Letter From Susan Coppedge, Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
This year’s Trafficking in Persons Report focuses on strategies to prevent human trafficking around the globe. As always, the Report analyzes governments’ prosecution, protection, and prevention efforts; but this year we feature ways governments can identify people most at-risk and reduce their vulnerability. The more governments understand the needs of these populations, the better they can partner with civil society to support communities and educate individuals to prevent their being exploited.
As a former Assistant United States Attorney and now as Ambassador, I have met trafficking survivors and heard them tell of the schemes traffickers used to recruit and exploit them. Often, traffickers target those struggling to survive, fleeing violence or conflict, looking for someone to care about them, or simply trying to get ahead. In one case I prosecuted, two women were lured to the United States to be nannies in exchange for the opportunity to go to school and earn money to send home. When they got here, their trafficker instead forced them to work for no pay, kept them isolated, held their travel documents, and threatened them with arrest and deportation. Even so, the first woman did not know she was a trafficking victim; she ran away, but did not seek help from law enforcement as she feared being arrested. The cycle was repeated when the trafficker lured another woman to replace the first; she only sought help after seeing a television show about trafficking and realized there were laws against such abuse.
In cases like these, prosecution and protection efforts are clearly needed, but we must also focus on prevention—on how to stop people from being trafficked. We need to expose the lies traffickers tell to recruit unsuspecting individuals and ensure those who are recruited can safely report any fraud, coercion, or abuse. In addition to tackling specific factors that put people at risk, we should also support organizations, faith groups, and governments to help avert the crime by providing those at risk with real opportunities, including jobs, education, and housing.
Businesses and consumers have a key role to play, too, in helping ensure forced labor is not used to produce the goods and services they sell and purchase. This year I was proud to launch a project called “ResponsibleSourcingTool.org” to help federal contractors and businesses examine their supply chains and work to rid them of unscrupulous labor practices.
A key part of prevention is learning from survivors what would have helped them avoid victimization. In my first year as Ambassador, I have seen our government fulfill President Obama’s commitment to truly see and hear survivors of human trafficking. Federal agencies have sought survivor input and funded survivors to develop trainings and new research. The President also appointed 11 survivors to offer recommendations to the Executive branch on a range of U.S. policies and programs to combat human trafficking.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, who has inspired many to continue working toward freedom for all, said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” In the United States and around the world, governments, civil society, law enforcement and service providers must seek justice for victims of human trafficking and work to prevent others from becoming victims in the first place.
Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor
and Combat Trafficking in Persons