Over my nearly three years as U.S. Ambassador to Ghana, I have had many opportunities to reflect
on the close ties between our two nations. The U.S.-Ghana relationship is dynamic and rich, marked
by deep connections between our peoples in heritage, culture, education, business, and the arts (to
name a few sectors). Unfortunately, we also share inextricable connections to the historical slave
trade, and the challenges we both face today in addressing modern slavery. Each time I have visited
the slave castles at Cape Coast and Elmina, I am reminded of how the greed and inhumanity of all
those involved in that evil trade left deep scars on both our countries. But from that painful history
we have built a future of hope and still seek to further perfect our Union. African Americans have
enriched all sectors in the United States through their immense talents and contributions, and Ghana
today sets a global example of a successful democracy. Yet we must see through shared historical
injustices the urgent need to abolish modern day slavery in our nations today.
The human trafficking we see today may look different from the historical slave trade, but the effect
of robbing victims of their dignity and freedom is the same. And whether it be in 1818 or 2018,
slavery undermines our shared ability to achieve the just and prosperous future we all wish to
achieve. In the words of Pope Francis, human trafficking is a “crime that becomes ever more
aggressive, that threatens not just individuals, but the foundational values of society.”
The United States is proud to support efforts to combat human trafficking around the world. We do
this through advocacy, programming, and our annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report
documenting the efforts of 187 governments in combating human trafficking, including the United
Released on June 28, the eighteenth annual TIP Report notes some of the Ghanaian government’s
successes in 2017, including implementing a national anti-trafficking plan and prosecuting and
convicting an increased number of labor and sex traffickers. Although Ghana does not meet the
minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking, these increased efforts have resulted in
Ghana’s upgrade from Tier 2 Watch List to a Tier 2 ranking in the 2018 TIP Report.
I urge all Ghanaians to read the report and consider the real threats and effects of slavery today. This
should motivate us all to look in our own backyards, reflect, and commit to “not one more victim.”
I’ll never forget the children I have seen, some as young as four years old, trafficked to Lake Volta
and forced to risk their lives diving into cold water to untangle their master’s fishing nets. Or, the
stories of girls from the village who are promised opportunity in the “big city” as domestic helpers,
but are rather trapped spending long days in servitude cleaning and cooking rather than in school. In
a country that has become a beacon of hope and leadership throughout Africa, these Ghanaian
children deserve better.
The TIP Report also recognizes all that we can achieve through partnership and coordinated action to
combat trafficking. For example, it recounts how in one Ghanaian community, traditional leaders
and elders collaborated with a community child protection committee and a district social welfare
officer to understand the dangers of human trafficking and develop a community approach to
mitigate those dangers. This community’s efforts, combined with the efforts of leaders in several
other communities, has led to more than 180 children being saved from exploitation. As the TIP
Report notes, “when communities are aware and their efforts coordinated, justice and freedom can
The Road Ahead
Although the 2018 TIP Report commended many recent successes we have seen in Ghana and
throughout the world, we must not lose sight of the hurdles we face advancing down the path toward
the elimination of human trafficking. In Ghana, the government must continue to send the message
to perpetrators of human trafficking that modern day slavery will not be tolerated, and that they will
be held accountable for their crimes.
Government, civil society, and Ghanaians must come together to achieve the noble aims set forth in
Ghana’s first-ever National Plan of Action for the Elimination of Human Trafficking. With the
scourge of sex trafficking of women and girls growing within Ghana and throughout the region, and
the forced labor of children – especially in the fishing and illegal mining sectors — persisting in
unacceptable numbers, more resources should be dedicated to providing trauma-informed care and
reintegration services for victims. In 2018, a Ghanaian should not buy – or be able to buy – a child
for 100 cedis. Action is necessary to maintain or improve Ghana’s TIP Report tier ranking and,
more importantly, to ensure Ghana’s men, women and children are not robbed of their opportunity to
contribute to Ghana’s future.
More importantly, we all must remember that the victims of human trafficking are not strangers.
They are our fellow human beings who suffer enslavement, degradation, and the denial of their own
humanity. They are our sons and daughters, family members, friends, and neighbors. They are us.
We must stand up for them and declare with resolve: “Not One More Victim.”