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Candor and Modeling in Fighting Human Trafficking

Author: Mark P. Lagon, Centennial Fellow and Distinguished Senior Scholar, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service
July 8, 2013
Georgetown Journal of International Affairs


The Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP) at the U.S. State Department, which I had the privilege of directing, has put out the annual Trafficking in Persons Report. The report reflects candor on the global situation and on specific nations. Yet to deliver candid tough love in a way that persuades others to change, the United States needs to be credible in keeping its own house in order.

The report's global statistics are striking. In the last year, there were 7,705 prosecutions and 4,746 convictions for human trafficking globally. These are welcome increases of 7 percent and 10.7 percent respectively from the year before.

Only 15 percent of prosecutions and less than 11 percent of convictions were related to labor rather than sexual exploitation. While indicating an area of impunity and a need for businesses to scrutinize global supply chains, these percentages are low given the International Labor Organization (ILO) 2012 finding that over three-quarters of trafficking victims in the private economy are exploited for labor. Justice demands that both types of trafficking—labor and sexual exploitation—be punished.

While holding perpetrators to account is necessary for victims to reclaim their dignity, even more important is ensuring victims' protection and re-empowerment. This year's report indicates that authorities identified 46,570 survivors globally, up 11.5 percent from the year before.

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