By Charlene Porter
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton celebrated a decade of progress to liberate victims of human trafficking at the same time she promised that the efforts of the next decade must deliver greater results in ending 21st-century slavery.
The secretary’s remarks came June 27 with the release of an annual State Department assessment of trafficking in persons (TIP) activities in 180 countries.
“Today police officers, activists and governments are coordinating their efforts so much more effectively,” Clinton said, as nations have acted to pass laws to effectively prosecute traffickers. “Thousands of victims have been liberated around the world,” she said to a Washington audience of activists, ambassadors and governmental officials engaged in the issue.
But country-by-country analysis finds that traffickers are using advances in communication and transportation to continually expand their enterprises, and more action is needed, Clinton said. Traffickers make false promises of opportunity and advancement to lure innocents away from their homes in rural villages, transporting their victims to cities or other countries and forcing them into brothels or sweatshops.
“We now see that more human beings are exploited than before,” Clinton said. “There are as many as 27 million men, women and children.” That total includes victims being held in several different forms of involuntary servitude, whether for the purposes of sex, bonded labor, forced labor or domestic servitude.
Recognition of human trafficking as a criminal activity meriting strong international action dates back to 2000 and the adoption of the Palermo Protocols. In the United States, the next action came with adoption of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, signed by former President Bill Clinton and promoted by then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The first decade of the campaign against modern-day slavery focused on developing legal tools and immigration policies that allow prosecution of traffickers and protection of their victims. Now the director of the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, says the next decade must be about delivering on the legal framework that nations have erected.
“There’s been a lot of advances in the last few years, but we are concerned that the number of victims identified and the number of traffickers being prosecuted has flattened out around the world,” CdeBaca said. “And that trend needs to go back into an increase.”
The global number of prosecutions and convictions has gone from almost 3,000 convictions in 2008 to 3,600 convictions in 2010, according to the TIP report.
While he looks forward to a new surge in the campaign against human trafficking, CdeBaca says the achievements so far can’t be overlooked. “The fight has changed governments, with almost 150 signatories to the U.N. protocol, and 130 countries with comprehensive laws,” CdeBaca said.
The United States is also one of the countries assessed for its record in human trafficking. While it is placed in the highest category — Tier One, countries that are fully compliant with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act — officials said the United States, like other countries, must do more. Officials suggest that a new tactic in the campaign will be to make developed-world corporations and consumers aware of their responsibility to ask questions about labor practices along the entire manufacture and delivery chain of products they buy and insist upon guarantees that fair labor practices are in place at every step.
Ten Human Rights Heroes received accolades from State Department officials and other assembled dignitaries for the strides they had taken in their own countries to address human trafficking. As prosecutors, activists and social workers, the honorees were all working to help the victims of this crime or prosecute its perpetrators.
(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. )