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Diplomacy in Action

Introduction: 10 Years of Fighting Modern Slavery


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The 2010 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report marks the 10th anniversary of key milestones in the fight against modern slavery. In 2000, the United States enacted the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), and the United Nations adopted the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, also known as the Palermo Protocol. Since then, the world has made great strides in combating this ultimate exploitation – both in terms of what we know about this crime and how we respond.

The Palermo Protocol focused the attention of the global community on combating human trafficking. For the first time, an international instrument called for the criminalization of all acts of trafficking – including forced labor, slavery, and slaverylike practices – and that governmental response should incorporate the “3P” paradigm: prevention, criminal prosecution, and victim protection. Over 10 years, governments worldwide have made appreciable progress in understanding a number of realities about human trafficking: people are in situations of modern slavery in most countries; trafficking is a fluid phenomenon responding to market demands, weakness in laws and penalties, and economic and development disparities. More people are trafficked for forced labor than for commercial sex. The crime is less often about the flat-out duping and kidnapping of naïve victims than it is about the coercion and exploitation of people who initially entered a particular form of service voluntarily or migrated willingly. Trafficking can occur without movement across borders or domestically, but many countries and commentators still assume some movement is required. Men comprise a significant number of trafficking victims. And traffickers often use sexual violence as a weapon against women to keep them in compelled service, whether in a field, a factory, a brothel, a home, or a war zone.

The “3P” paradigm is an interlocking one. It is not enough to prosecute traffickers if we do not also provide assistance to the survivors and work to ensure that no one else is victimized. No country has yet attained a truly comprehensive response to this massive, ever increasing, ever changing crime. Ten years of focused efforts is the mere infancy of this modern movement; many countries are still learning about human trafficking and the best responses to it.

Promising practices, task forces, and coordinating bodies’ national plans of action must be implemented on the ground, and local innovations must be supported and amplified by central governments. The vast majority of the millions held in modern slavery have yet to benefit from any progress; every country must do more to fulfill the promise of the Palermo Protocol.

Last year, the world imported and exported billions of dollars in products tainted by forced labor in manufacturing and raw materials procurement, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO). Governments knowingly and unknowingly deported trafficking victims and failed to provide victims shelter and reintegration services, which led to undercutting investigations and delaying the rehabilitation of victims. They continued to struggle with poorly constructed immigration laws that increased the vulnerability of migrant populations to trafficking.

When reviewing the trafficking assessment for each country, it is critical to remember that these assessments are based on compliance with minimum standards set forth in the TVPA, as amended – what the U.S. government considers the floor for engagement rather than the ceiling.

Fighting human trafficking is not a static exercise. A trafficking law passed last year must be implemented and improved this year. The lessons learned from last year’s prosecutions should inform and improve this year’s law enforcement response. Wide disparities between numbers of trafficking victims identified and trafficking offenders prosecuted should be reviewed with the goal of improving the capacity of law enforcement responders to deliver justice for victims. Although numbers of trafficking prosecutions and convictions are important indicators of progress, the quality and impact of counter-trafficking law enforcement efforts are more significant.

The missed opportunities for compassionate and effective victim identification must serve as a clarion call to ensure that this year, there is a proactive approach to victim identification and assistance, upholding the Palermo Protocol and the TVPA’s guarantees of justice for every victim.

The 2010 TIP Report is a diagnostic tool reflective of efforts on the ground now. It is neither a condemnation nor a reprieve; nor is it a guarantee of next year’s ranking. Indeed, this year’s report reflects upgrades for 23 countries in recognition of long overdue results and downgrades for 19 countries demonstrating sparse victim protections, desultory implementation, or inadequate legal structures.

Most countries that deny the existence of victims of modern slavery within their borders are not looking, trying, or living up to the mandates of the Palermo Protocol and the demands of our common humanity. There is no shame in addressing a problem of this magnitude; the shame lies in ignoring it.

The United States holds itself accountable to the same standards by which we judge others. For the first time, this year’s TIP Report includes a U.S. ranking as well as a full, candid narrative on U.S. efforts to combat human trafficking. The ranking reflects the contributions of government agencies, public input, and independent research by the Department of State. The United States recognizes that, like other countries, it has a serious problem with human trafficking for both labor and commercial sexual exploitation. The U.S. government takes pride in its best practices to combat the crime of trafficking, recognizes challenges, and seeks continual innovation and strengthening of its efforts at home and in partnership with other countries.



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