In his remarks during the release ceremony of the 2022 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, Secretary Blinken declared that “trafficking in persons violates the rights of all people to be free: free to do what you want, be who you want, make the life that you wish.” For two weeks in July, five of the 2022 TIP Report Heroes, individuals who have devoted their lives to supporting victims of human trafficking and combating the crime, had the opportunity to participate in the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP).
During their visit, the TIP Report Heroes visited three U.S. cities: Washington, DC; Philadelphia, PA; and Reno, NV. They met with a wide range of U.S. government officials and advocates for survivors of human trafficking, including the Congressional author of the original Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, Congressman Chris Smith. During these meetings, the Heroes learned about U.S. efforts to fight trafficking and shared their own success stories with their home-country organizations.
An example of one of these success stories came from Irena Dawid-Olczyk, the TIP Report Hero from Poland. In a meeting with the Department of Homeland Security, she shared the realities her organization faces as they identify perpetrators of human trafficking. She discussed how she had witnessed several occasions of human traffickers who use social media to their advantage and go as far as to include human rights in their list of interests. As a result, she finds that the historical profile of a human trafficker is no longer as easily recognizable as it might have once been.
When the 2022 TIP Report Heroes were recognized by Secretary Blinken on July 19th, their work to restore freedom to survivors of human trafficking was put on full display. Mohammed Tariqul Islam, the TIP Report Hero from Bangladesh, spoke at the ceremony about his work with the Bangladeshi government, including survivors, in their response to human trafficking. He described the privilege of working with survivors as they develop policies and programs and watching “them with joy and pride as they rebuild their life, testify, and use their experience to help others.” This work with survivors reflects data from the 2022 TIP Report, which documented more than four times as many governments with active efforts to consult and engage survivors when developing their responses to human trafficking compared to the 2021 report.
As these leaders return to their home-country organizations around the world, they will bring lessons both from U.S. partners and from their fellow leaders. Perhaps the most important lesson came from the TIP Report Hero from Thailand, Apinya Tajit. In remarks delivered during a panel discussion hosted by Meridian International Center, she implored people around the globe to “stop looking the other way [because] human trafficking is not somebody else’s problem.” We must ask ourselves what else we can do in the fight against trafficking.
This IVLP for the TIP Report Heroes represents just one of the many projects taking place this year for individuals with experience in combatting human trafficking. IVLP exchanges in 2022 will allow representatives from more than 100 countries to share their expertise and meet with U.S. leaders on the subject. The 2022 TIP Report Heroes and the hundreds of other IVLP participants committed to fighting human trafficking demonstrate the critically important role of professional exchanges in amplifying this dimension of the U.S. foreign policy agenda. The connections built during an IVLP exchange can provide a starting point for global networking against human trafficking and help create a world that is free from human trafficking in all of its forms.
You can learn more about the fight against human trafficking by reading the 2022 TIP Report at https://www.state.gov/reports/2022-trafficking-in-persons-report/ and share your thoughts on your personal actions through #EndHumanTrafficking.
About the Author: Nicklaus Proctor is an intern in the Office of International Visitors in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. A member of the 9th cohort of the U.S. Foreign Service Internship Program (USFSIP), he is a rising senior at Davidson College studying political science and history.