Explanation of Position on a Resolution on Trafficking in Women and Girls

Jason Mack
Counselor for Economic and Social Affairs
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
November 16, 2020


The United States thanks the Philippines for its biannual resolution on trafficking in women and girls. We consider the Philippines a strong partner in our efforts to prevent and combat human trafficking.

As we are convened here today, an estimated 25 million adults and children are suffering at the hands of human traffickers worldwide. Twenty years ago, the U.S. Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act which became the first comprehensive federal law designed to protect victims of sex and labor trafficking, to prosecute traffickers, and to prevent human trafficking in the United States and around the world. That same year, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly adopted the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.” During this 20th anniversary year of the UN Trafficking in Persons Protocol we will continue to call for its effective implementation and encourage member states that have not yet acceded to the Protocol to do so.

The effects of COVID-19 are disproportionately impacting communities suffering from systemic or generational inequality – the same communities traffickers often prey upon. Our civil society partners have reported that residential shelters have cut back services, governments have redirected resources to COVID-19 responses, borders have closed, economies have slowed, and traffickers have exploited COVID-19 restrictions to profit even more from trafficking. It is important to acknowledge the heightened vulnerability to trafficking of women and girls during the COVID-19 pandemic in this year’s text and recognize the importance of this resolution in the international community’s effort to combat and prevent trafficking in persons.

The United States dissociates from operative paragraph 31 of the resolution. The United States is committed to improving women’s health across her lifespan. However, we cannot accept references to “sexual and reproductive health, “sexual and reproductive health-care services,” “safe termination of pregnancy,” or any similar language that would promote abortion or suggest inaccurately a right to abortion. As affirmed in the Geneva Consensus Declaration by countries representing every region of the globe, each nation has the sovereign right to implement related programs and activities consistent with their laws and policies, without external pressure or interference. Further, consistent with the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development Program of Action and its report, we do not recognize abortion as a method of family planning and there is no international right to abortion. We fully support the provision of quality health care to women and girls around the world without promoting abortion.

With regard to this resolution’s references to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and preambular paragraph 16 which mentions the International Criminal Court, we addressed our concerns in a statement delivered earlier today.

The United States dissociates from preambular paragraph 10 of the resolution. We do not support the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration and objects to references in the resolution to the Global Compact. As the United States did not participate in the UN process to negotiate the migration compact and we will not endorse this instrument, it should be clear to all nations that we are not bound by any commitments or outcomes stemming from the migration compact process or contained in the compact itself.

The United States recognizes and reaffirms its belief that decisions about whom to legally admit for residency or to whom to grant citizenship are among the most important sovereign decisions a country can make, and are not subject to negotiation in international instruments or fora. The United States maintains the sovereign right to facilitate or restrict access to our territory, in accordance with our national laws and policy, and consistent with our international obligations.

As President Trump noted in his September 25, 2019 UN General Assembly address, “We recognize the right of every nation in this room to set its own immigration policy in accordance with its national interests, just as we ask other countries to respect our own right to do the same.” That is one reason the United States will not participate in the new Global Compact on Migration. Migration should not be governed by an international body unaccountable to our own citizens.

On OP 21 which mentions “child prostitution,” we would have preferred that the term “child sex trafficking” be used instead. “Child prostitution” is defined in Article 2(b) of the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, which rightfully puts focus on the “use of a child.” However, the term itself is falling out of favor based on an increased understanding of how prostitution and terminology impact the well-being of the child. Children, being minors, cannot give consent to commercial sexual acts and therefore any involvement of children in prostitution is non-consensual and criminal.

Thank you.