Delegates laud Obama's commitment to end human trafficking


US President Barack Obama speaks at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting on September 25, 2012 in New York City.


Mario Tama

NEW YORK — In a wild week of foreign policy here and all the posturing and the drama that comes with it amid the hype of a presidential campaign, there was at least one tangible action taken that deserves some time in the spotlight.

That is, President Obama's Executive Order to coordinate efforts in the government to work toward ending "the injustice, the outrage of human trafficking," or as he referred to it, "modern slavery."

Obama presented the idea in his speech at the Clinton Global Initiative, a call to action that was very much in the spirit of President Clinton's gathering of leaders in business, government and philanthropy to try to get them working together and inspiring each other to be change agents for the world's most intractable problems. Obama highlighted the estimated 20 million people who are trapped in prostitution rings, in lives as child soldiers or as indentured laborers in copper mines and on South China Sea's fishing boats.

More from GlobalPost: Obama tells Clinton Global Initiative human trafficking is 'slavery'

In the hallways of the CGI, where all the action is, I ran into two women who have done a great deal to be sure this issue of human trafficking gets the attention it deserves, and I asked them about their views on the president's action. They are U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-New York) and former Ambassador Swanee Hunt. Both said felt the action was meaningful and they hoped it would be productive, although they did express some disappointment that it did not bring increased funding to the effort.

"The Clinton Global Initiative is all about commitments, and the president came in and made a strong commitment to coordinate efforts and to direct resources at tackling this problem of human trafficking. This has real meaning and now it's up us, the members of congress on both sides of the aisle, to see this gets done," said Maloney.

Hunt said that the president's executive order carried a profoundly important new direction in the US effort to combat trafficking, and that is to have "zero tolerance for the purchasers of commercial sex."

"That is very significant and it changes the game," said Hunt.

"It no longer tolerates the idea of boys will be boys, and the coarsening of conscience that comes with that kind of thinking," she added.

And Maloney agreed, adding, "If you don't attack the demand side of prostitution and human trafficking, you do nothing."


Watch President Obama's speech at the Clinton Global Initiative: