A Closing Note

Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons

Governments hold a unique position in the fight against human trafficking, in that they have ultimate responsibility for punishing perpetrators, protecting victims, and preventing trafficking crimes. Using this “3P” paradigm, our office works diligently to evaluate the efforts of 187 governments and provide concrete recommendations on how each can combat modern slavery most effectively.

The obligation to hold traffickers accountable for their crimes is a key element of the Palermo Protocol, and a government’s efforts to prosecute signify its dedication to fighting human trafficking. High acquittal rates, suspended sentences, imposition of fines in lieu of incarceration, and weak prison terms are ineffective to deter future crimes. When authorities punish trafficking victims for crimes they were forced to commit, including prostitution and immigration violations, they hinder their own efforts to investigate and punish traffickers.

The burden on governments to respond to the crime with sufficiently deterrent penalties and to protect victims is heightened when their own officials engage in or facilitate trafficking crimes. Some judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement officials throughout the world accept bribes for reducing sentences of perpetrators, leaking information to suspects under investigation, or ignoring potential cases. Some state employees of publicly-run orphanages organize or overlook the sex trafficking of children in their care, while some officials at camps for refugees or IDPs exploit victims or ignore their protection responsibilities, leaving camp residents more vulnerable to exploitation and retaliation. Law enforcement officials who protect brothels for financial gain can be complicit in sex trafficking, while those who knowingly purchase commercial sex from sex trafficking victims are directly culpable. Some diplomats exploit their domestic workers, often avoiding penalties for trafficking crimes committed abroad. Globally, public officials complicit in or committing sex and labor trafficking crimes frequently avoid punishment. Governments must stop such complicity and look within their own ranks to hold offending officials criminally accountable.

Government-sponsored human trafficking represents the most egregious form of complicity. Government-compelled forced labor continues in some countries, including in agricultural programs, state-run detention facilities, drug rehabilitation centers, and government-to-government contracts for foreign workers. In regions across the world, militaries—including some government armies—forcibly recruit children to serve as soldiers or militia members or in service capacities such as porters and cooks. In sponsoring policies like these, governments not only harm the very people they are responsible for protecting, they also embolden human traffickers who know they will face no punishment for the crime.

The Trafficking in Persons Report includes data on the important work being done to uncover trafficking crimes and prosecute criminals. But pursuit of non-state actors is not enough. Governments with laws or policies that compel or sanction forced labor or other trafficking crimes must change their practices. All governments should review policies to ensure the fight against complicity is effective and root out corruption that often allows modern slavery to thrive. When governments end impunity of their own officials who facilitate human trafficking, other actors will see the importance of holding criminals—no matter their status in society—accountable. Each government bears that unique responsibility in the fight against modern slavery and must rise to this challenge.


Karen Vierling Allen
Julia F. Anderson
Tom Babington
Andrea Balint
Shonnie R. Ball
Kyle M. Ballard
Michelle C. Bloom
Carla M. Bury
Mark Carlson
Cathleen Chang
Susan Coppedge
Alisha D. Deluty
Leigh Anne DeWine
Stephen D. Dreyer
John D. Elliott
Mary C. Ellison
Mark Forstrom
Carl B. Fox
Connor Gary
Christy Gillmore
Adam Guarneri
Patrick Hamilton
Tegan Hare
Amy Rustan Haslett
Caitlin B. Heidenreich
Sonia Helmy-Dentzel
Greg Hermsmeyer
Julie Hicks
Torrie Higgins
Jennifer M. Ho
Renee Huffman
Veronica Jablonski
Harold Jahnsen
Maurice W. Johnson
Tyler Johnston
Kari A. Johnstone
Maria M. Khalaf
Nayab Khan
Emily A. Korenak
Kendra Leigh Kreider
Megan Hjelle-Lantsman
Abigail Long
Drew Lucas
Channing L. Martin
Kerry McBride
Rendi McCoy
Maura K. McManus
Ericka Moten
Ryan Mulvenna
Samantha Novick
Amy O’Neill Richard
Victoria Orero
Clare Orie
Anna Patrick
Sandy Perez Rousseau
Hedayat K. Rafiqzad
Laura Svat Rundlet
Chad C. Salitan
Haley L. Sands
Sarah A. Scott
Mai Shiozaki-Lynch
Julie Short Echalar
Jane Nady Sigmon
Soumya Silver
Ann Karl Slusarz
Whitney Stewart
Desirée M. Suo
Francesca Tadle
Atsuki Takahashi
Melissa Verlaque
Stephen Verrecchia
Kathleen Vogel
Myrna E. Walch
Rebecca Webb
Maeve E. Westover
Katie Wiese
Andrea E. Wilson
Ben Wiselogle
Janet Zinn

Special thanks to Lamya Shawki El-Shacke and the graphic services team at Global Publishing Solutions.