Washington – United States Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) was recently appointed as “Special Representative on Human Trafficking” for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE PA). Chairman Smith was appointed to the position by OSCE PA President Bruce George, Member of the British House of Commons. Chairman Smith will make his first report when the OSCE PA meets for its annual session this July in Edinburgh, Scotland.
“I am grateful for the Parliamentary Assembly’s recognition of my work domestically and internationally on behalf of victims of human trafficking,” Chairman Smith said. “As the OSCE PA’s Special Representative on Human Trafficking, I look forward to encouraging reform where victims of this heinous crime are abducted, transported or bought and sold into slavery.”
“I hope that you will advise the Assembly both in the implementation of its already agreed policies on combating trafficking as well as in the development of new policies,” said OSCE PA President George. “In our work we need to take a broad approach by looking at countries of origin, transit and destination. We need to consider both how to protect the victims and also how to combat the criminal elements involved. As you have yourself pointed out, co-operation on various levels is essential.”
The OSCE PA is made up of 317 parliamentarians from the 55 OSCE participating States, appointed by their national parliaments, often including senior parliamentary leaders and those with foreign policy oversight. The Assembly issues declarations and concrete recommendations aimed at promoting democracy, human rights and the rule of law, with a particular emphasis on implementation by participating States of their OSCE commitments.
Chairman Smith sponsored the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, which dedicated substantial resources to combat trafficking of people and help the victims of this crime recover. This law also has an extensive domestic component that helps to prevent violence against women in the United States.
According to a recently released U.S. Government estimate, 800,000 to 900,000 women, children and men fall victim to international trafficking each year and end up prisoners of slavery-like practices in the commercial sex industry, domestic servitude, sweatshops, and agricultural farms, among other destinations.
As a result of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, U.S. federal prosecutors have initiated prosecutions of at least 79 traffickers — three times as many as in the two previous years. Nearly 400 survivors of trafficking in the United States have received assistance, facilitated by the Department of Health and Human Services, to begin recovering from their trauma and to rebuild their shattered lives. Due to the efforts of the State Department, USAID, and the spotlight put on the issue through the annual Trafficking in Persons Report, governments worldwide are taking significant actions against human trafficking.
Despite substantive inroads, people continue to be bought and sold into modern day slavery. Victims continue to face obstacles in the process of securing needed assistance. The international community is not yet addressing human trafficking as an organized crime activity and has yet to aggressively target sex tourism as a factor contributing to the criminal demand.