Friday, August 10, 2007

New U.S. Anti-Trafficking Chief Emphasizes Partnerships

WASHINGTON – When the United States asks other countries to cooperate in improving human trafficking law enforcement, victim assistance, and public awareness, those countries should know the U.S. government is working on the same problems at home and that recommendations are made “in the spirit of partnership,” Mark Lagon, the new head of the State Department’s anti-trafficking office, says.

“We have a serious effort at home that’s victim-centered to help those who have been caught in human trafficking,” he told USINFO June 5.

Lagon has worked on human rights issues before. So when the U.S. Congress confirmed him as the new director of the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat of Trafficking in Persons in May, he already had priorities in mind.

Emphasizing U.S. leadership responsibility, Lagon said, “We need to look at how products that are important in the United States might in fact be the result of slave labor,” he said. Forced labor is an important issue “whether it’s child labor, bonded labor, [or] labor explained away by caste.”

“Because democratization is so much about women’s empowerment worldwide, we have to grapple with the situation of trafficking in persons, which is perhaps the most acute form of the disempowerment of women,” he said. The rule of law must be strengthened wherever human trafficking is a problem, and where “complicit officials in governments … are, through their corruption, advancing degradation of people,” he said...


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