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Ambassador Leonard’s Welcome Remarks for the 2022 World Day Against Trafficking in Persons Main Event
Location: Ladi Kwali Hall, Abuja Sheraton
August 1, 2022

Good morning everyone.  Thank you so much for inviting me to this wonderful event!  I’d like to recognize our distinguished guests of honor by standing on existing protocol.

Trafficking in persons affects all of us, and all countries around the world.  The theme of this year’s World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, the “Use and Abuse of Technology”, could not be more apt.

Ambassador Leonard speaking at the 2022 World Trafficking in Persons Day event in AbujaOne of the challenges in fighting the scourge of trafficking in persons is that the criminals engaging in it have become savvier in exploiting technology.  Easier forms of communication means easier ways to cheat their victims with promises of a better future.  These promises are really lies.  All the trafficker wants to do is line their own pockets.  We see that these lies can have deadly results, whether in a small boat filled over capacity in the Mediterranean Sea, the back of a sweltering truck in south Texas, or in the rising suicide rates of teenagers.

However, technology can also alert authorities to suspected cases of human trafficking and lead to life-saving interventions.  Last year, the U.S. Embassy partnered with a Nigerian NGO called Devatop (dey-va-top) to create an app called Talkam (talk-em).  This app allows users to quietly report suspected cases of trafficking in persons to organizations such as the Network Against Trafficking, Abuse and Labour, known as NACTAL, or the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, known as NAPTIP.  The Devatop public affairs grant provided for the training of community volunteers on how to spot the signs of trafficking and report it to the authorities, and regular radio and media outreach on trafficking prevention.

This isn’t our only anti-trafficking collaboration.  Our colleagues at the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, are partnering with civil society organizations such as NACTAL and the Federation of Muslim Women’s Associations in Nigeria to further develop trafficking in persons prevention efforts and grassroots awareness.  One attendee of USAID-supported training on the signs of trafficking used her new awareness on the way home from the training to report and save a child who was being trafficked.

The Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) is also partnering with the United Nations and NAPTIP, other Nigerian law enforcement partners, and state Task Forces to build capacity for government institutions to combat trafficking in persons across Nigeria.

Ambassador Leonard at the 2022 World Trafficking in Persons Day event in AbujaRecently, you may have heard of the announcement of the 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report.  Nigeria maintained its status at Tier 2 and made excellent progress in addressing recommendations from previous years.  NAPTIP and their partners deserve a round of applause for all their hard work at addressing these long-standing and difficult issues.  We have witnessed more community engagement regarding these challenges between civil society, law enforcement and the media, which truly is required in a national response.

The TIP report is not something meant to be critical of governments, but rather a tool to inform the public and engage policy makers about trafficking challenges in all countries – including the U.S.  To me it drives home that we really are in this fight against human trafficking together.  Nobody can solve this problem alone.  We need all of you: government, law enforcement, civil society, students, and the public at large, to continue the fight against human trafficking.  I look forward to hearing from you all today, and appreciate your time.  Thank you