Since I became Ambassador-at-Large four years ago, a lot has changed in this movement. More governments are living up to their responsibility to fight this crime. More stakeholders are contributing expertise and resources. More individuals are aware of the way modern slavery affects their lives.
But one thing that has not changed is the partnership across the U.S. government when it comes to fighting human trafficking—in both the Administration and on Capitol Hill, in both the House and the Senate, and on both sides of the aisle.
It’s a partnership that secured the renewal of our anti-trafficking law earlier this year. It’s a partnership rooted in the idea that we as a nation need to stand up for universal values—freedom, justice, the dignity of all people—here at home and around the world. Those are the values that drive our work to fight modern slavery.
At the same time, we have made combating trafficking in persons a priority in domestic and foreign policy because doing so is in our country’s strategic interest.
Trafficking in persons is a crime that threatens the rule of law.
It feeds the vulnerability of marginalized populations, creating further instability and damaging communities.
It corrupts the labor markets and global supply chains that are essential to a thriving global economy.
Fighting trafficking in persons is the smart thing to do, and as President Obama made clear in his speech at the Clinton Global Initiative Meeting last fall, “the United States will continue to be a leader in this global movement.”
At the State Department, we press this fight forward through assistance to organizations working on the front lines providing aid to victims and helping governments build up their capacity.
We bring more stakeholders to the table through our partnership efforts… harnessing the expertise of civil society, the resources and innovativeness of the private sector, and the commitment of groups and individuals who, like us, reject slavery in the 21st century.
And through our diplomacy, we urge governments to fully embrace their responsibility to deal with this crime and we offer to work with any government that takes this problem seriously.
One of our most important diplomatic tools is our annual Trafficking in Persons Report, and I’d like to say a few words about our major findings this year. My prepared testimony goes into greater detail, and I ask that it be included in its entirety in the record.
Once again, this Report tells us that trafficking in persons affects every country in the world, and no government is doing enough to fight it.
Our major focus this year is the importance—and the challenge—of effective victim identification. When done well, victim identification opens the door to the support and services victims of trafficking need.
It leads to more investigations and prosecutions of traffickers. And it allows survivors the opportunity—if they choose—to share their experiences and have a voice in the way we shape our anti-trafficking policies and practices.
Victim identification is the critical first step in stopping this crime.
Yet only about 47,000 victims were brought to light in the last year, compared to up to 27 million people living in slavery. That massive gap represents the millions who toil unseen and beyond the reach of law, and it shows how far we have to go in this effort.
At the same time, we continue to see modest gains: more victims identified; more countries adopting modern anti-trafficking laws; more countries moving toward the whole-of-government approach to this crime.
Beyond the global trends, this Report includes assessments of 188 countries and territories on their governments’ effectiveness in combating this crime. This year we see an unfortunate reversal of the trend in the last few years: more countries were downgraded this year than upgraded, by a margin of roughly two to one.
This year, 30 countries, including the United States, are on Tier 1 in the Report, meaning the governments of those countries are complying with the minimum standards. I want to be clear: Tier 1 is a passing grade, not a perfect score. Every government can be doing more to deal with this challenge.
This year, 92 countries are on Tier 2. Their governments don’t meet all the minimum standards, but we are seeing some serious efforts in Tier 2 countries.
There are 44 countries on the Tier 2 Watch List this year. These are countries that, despite making some efforts to combat modern slavery, aren’t getting positive results, or the situation may actually be getting worse.
Tier 3 countries are those where the governments aren’t doing much at all to deal with this crime, and this year there are 21 countries with that status.
This Report doesn’t pull any punches. It’s thorough and candid. As Secretary Kerry said last month, “this report is tough, because this is a tough issue, and it demands serious attention.”
But it isn’t punitive. We aren’t claiming to have all the answers, because we know we don’t. We know that the better information we have about modern slavery, the better we’ll be in confronting it.
So we aren’t pointing the finger, but rather extending a hand to anyone who agrees that this is a problem we need to grapple with. This Report is a guide—for ourselves, for governments around the world, and for anyone who shares our goal of a world rid of modern slavery.
Thank you for your commitment. And your partnership.