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Eliminating Human Trafficking Has Long Been A Priority for the United States
June 25, 2012


Clustered Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights and the Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children

Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America

Human Rights Council 20th Session
June 25, 2012

Thank you, Madame President.

Eliminating human trafficking has long been a priority for the United States. At home, we are establishing innovative multi-agency task forces to investigate and prosecute high-impact trafficking cases. We are supporting victims through comprehensive service provision, and we are training government employees at the federal, state, and local levels. Abroad, our diplomats, law enforcement and development experts are building awareness, providing technical support, and working to enhance transnational cooperation.

At President Obama’s direction, we have intensified these efforts since the most recent meeting, in March, of our Cabinet-level Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. For example, the United States is expanding its partnerships with civil society and the private sector; intensifying bilateral engagement with other governments; and continuing to pursue multilateral anti-trafficking initiatives. The U.S. government’s key objectives in international settings are to advance global efforts to implement the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, or Palermo Protocol; to promote a victim-centered approach that includes a strong law enforcement response; and to develop effective responses to factors that create demand for the services or goods produced with the labor of exploited persons.

The United States thanks Special Rapporteur Joy Ngozi Ezeilo for her excellent work concerning trafficking in persons during her tenure. We commend her for focusing her report for this session on the administration of criminal justice in cases of trafficking in persons. The report addresses several important aspects of this topic, such as non-criminalization of trafficked persons, cooperation between criminal justice agencies and victim support agencies, and seizure of traffickers’ assets.

The United States would like to comment on some recommendations contained in the main report, as well as the report on the July 4, 2011 expert group meeting on this subject, which was convened to inform the main report.

Paragraph 65 of the expert group meeting report observes that prosecuting trafficking cases is resource intensive, and recommends focusing on “inexpensive measures designed to protect and empower victims of all crimes.” Measures would ideally be inexpensive, but above all must be effective in helping those subjected to trafficking. Therefore, we would have preferred a recommendation referring to “cost effective measures that would protect and empower victims of all trafficking crimes.”

Regarding paragraph 67 of the expert group meeting report, we would emphasize that the Palermo Protocol contains the internationally agreed definition of trafficking in persons and that definition needs to guide member states in their development of legislation to criminalize trafficking in persons. While we have no objection to paragraph 67’s references to aspects of definitions found in other instruments, we believe that the centrality of the Palermo definition, about which there is an international consensus, should have been highlighted and made clear. Saying that Palermo is “instructive” risks understating and thereby undermining its centrality to the criminalization of trafficking in persons.

Paragraph 95 of the main report, as well as paragraph 72 of the expert group meeting report, recommends adopting memorandums of understanding to facilitate interagency cooperation among the various government and victim support agencies in each country. The United States thinks that each member state is best positioned to decide what mechanisms work best to promote internal cooperation. MOUs may or may not be useful for particular nations at any given time. For example, there are ongoing working relationships within U.S. government agencies on a wide range of issues that have implications for trafficking in persons, and those arrangements are currently most effective for us. Therefore, we suggest that the last sentence of the expert group report should have been phrased as follows: “In order to promote strong cooperation, States should clarify, as appropriate, the mandates, priorities and roles of various agencies involved in anti-trafficking efforts; share information to develop effective policies and avoid duplication of efforts; and foster partnerships with civil society and the private sector to raise awareness and combat human trafficking within communities.”

In closing, let me draw your attention to today’s side event, which the U.S. organized along with our Philippine and German colleagues, entitled “Remedies for Trafficking Victims: Civil Society and Law Enforcement Partnerships.” The event will consider best practices of NGO and law enforcement cooperation in trafficking cases. The side event augments the theme of this HRC session’s trafficking resolution, effective remedies for trafficking victims. We are pleased that the Special Rapporteur will be participating. Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, Ambassador-At-Large for the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, will give opening remarks and moderate the panel discussion.


Thank you Special Rapporteur Shaheed for your presentation.

The United States takes note of the report of the Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights, and we offer two initial observations.

First, the Special Rapporteur notes in paragraph 36, “[w]ith the internet emerging as a critical platform for scientific and cultural flows and exchanges, freedom of access to it and maintaining its open architecture are important for upholding the right of people to science and culture.” We support increasing access to the Internet through various efforts, such as public and private partnerships. We also agree about the importance of protecting human rights, such as freedom of expression, on the Internet. When ideas are blocked, information deleted, conversations stifled, and people constrained in their choices, the Internet is diminished for all of us.

Second, we call attention to a broad concern with the report, namely while we recognize the independence of UN special procedures, we believe that many of the issues raised in this report fall outside the core mandate of the Special Rapporteur in the field of Cultural Rights. More specifically, the United States does not recognize a “right to science” and has concerns with the Special Rapporteur’s efforts to define the normative content of such a right.

The Special Rapporteur notes Article 27 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.” At the same time, the Special Rapporteur does not adequately recognize and address Article 27 (2), which states that “Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.” Both paragraphs of Article 27 are important and must be understood together.

Specifically, in paragraph 65 the Special Rapporteur “points out that legal scholars have increasingly questioned the economic effectiveness of intellectual property regimes in promoting scientific and cultural innovation” and “proposes the adoption of a public good approach to knowledge innovation and diffusion, and suggests reconsidering the current maximalist intellectual property approach to explore the virtues of a minimalist approach to IP protection.” The United States Government has strong concerns about this statement. We believe that intellectual property rights are absolutely essential in promoting scientific and cultural innovation. In fact, the U.S. Constitution (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8) addresses the need “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” The Obama Administration’s February 2011 “Strategy for American Innovation” emphasizes the importance of robust intellectual property protection. The March 2012 Commerce Department report: “Intellectual Property and the U.S. Economy” provides data on the importance of IPR-intensive industries to the economy. Since 1980, the bipartisan Bayh-Dole Act, which allows small businesses, universities, NGOs and researchers to claim title to inventions made possible by federally funded research has been a tremendously successful example of how a carefully constructed IPR regime can spur tremendous societal and economic benefits.

In addition to the points we raise today, the United States maintains other significant concerns regarding many statements and conclusions of fact, policy and law contained in her Report. We would welcome the opportunity to work with the Special Rapporteur to further explain our concerns.

Thank you, Madame President.