America’s Global Leadership on Combating Human Trafficking

October 2019

Download the PDF

American leadership is critical to combating human trafficking, a global crisis that recognizes no borders and devastates individuals and families. Trafficking 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, undermining economic growth and trapping victims and their families in inter-generational cycles of debt bondage.

This is a crisis that affects nearly every country including the United States. 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. As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has observed, “human trafficking is a global problem, but it’s a local one too.” Congress established an Advisory Council on Human Trafficking in 2015, which consists of trafficking survivors who advise the State Department on best practices in combating human trafficking.

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

Over the past two decades, bipartisan support in Congress and multiple Administrations has driven U.S. leadership in the global fight against human trafficking. The United States has demonstrated a strong track record in fighting traffickers and strengthening the rule of law, supporting survivors, and raising awareness that advances our interests abroad and at home. These efforts have been complemented by from the international community to monitor progress and mobilize support.

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 child 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.


  • The Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, authorized by Congress through the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), ranks the efforts of governments to combat human trafficking each year. The TIP Report is a critical tool to monitor country progress in addressing trafficking, and shape future U.S. country strategies through its recommendations. 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 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), one of 21 countries on the Tier 3 of the 2019 TIP Report.

  • The President’s Interagency Task Force on Trafficking, also established through the TVPA, coordinates the efforts of 15 U.S. government departments and agencies – including the State Department and USAID – to maximize effectiveness and impact of programming.


  • The Global Fund to End Modern Slavery (GFEMS) works to improve the rule of law, develop economic opportunities to prevent trafficking, and reintegrate and aid survivors around the world. The United States has contributed nearly $50 million to the fund, in addition to support from the United Kingdom. GFEMS ultimately hopes to catalyze $1.5 billion in both public and private investment, mobilizing stakeholders from around the world to tackle this crisis effectively.

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)