The release of the 2023 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report) is an opportunity for the full range of government and civil society stakeholders around the world to take stock of progress, gaps, emerging trends, and opportunities to proactively address the global threat of human trafficking. This year’s theme highlights and emphasizes the importance of partnerships. Partnerships have long been essential to the success of global anti-trafficking efforts. The sustained work of government and civil society stakeholders helps accurately portray the state of human trafficking every year. This supports governments in measuring progress and identifying new areas of focus.
In every TIP Report narrative, a government’s efforts are assessed across prevention, prosecution, and protection criteria, as required by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards. These elements, known as the “three P’s,” are enhanced when partnership, known as the “fourth P,” is effectively leveraged to advance cooperation and coordination around the globe. The 2023 TIP Report introduction highlights examples of successful partnerships and promising practices along with diverse and inspiring stories from our eight 2023 TIP Report Heroes, individuals from around the world working creatively to address human trafficking in their respective societies. Following the launch of the 2023 TIP Report, many of the Heroes participated in the Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), expanding their networks and forming new partnerships with Americans dedicated to ending human trafficking.
Technology provides immediate and exciting opportunities for stronger partnerships, including to raise awareness and communicate real time conditions of those vulnerable to human trafficking. Governments, civil society groups, and private citizens are increasingly using social media to complement outreach. At the same time, criminal networks continue to innovate new ways to recruit and exploit individuals around the globe, including through false promises of legitimate employment opportunities that end up as forced labor. One example is the case of cyber scam centers proliferating in parts of Southeast Asia and affecting victims around the world. Criminal actors and enterprises operate schemes targeting young and educated professionals, including Americans, who respond to virtual offers of employment, but then seize their passports and coerce them into enticing strangers online to join fake cryptocurrency investment schemes, deposit money into gaming accounts, or buy into false romance and investment schemes.
Tackling these scam operations requires a renewed spirit of partnership across governments and civil society organizations. Some of the partnerships that are foundational to successfully countering human trafficking take place within the Department of State through coordination and consultation among offices in Washington and with our posts around the globe. Through the TIP Report, Department bilateral and multilateral diplomacy, targeted foreign assistance, and interagency coordination, among other tools, we seek to identify and support these victims and all victims of human trafficking while holding accountable those responsible.
Human trafficking can often be a hidden crime. Victims, especially members of underrepresented, marginalized groups, or those who do not fit a stereotypical profile, can be forgotten and overlooked. The 2023 TIP Report gives special consideration to boys and men, LGBTQI+ persons, and persons with disabilities subjected to human trafficking. Creative partnerships, including with a broad constellation of research, policy, advocacy, and other non-governmental organizations, are key to reversing this trend. By overcoming preexisting ideas of who constitutes a “typical” trafficking victim, we can push beyond stereotypes to better understand how trafficking can happen to people from all backgrounds and across all societies, and what methods are most appropriate to combat it.
Partnership requires a renewed awareness by businesses and their clients of how their actions, including the goods and services they purchase, could support illicit activity, including human trafficking. With the support of international organizations, national governments, and leadership from some private sector firms and associations, a global conversation surrounding supply chain monitoring, due diligence, and accountability is working to prevent and address goods produced using forced labor.
While last year’s TIP Report theme focused on survivor voices, the partnerships, in focus this year, are incomplete without survivors, whose lived experiences can inform more successful law enforcement policies, stronger anti-trafficking programs, and better victim protection and reintegration outcomes. We can maximize our collective efforts around the world by partnering with survivors. In the words of Helen Keller, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” A global spirit of partnership and collective action that includes governments and a broad and diverse swathe of partners can prevent human trafficking, protect vulnerable populations, and secure justice for survivors.
About the Author: Bryan Marcus serves as Deputy Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (J/TIP) at the U.S. Department of State.