America’s Global Leadership on Combating Human Trafficking

July 2019

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American leadership is critical to combatting human trafficking, a global crisis that knows no borders and devastates individuals and families. Trafficking also undermines the global economy and threatens our national security. In 2016, the International Labor Organization estimated that 40.3 million people live in modern slavery, controlled and forced to work by others and sold as commodities (24.9 million in forced labor and sex trafficking, and 15.4 million in forced marriage). Trafficking is estimated to have grown into a $150 billion business, one of the world’s biggest illicit industries that undermines economic growth and traps victims and their families in inter-generational cycles of debt bondage.

America’s Track Record in Prosecution, Protection, and Prevention

The United States has a strong track record of results in fighting traffickers and strengthening the rule of law, supporting survivors, and raising awareness that advances our interests abroad and at home. As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has observed, “human trafficking is a global problem, but it’s a local one too.” This is a crisis that affects nearly every country including the United States, and many of America’s state leaders across the country – in cities like Houston and Phoenix, and states including Alabama and Missouri – have established human trafficking task forces to combat the problem at a local level.

Prosecution: Fighting Traffickers and Strengthening the Rule of Law

  • Thanks to support from the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP), there were 11,096 prosecutions of traffickers around the world in 2018 – a significant increase from 7,909 prosecutions in 2011.
  • TIP helped to train 4,530 criminal justice practitioners in FY17 – ranging from prosecutors to judges to law enforcement officials – subsequently strengthening both investigations and prosecutions in 20 countries.

Protection: Supporting Survivors

  • Trafficking disproportionately impacts women and children. Women and girls account for 99% of all victims of sex trafficking, and 58% of all other forms of trafficking. Children account for 26% of all victims of forced labor.
  • In 2017 alone, USAID programs reached more than 15,000 survivors of trafficking, providing services such as legal support, medical care, skills training, and job placement.
  • TIP has launched several Child Protection Compact Partnerships, which require foreign governments to invest in anti-trafficking programs and bolster their own civil society efforts to protect children at risk. In Ghana, this partnership has provided anti-trafficking training to 500 police officers, renovated a shelter for children survivors, and provided community engagement to over 11,000 people.

Prevention: Raising Awareness

  • With State Department support, 85,613 cases of trafficking were identified around the world in 2018 – more than double the 42,291 cases identified in 2011.
  • USAID’s implementing partners have reached out to promote public awareness of the risks of trafficking to more than 1.76 million individuals in countries such as Bangladesh, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan.
  • The State Department, in partnership with the online education provider Coursera, provided more than 6,000 refugees with vital information that helps reduce their vulnerability to trafficking.

Congressional Action Against Human Trafficking

Over the past two decades, bipartisan support in Congress has been a driving force in strengthening U.S. leadership in the global fight against human trafficking.

  • The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) was signed into law in 2000 and has been reauthorized five times, most recently in 2018. TVPA created an Interagency Task Force on trafficking and calls for an annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report – which includes information on progress in fighting trafficking around the world and helps the U.S. government craft country-specific strategies.
  • The Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report ranks the efforts of country governments to combat human trafficking each year. Countries with the worst records are ranked Tier 3, and, following TVPA legislation, may face cuts to non-humanitarian and non-trade-related U.S. assistance as a consequence. The President can waive these recommendations if the assistance is in the U.S. national interest or if restrictions would negatively impact vulnerable populations in the country.
  • Recently, Members of Congress have expressed concerns that restrictions are being used in ways not intended by the legislation – and that cutting assistance based on the TIP Report could harm U.S. efforts to respond to crises in these countries where we face other threats such as outbreaks of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The DRC is one of 21 countries on Tier 3 of the 2019 TIP Report.
  • Through the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015, Congress established the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking, which consists of trafficking survivors who advise the State Department on best practices in combatting human trafficking.
  • The End Modern Slavery Initiative was passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017 through which the U.S. has contributed nearly $50 million to the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery (GFEMS), which works in critical countries to improve the rule of law, develop economic opportunities to prevent trafficking, and reintegrate and aid survivors. GFEMS ultimately hopes to catalyze $1.5 billion in both public and private investment to effectively tackle this crisis.

Bipartisan Commitment to Fighting Trafficking

  • “Trafficking is an urgent humanitarian issue. The U.S. is committed to confronting this threat, supporting the victims and survivors, and holding traffickers accountable” – USAID Administrator Mark Green
  • “Human trafficking, forced labor and modern slavery splinters families, distorts global markets, undermines the rule of law, strengthens transnational organized criminal networks and threatens national security everywhere.” – Ivanka Trump, Advisor to the President
  • “I will continue to fight against human trafficking in all its forms. All of us must remain vigilant – constantly aware that the cost of human trafficking is not just far away — across the ocean in a distant country. It’s moral crisis of international proportions that has reached our shores – right here in our own backyard.” – Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ)
  • “Ending human trafficking is one of the most important human rights issues of this century.” – Senator Rob Portman (R-OH)
  • “[Human trafficking] is an issue that has claimed our attention for decades…If we can eliminate this scourge, I think all of us will find peace.” – Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA)
  • “I call on Congress, the State Department, and all citizens to redouble efforts to eradicate the scourge of human trafficking once and for all. Evil thrives in the shadows—we must bring to light the prevalence of this multi-billion dollar industry, punish the perpetrators, and help the victims.” – Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ)