U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday the U.S. government is recommitting itself to ending modern slavery.
Speaking at the annual meeting of the president's anti-human trafficking task force, Clinton noted that September marks the 150th anniversary of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln's announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation.
The order, issued during the U.S. Civil War, freed thousands of black people held as slaves in the rebel southern states. Clinton said its anniversary is a good time for the country to recommit to what she described as "the promise of freedom."
"Around the world, as many as 27 million men, women and children toil in bondage," she said. "This crime undermines economies and the rule of law. It shatters families and communities. It is an affront to our most fundamental values."
Clinton said the Obama administration has made progress in fighting human trafficking, highlighting several efforts, including the National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security and foreign assistance grants supporting programs in 37 countries.
"And thanks to our leadership, the international community is getting behind the effort," she said. "Nearly 140 countries have now enacted modern anti-trafficking laws, and nearly 150 are party to the U.N. trafficking in persons protocol."
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and United States Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah were among the other officials taking part in Thursday's meeting at the White House.
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 authorized the establishment of the trafficking in persons task force, called the President's Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, a cabinet-level group that coordinates federal efforts to combat human trafficking. The secretary of state chairs the panel.
In addition, the State Department issues an annual trafficking in persons report, which assesses how governments are doing to address the problem.
Last year's report for the second year in a row also evaluated human trafficking in the United States. Clinton, who called for the inclusion of the U.S. in the report, said Thursday that she thought it was important that if U.S. officials are going to be judging other countries, that they judge themselves as well.