Keynote Remarks by Ambassador Gene Cretz

Good afternoon, Deputy Minister John Alexander Ackon, distinguished guests and all protocols observed.  It is a pleasure to be with you this evening for the grand launching of International Justice Mission’s 18th Field Office.

The U.S. government has a long history with IJM.  The Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons has supported and worked collaboratively with IJM for more than a decade through grant projects in which IJM has worked effectively with government agencies to identify and assist victims of human trafficking and hold traffickers accountable through investigation and prosecution.  In 2012, the State Department recognized Gary Haugen, the President and CEO of IJM, as one of its Trafficking in Persons Report Heroes.  This award honors individuals who have made significant contributions to the fight against human trafficking in many countries.

We have another TIP Report Hero in the room this evening—Police Chief Superintendent Patience Quaye, Head of the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of the Ghana Police Service.  Superintendent Quaye’s work was integral to recording the first-ever prosecution and conviction of a human trafficker in Ghana.

I’d also like to recognize another notable anti-trafficking activist with us this evening—Mr. George Achibra, founder of the Partners in Community Development Program.  For his extraordinary efforts in fighting the worst forms of child labor in the fishing industry on Lake Volta, Mr. Achibra won the U.S. Department of Labor’s Iqbal Masih (Ma-see) Award in 2013, and the U.S. Embassy Ghana’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Award in 2011.

We thank all of you who are working to combat the terrible scourges of human trafficking and child labor.

It is a great honor to be with you this evening to commemorate the opening of IJM’s Ghana Field Office.  When it comes to combating human trafficking in a manner that promotes both accountability for traffickers and comprehensive protection and assistance for victims, IJM is a distinguished and global leader.

The Ghana Field Office has set its goals high.  Its focus and mission are admirable.  The office plans to end child slavery—in particular, forced child labor in the fishing industry on Lake Volta — within 10 years.  Within the next three years, the IJM –in partnership with law enforcement and social protection agencies in Ghana – aims to remove at least 255 children from forced labor on Lake Volta and to arrest and convict at least 30 traffickers, often referred to as “masters.”  Additionally, IJM will partner with the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of the Ghana Police Service, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Department of Social Welfare, and others, to identify gaps in the justice system that result in the failure to protect children from forced child labor on Lake Volta.

Ghana, like many countries (including the United States), is a country of origin, transit, and destination for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. The trafficking of Ghanaians, particularly children, within the country is more prevalent than the transnational trafficking of foreign migrants.

Ghana was ranked Tier 2 in the 2014 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, which is a ranking given to countries whose governments do not fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.  Ghana’s ranking is based on numerous reports  that Ghanaian children are subject to forced labor in fishing, domestic service, street hawking, begging, portering, mining, and agriculture.  Ghanaian girls, and to a lesser extent boys, are subjected to prostitution within Ghana, including in oil-producing regions and around Lake Volta. Key ministries responsible for enforcing Ghana’s anti-trafficking laws and protecting child trafficking victims did not receive adequate funding to fulfill their responsibilities.

Despite these challenges, Ghana has made progress on human trafficking issues.  In August 2014, the Ministry of Gender reconstituted and convened the Human Trafficking Management Board, which had not met for more than a year.  We hope that this will lead to increased coordination among stakeholders moving forward.  We also hope to see the final Parliamentary approval and full implementation of the Human Trafficking Act’s Legislative Instrument.

The Department of State funds an extensive array of projects and programs around the world aimed at combating human trafficking. These projects tackle corruption, train prosecutors and law enforcement, provide support for victims, and raise awareness.  As of October 2014, the Trafficking in Persons Office oversees 98 projects worth nearly $60 million in 71 countries around the world.

I am happy to announce an exciting new proposal that the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons has initiated with Ghana.  The Office is working to negotiate the first Child Protection Compact (CPC) Partnership, to be developed and implemented jointly with the government of Ghana.  I’m very excited about the potential CPC Partnership, which would be a five-year, $5 million innovative effort to combat child trafficking,

The creation of this Compact will further enhance and enrich the broad spectrum of partnership the US enjoys with Ghana.  Having the opportunity to improve the lives of Ghana’s most vulnerable children will now become an important focus of our trafficking in persons efforts with Ghana.  In order to address this important issue comprehensively, there is need for contribution and collaboration from a wide range of stakeholders.  When we work in conformity with internationally recognized norms and processes and tighten legislative loopholes the needs of vulnerable children are also served.  We commend the Cabinet of the Government of Ghana for their recent approval of a memoranda for the ratification of The Hague 1993 Convention on Inter-Country Adoptions; Amendment of the Children’s Act; and Child and Family Welfare Policy.

Ghana’s selection was based in part on evidence of your government’s commitment to partner with the United States and the strength of the NGOs and international organizations working to combat modern slavery in Ghana.

This week the Embassy has hosted two officials from the Trafficking in Persons Office, Laura Rundlet and Jane Sigmon, who met with government officials, NGOs, and other stakeholders—including many of you in this room— to start exploring a CPC Partnership.  We appreciate your cooperation as we craft this exciting and important partnership.

The fight against modern slavery is a priority for the U.S. government and we are pleased that an organization with IJM’s caliber will be joining the ranks of the great NGOs that we already have here in Ghana.  I look forward to watching your organization grow and I wish you all the best.

To all of the anti-trafficking activists here this evening, please know that the U.S. government is your partner in this fight.  Do not hesitate to call on us, as we are dedicated to furthering the guarantees of freedom from slavery and involuntary servitude.