I’m pleased to be here today. This workshop marks yet another step by the Government of Guyana towards combating human trafficking in Guyana. The government has had a busy year countering human trafficking, starting with the launch of the TIP Plan of Action for 2017 through 2018. The development of standard operating procedures to strengthen investigations; prosecutions; convictions and court procedures is the necessary next step, and I encourage you to pursue it and I congratulate you on your initiative so far.
Human trafficking is modern slavery and no country is immune from this egregious crime. Both the United States and Guyana have victims in our midst and among our citizens abroad. In recent years Guyana and the United States have developed a more active and productive dialogue on trafficking in persons aimed at strengthening Guyana’s ability to identify and protect victims, prosecute offenders, and prevent future cases of trafficking.
In 2016, the International Organization for Migration, with funding from the United States began providing a series of trainings for Government of Guyana frontline officers, including most recently in February of this year. The current partnership seeks to strengthen Guyana’s capacity to effectively combat human trafficking and assist victims of trafficking.
The Government of Guyana has undoubtedly done a lot to address this crime. Its proactive approach to criminalize human trafficking; train law enforcement and frontline officers; conduct numerous outreach and sensitization campaigns, and develop partnerships with NGOs speak to the commitment of the government to eradicate human trafficking within its borders.
In this year’s Annual Trafficking in Persons Report, the US State Department concluded that Guyana acknowledges the existence of human trafficking within its borders and is making significant efforts to address this, and meets the minimum standards for compliance with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
However, it was also noted that the Government of Guyana should continue to focus on expanding efforts in the interior of the country and partner with NGOs to finalize its written identification and standard operating procedures. We are pleased to support this collaboration between the Government of Guyana and IOM — but more work needs to be done.
The prevalence of human trafficking globally presents an enormous challenge for all of us. However, these challenges should not serve as an excuse for inaction. The Government of Guyana undoubtedly has taken a robust stand against human trafficking, and the standardization of its operating procedures is a positive step towards facing its challenges.
Everyone has a role to play, and I urge the Government of Guyana to continue to partner with NGOs; focus on improving identification and services for victims in the interior; seek new alliances with the private sector; continue to hold traffickers accountable, protect and provide support to victims of the crime, and continue its rigorous awareness campaigns to educate the Guyanese people of human trafficking in all its forms.