Victim Identification First Step to Ending Human Slavery
By Jane Morse
IIP Staff Writer
June 20, 2013
Identifying human trafficking victims is the first step in ending modern-day slavery, says U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
Before an audience of diplomats, nongovernmental organization representatives and anti-trafficking activists at the June 19 rollout of the 13th annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, Kerry said, “There are countless voiceless people, countless nameless people, except to their families, or perhaps a phony name by which they are being exploited, who look to us for their freedom and for the possibility of life itself. … As we look at the challenge of modern-day slavery, regrettably our focus has to begin with the victims.”
Based on information U.S. diplomats have collected from governments worldwide, some 46,000 trafficking victims have been identified in the last year, the secretary said. That’s a mere fraction of the estimated 27 million men, women and children who are believed to be enslaved for labor or for the sex industry. Nonetheless, there was a 10 percent increase in victim identification last year, according to the report.
Because many trafficking victims go unrecognized and many remain hidden through fear and the power of their enslavers, traffickers are able to operate with impunity in this billion-dollar criminal enterprise, the report says. And while a majority of the word’s countries now criminalize all forms of human trafficking, government officials unevenly apply anti-trafficking laws, according to the report. Even so, trafficking convictions rose in the last year by 20 percent, from 3,969 to 4,746, the report says.
This year’s report focuses on victim identification as a top priority in the global movement to combat trafficking in persons. It details training and techniques that make identification efforts successful. These innovations, the report says, will enable more effective delivery of services to trafficking victims and aid in developing improvements in the global response to trafficking.
“Only through vigorous victim identification can we ensure that trafficking survivors get the services they need, can participate in legal proceedings, and can have their voices heard,” Kerry writes in the introduction to this year’s TIP report.
“Ending modern slavery must remain a foreign policy priority,” Kerry writes. “Human trafficking undermines the rule of law and creates instability. It tears apart families and communities. It damages the environment and corrupts the global supply chains and labor markets that keep the world’s economies thriving.”
Human trafficking is also “an assault on our most dearly held values of freedom and basic human dignity,” Kerry writes. “American leadership means protecting those values at home and working to advance them around the world.”
The United States will support people who are working to prevent trafficking, who come to the aid of victims, and who work to bring traffickers to justice, Kerry says. “We will continue to do so by bringing together an array of stakeholders — from civil society and the faith community to the private sector and government leaders — to forge partnerships aimed at spurring innovation and improving collaboration,” he writes.
“Governments bear primary responsibility for responding to this crime,” he says, and the annual TIP report is “the gold standard in assessing how well governments — including our own — are meeting that responsibility.“
This year’s report includes narratives for 188 countries and territories. The two new entries are on Bhutan and St. Maarten. The report is used by the U.S. government as a diplomatic tool in its bilateral and multilateral relations.
Read the complete report at the State Department website.