Discuss as:

Obama calls to fight human trafficking

After his speech to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, President Obama today addressed the Clinton Global Initiative’s annual meeting, where he called for an end to human trafficking.

The president also unveiled new initiatives aimed at combatting the practice -- which the administration says impacts more than 20 million people around the world.

Reuters, Getty Images

In the final push in the 2012 presidential election, candidates Mitt Romney and Barack Obama make their last appeals to voters.

“It ought to concern every person,” Obama said, “because it is a debasement of our common humanity. It ought to concern every community because it tears at our social fabric. It ought to concern every business because it distorts markets. It ought to concern every nation because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime."

Among the initiatives announced today:
-- prohibiting federal contractors from engaging in specific trafficking-related activities
-- establishing a process to better identify industries that have a history of human trafficking
-- improving training measures aimed at cracking down on the practice.

“Human trafficking is not a business model; it is a crime, and we are going to stop it,” the president told the CGI crowd.

The president, who addressed the crowd a few hours after Mitt Romney did, also talked about new efforts to help victims of human trafficking, and he implored the crowd to follow suit, calling on business leaders, faith leaders, and individual citizens to get educated and join the fight against trafficking.

In a more emotional moment, Obama shared the real-life stories of a few women who survived the “unspeakable horror” -- including Sheila White, a Bronx woman.

“Fleeing an abusive home, [Sheila] fell in with a guy who said he'd protect her. Instead, he sold her -- just 15 years old, 15 -- to men who raped her and beat her and burned her with irons. And finally, after years, with the help of a nonprofit led by other survivors, she found the courage to break free and get the services she needed. Sheila earned her GED.  Today she is a powerful, fierce advocate who helped to pass a new anti-trafficking law right here in New York.” 

The audience cheered and applauded as Sheila and several other survivors stood to be recognized. 

The president ended his speech on a hopeful note -- and with a direct message to those who are still victims. “We hear you. We insist on your dignity. And we share your belief that if just given the chance you will forge a life equal to your talents and worthy of your dreams.”