation into the U.S. of any goods made with forced labor or compulsory prison labor; and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000, as amended, which updates federal criminal statutes; provides protections for victims of trafficking (including victims of forced labor); and calls for reporting on all forms of trafficking (including for the purpose of forced labor).
Additionally, all recent Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) include eradication of forced labor as one of the core labor standards that need to be effectively enforced in trade-related sectors. Nations also need to be “taking steps” to afford protections against forced labor to receive GSP, AGOA, Caribbean Basin Trade Preference Act (CBTPA), and Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA) benefits.
In its annual Country Report on Human Rights Practices and annual Trafficking in Persons Report, the U.S. calls attention to the problem of forced labor in numerous countries. In addition, on September 10th, the U.S. released three reports on child labor and/or forced labor in countries around the globe. These include the initial “List of Goods Produced by Child or Forced Labor” required by the TVPA; a proposed update to the “List of Products Produced by Forced or Indentured Child Labor” pursuant to Executive Order 13126 of 1999; and the eighth annual “Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor: as mandated by the Trade and Development Act of 2000.” Through publication of the TVPA list, the U.S. is informing the public about 122 types of goods from 58 countries that are believed to be produced by forced labor, child labor, or both, in violation of international standards.
As Secretary Clinton has stated, “Human trafficking flourishes in the shadows and demands attention, commitment, and passion from all of us. We are determined to build on our past success and advance progress in the weeks, months, and years ahead. Together, we must hold a light to every corner of the globe and help build a world in which no one is enslaved.” We encourage all Nations to combat such exploitation, whether victims have been moved across borders or are held in bondage in their own communities.
Thank you for the floor, Madam/Mr. Chair.