There are more than 20 million victims of human trafficking around the world. They are boys and girls, men and women, exploited for labor or commercial sex.
Slavery is illegal in every country in the world, but cases of forced labor and sex trafficking are found all around the globe, including in all 50 states here in America. Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal enterprises in the world.Traffickers are estimated to make more than $150 billion dollars in profits off of human misery every year.
Strategies are emerging to fight this crime, however, current U.S. government funding is insufficient to fight this crime and to meet the needs of victims and survivors. In fact, U.S. government investments are only $150 million a year. That means traffickers make 1,000 times more in profits off this heinous crime every year than we invest to stop them.
With adequate leadership, the United States has an historic opportunity to bring the fight to traffickers all around the world and free millions from modern slavery. With bold and sustained American leadership, we can be the generation that ends human trafficking and modern slavery.
If the U.S. government were to allocate just two cents to fight trafficking for every dollar traffickers make that would yield a budget of $3 billion (USD) which holds the promise of liberating millions now in forced labor and preventing modern slavery on a global scale.
We are asking President Trump to reflect this commitment in the President’s Budget Request and work with Congress to see it appropriated. Funds should be allocated to both domestic and international efforts, for a comprehensive response including prevention efforts, victim identification, law enforcement and prosecution, improving data collection and analysis, providing comprehensive services, and leadership development for survivors.
Federal contractors are required by law and Executive Orders to create and implement comprehensive anti-trafficking measures throughout their product and service supply chains. Proactive enforcement measures are needed to ensure that trafficking in the federal supply chain will be eliminated. The next President should establish protocols to ensure rigorous enforcement of these promising provisions.
To date, a country’s policy and practice on protecting its people from human trafficking is not considered when granting access to U.S. markets. Robust enforceable action against human trafficking must be included in all trade agreements. Experience in other sectors indicates that enforcing bans on illicit goods yields dramatic results.
The United States dialogue on modern slavery must be elevated, unequivocal and persistent, especially with countries where human trafficking is most prevalent. The next President and Secretary of State could send a powerful signal by keeping the issue on the high level agenda. From experience, we know that serious engagement by senior U.S. government officials can drive rapid, concrete action by lagging governments. We should use our foreign assistance, convening power and power within international financial institutions to promote enforcement of anti-trafficking laws.
Suppliers of goods made with forced labor should be held accountable and must take steps to remove modern slavery from their supply chains. While supply chains can be very complex, multinational corporations routinely monitor complex supply chains to ensure product quality and enhance profitability. This diligence and creativity should be extended to addressing human trafficking. Public policy should provide incentives that reward diligence and exact costs for negligence or malfeasance.
Targeted safe places and appropriate services that address the unique vulnerabilities of children and runaway and homeless youth to sex and labor trafficking are critical and critically underfunded. Migrant or foreign workers are also highly susceptible to human trafficking. To address the potential for fraud in the recruitment of foreign workers, foreign labor contractors should be prohibited from charging recruitment fees to workers, subjected to increased transparency measures, and clear, regularly enforced and effective remedies for violations. They should also ensure core rights for all temporary work visa holders including whistle-blower protections, visa portability and the right to change employers. Human trafficking is a human rights abuse that cuts across all ages, ethnicities, and genders worldwide and programming to address prevention, protection and access to justice should be made available to all who are vulnerable to this crime.
The U.S. government has many tools to address the root causes of vulnerability to trafficking through development and humanitarian assistance. However, many of these tools go underutilized and underfunded. The United States should seek to integrate anti-trafficking efforts into wider U.S. foreign assistance programs and continue to find ways to comprehensively address all forms of trafficking through U.S. foreign assistance and domestic programs that address the root causes of vulnerability to trafficking and exploitation.
It is essential that survivors of human trafficking are recognized as victims and not criminalized for the crimes they are forced to commit by their exploiters. Additionally, efforts must be made to promote and elevate survivor voice; including survivors at all levels and stages of government decision and policy-making. Most importantly, survivors require and deserve access to comprehensive, trauma-informed services necessary to ensure survivor healing.
The U.S. government should take the lead in promoting measurement of trafficking for sexual exploitation and forced labor and programs aimed at ending all forms of modern slavery. Investing in measurement is essential to designing good policies and programs, learning from experience and accountability. The U.S. government could make a tremendous contribution by providing the resources and political support needed to measure change.