Addressing the Clinton Global Initiative, President Barack Obama called the international practice of human trafficking “modern slavery.” Trafficking includes the transportation and exploitation of children and adults, a crime that affects more than 20 million globally.
Obama acknowledged that the use of the world “slavery” evokes a number of painful images from America’s past, but reinforced that the conditions forced upon victims of human trafficking, ranging from sweatshop workers to child soldiers, was nothing short of slavery. The president went on to outline the steps being taken by the U.S. to fight trafficking worldwide.
“I recently renewed sanctions on some of the worst abusers, including North Korea and Eritrea. We’re partnering with groups that help women and children escape from the grip of their abusers. We’re helping other countries step up their own efforts,” Obama said. “We’re seeing results. More nations have passed and more are enforcing modern anti-trafficking laws.”
The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) brings together hundreds of international leaders and activists worldwide during its annual meetings. Tuesday marked the meeting’s final day in New York City, with Obama as one of the featured speakers. The president’s address was preceded by his competitor, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Romney’s speech focused on more political issues of foreign aid and economic recovery. While the GOP candidate’s choice to embrace foreign aid goes against his party’s usual position, increasing overseas spending has been a sore spot among voters. Obama instead chose to go with an issue that he believes to be “one of the great human rights causes of our time,” and steered clear of the larger political issues surrounding foreign policy.
Obama focused on the very human aspects of trafficking, painting a picture for the CGI audience.
“Right now, there is a man on a boat, casting the net with his bleeding hands, knowing he deserves a better life, a life of dignity, but doesn’t know if anybody is paying attention,” the president said. “And so our message today, to them, is—to the millions around the world—we see you. We hear you. We insist on your dignity. And we share your belief that if just given the chance, you will forge a life equal to your talents and worthy of your dreams.”