Working Together to Combat Human Trafficking

Yesterday, we hosted the first-ever White House Forum to Combat Human Trafficking. The event brought together leaders from government, the private sector, advocates and survivors, faith leaders, law enforcement, and academia to talk about what we can do, together, to end human trafficking.

We took time to honor the stories and lives of brave survivors. We noted the great progress we’ve made against this grave injustice at the national and grassroots levels.  We honored the recipients of the first Presidential award for those who have led the way in fighting human trafficking. And we put our heads together to come up with more solutions that we can get to work on right away. Because even one life devastated by trafficking is one too many.  That’s why President Obama’s administration is working with partners around the country and the world to eradicate human trafficking.

Last year, President Obama delivered a speech on the fight to end human trafficking at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) annual meeting in New York. There, the President said: “It ought to concern every person, because it is a debasement of our common humanity. It ought to concern every community, because it tears at our social fabric.” 

The President called on everyone to step up the fight against trafficking. And we have. Since last year, we have renewed sanctions on some of the worst perpetrators of human trafficking. We have released for public comment the Victims Services Strategic Action Plan. We have partnered with organizations and groups that help women and children escape their abusers. And we have expanded our interagency task force to include enforcement partners such as the FBI and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, along with many other Federal agencies. 

Now, we are seeing the fruits of our labor. More nations around the world are passing and enforcing anti-trafficking laws. Here in the United States, we are charging a record number of predators with human trafficking violations.  We are joining together with faith-based and neighborhood organizations to maximize resources and outcomes. 

And we’re particularly excited about the cutting-edge technology that’s being developed to end trafficking.  

At yesterday’s forum, we highlighted new technology that is being used to help victims, connect them to services, and expose traffickers.  We saw exciting demonstrations of some of these tools focused on reaching victims where they are – online and on their phones -- including the Polaris Project’s new texting capability for their National Human Trafficking Hotline, a new victim outreach tool from FAIR Girls, and Thorn’s new technology-based tool that helps law enforcement better identify child sex trafficking victims in online environments.

We also heard from a panel of law enforcement officers and leaders from Palantir Technologies and J.P. Morgan Chase about how we can bring private sector innovation and technology to fight child sex trafficking.

Just today, the President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships released their report and recommendations to the President on how we can better combat trafficking. You can read more about their recommendations here.

This week’s events remind us that this is a battle we can win, when all of these voices speak as one.  Together, we will continue the fight to end human trafficking.

Valerie B. Jarrett is a Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama. Todd Park is the United States Chief Technology Officer.