President Obama today called human trafficking a “debasement of our common humanity” and said the United States must do more to protect the estimated 20 million people worldwide who participate in forced labor, the sex trade, domestic servitude, or other conditions against their will.
Speaking at former President Clinton’s annual philanthropy event, in New York, Mr. Obama said that human trafficking must be called by its “true name”: “modern slavery.”
“I don’t use that word lightly, ” he said. “It evokes one of the most painful chapters in our nation’s history.”
“But there’s no denying the awful reality that when a man desperate for work finds himself in a factory or fishing on a boat or in a field, working, toiling for no pay, and beaten when he tries to escape, that is slavery,” Mr. Obama continued. “It’s barbaric and evil, and it has no place in a civilized world.”
Immediately after Mr. Obama’s speech, Mr. Clinton urged philanthropists to steer more of their money to nonprofits that fight trafficking.
Most of the groups leading the charge against modern-day slavery are grass-roots, with little access to money, said the former president. His conference has for years tried to encourage donations to those groups, he said, rarely with much success.
A $6-Million Goal
To coincide with Mr. Obama’s speech, the federal government announced a new collaboration with philanthropies to recognize local approaches to caring for trafficking survivors. The project’s organizers seek to raise $6-million.
Humanity United, a foundation started by Pam Omidyar, wife of the eBay founder, Pierre Omidyar, will contribute $1.5-million, while the federal government is providing $1-million. (See The Chronicle’s profile of the organization.)
Goldman Sachs, through its 10,000 Women program, also said it was committing money to the effort. The bank declined to specify the amount it will contribute, saying it has a policy against releasing such financial information other than through its annual tax filings.
The Role of Business
Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, also spoke today at the Clinton Global Initiative, where he emphasized the importance of the business world in improving poor people’s lives abroad.
“The aim of a much larger share of our aid must be the promotion of work and the fostering of free enterprise,” he said. “Nothing we can do as a nation will change lives and nations more effectively and permanently than sharing the insight that lies at the foundation of America’s own economy—and that is, free people pursuing happiness in their own ways to build a strong and prosperous nation.”
He pledged to start a program called “Prosperity Pacts” that would give aid and political support to nations that remove barriers to trade and investment.
Mr. Romney also praised Mr. Clinton’s philanthropy event for bridging the “traditional boundaries” between charity and commercial enterprises.
In introducing Mr. Romney, Mr. Clinton praised the former Massachusetts governor’s efforts in 2003 to preserve AmeriCorps in the face of a budget squeeze.
While Mr. Romney had positive words in his speech about City Year, the nonprofit that inspired the creation of AmeriCorps, he provided no hints about his current thinking on the federal agency, which House Republicans have sought to eliminate. (Read more about the issue of national service in this year’s campaign.)
Dividing Up Foreign Aid
During her speech on Monday at the event, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also highlighted the role that businesses can play in alleviating poverty abroad, adding that rich people from poor countries and the governments of developing nations need to do more.
She said that the U.S. government must look beyond big nonprofits when it divvies out foreign aid.
“They have expertise and local knowledge, and they can respond quickly when needed,” she said. “But we also need to broaden and increase our network of partnerships.”
Ms. Clinton, who has said she will step down from the State Department after the November elections, is expected to take on a larger role with her husband’s nonprofit.
More New Giving
The final day of the Clinton Global Initiative also brought new pledges from donors and nonprofits.
- The Stars Foundation pledged $70-million over the next eight years to expand its nonprofit awards program to Latin America and to Central and Eastern Europe and start a new effort to encourage market-based solutions benefiting poor people.
- Alcoa and its foundation pledged $2-million to encourage more people to recycle.
- Masimo, a medical-technology company, committed $1-million in cash and products to reduce maternal mortality in five villages in Liberia and Uganda.
- GA Technologies pledged $1-million to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
- Western Union committed to helping its customers, including nonprofits, minimize the impact of currency changes on their finances and take other steps designed to benefit global nonprofits.
- The Oando Foundation, in Nigeria, said it plans to raise and spend $15-million over three years to expand from 28 to 100 the number of schools it serves in that country. The foundation will commit roughly $8-million over the next four years to the effort.
- Planned Parenthood Federation of America announced a new program to train young people in Africa and Latin America as counselors in contraceptive use.