Women and Foreign Policy Symposium: Human Trafficking - Global Health and Security

Wednesday, May 3, 2006
Sarah E. Mendelson
Senior Fellow, Center for Strategic and International Studies
Joy Zarembka
Director, Break the Chain Campaign
Alice Miller
Professor, Department of Population and Family Health, School of Public Health, Columbia University; Law and Health Advisor, Sexual Health and Rights Project, Open Society Institute
Nicholas D. Kristof
The New York Times

NICHOLAS KRISTOF: Thank you. I think we’re going to get started now. Thank you—thank you all for coming. It’s great to see this turnout. This is really terrific. Standing-room-only audience on trafficking at the Council on Foreign Relations. Wow! (Applause.)


: (Off mike.)

KRISTOF: And there’s (global time ?) for women. Equal opportunity applause.

I’m Nicholas Kristof from The New York Times. I should say I was wrote in at the last minute to moderate the panel. So this is kind of a bait and switch, but you’re stuck with me for the next little bit. And I’m sure a lot of you were at the previous session, so you know that in contrast to usual council rules, this panel is actually on the record. And so scribble away and spread the news. And when we do get to questions then, again, make sure there’s a question mark that comes pretty quickly in what you raise.

First of all, let me introduce our panelists. We have Sarah Mendelson, who is at CSIS, a senior fellow and, in particular, an expert on security aspects and peacekeeping troops as they apply to trafficking issues, and in particular on Russia and Eastern Europe.

Next, we have Alice Miller, who is at Columbia, a professor of population issues and public health, and also an adviser to the Open Society Institute, which as many of you know is also much engaged in these issues.

And then we have Joy Zarembka, who heads a NGO in Washington, the Break the Chain campaign, which does both advocacy and service provision, and is particularly engaged in trafficking issues in the U.S.

So let me—we’ve got a lot of ground to cover focusing on health and security issues. Ali (ph), let me start with you. Can you talk a little bit about how trafficking issues do relate to the public health challenge and in particular AIDS? And kind of give us a framework of what you think about this?

Nicholas Kristof, Sarah Mendelson, Alice Miller, and Joy Zarembka

New York Times' Nicholas Kristof, Center for
Strategic and International Studies' Sarah Mendelson,
Columbia University's Alice Miller, and Break the
Chain Campaign's Joy Zarembka.

MILLER: And I will begin—as all of us—in thanking both the council and The Global Fund for this opportunity, and particularly the opening panel, which I think really began to set up an understanding of the issue, which in my close to 15 years of work for the rights of persons who have been trafficked and different forms of workers, it’s unparalleled in this new kind of clarity about how to confront the problem. I’m going to give the perverse answer of saying that after 15 years of this work, I’m now concerned not only about the health and human rights impacts of trafficking and forced labor itself, but I now have to be concerned about the health and human rights negative impacts of anti-trafficking policies. And for those of us who work in the public health law, rights and policy field, the fact that policy is set up to respond to trafficking can be counterproductive has been deeply troubling to many of us.

So in my remarks, I’m going to be addressing both sides of what, as a public health person and law and rights person, I confront in addressing trafficking.

The easy way to think about the harms of trafficking are what people use the horrible word in terms of clinical, which is to say at the personal level, at the level of the body. What a person faces who is in a forced labor or highly exploitative situation. Those are the kind of issues that I think you easily understand in terms of bodies. They come from abuse. They come from denial of access to air and lights. They come from health impacts of rape and other forms of torture. They come from health impacts of denial of food, of exposure to toxic chemicals in certain unregulated plantation and agricultural industries. They come from over-work. All of those are immediately visible on the body.

But from the health, the public health standpoint, we also want to think about the way in which systems can reach or not reach people who have been trafficked and the fact that people who are in a highly exploitative situation—those have direct impacts on their bodies and cannot get services to ameliorate those impacts. So the health and human rights questions are doubled. What happens to the body? And then—this is the part that’s hard to cover from a journalistic standpoint—what happens to the systems that should be in place either to prevent people from facing those harms? What do we need to know, for example, about HIV/AIDS prevention? What kind of information and practices would people need to know to protect themselves? Can they protect themselves? In other words, are they in a situation where denial of information or forced sex or forced other forms of abuse make it individually impossible? But then, if they go to seek services to ameliorate those harms, can they get those services?

And this is where in regard to the health and human rights impact of anti-trafficking policies—the sort of perverse impact of the U.S. on the one hand taking a leadership position to combat the global AIDS epidemic, but then linking the flow of that money to respond to that global epidemic, some of which is connected to the specific abuses that people in trafficking face, linking the flow of that money to particular positions that may make it impossible for those of us who do public health and human rights-based AIDS education with people in sex work, for example, through peer education. But the linkage of funding and policies that say it’s impossible to do that work unless you take a position opposing prostitution as part of our work to end trafficking. And I’m going to come back to that.

KRISTOF: We’ll come back to that.

MILLER: But those three aspects—the clinical aspect, what do persons face and what are their health needs, and then structurally how do they face those harms, and then structurally how do we respond to those harms—are all the health and human rights questions that I want us to deal with, I hope, over the course of this panel.

KRISTOF: Joy, maybe I’ll ask you next. You deal principally, I think, with a situation in the U.S., and with some other kinds of trafficking. Maybe you could talk for a moment about the situation in the U.S. and these various other kinds of trafficking and those health implications.

JOY ZAREMBKA: Right. I mainly work with the domestic worker community, so I’m working with maids, nannies, housekeepers, gardeners, anybody sort of related to the home who potentially is brought into this country and made to work against their will.

Interestingly, I work both with people who are trafficked as well as people who are being exploited, and by that, I mean, say, they’re not getting the proper wages. So I often say there’s a sort of worker continuum. There’s those of us who are skipping off to work in the morning. There are those of us who are about to go postal working the post office. There are those who are exploited. And then we have this sort of—this group of trafficked individuals.

And I work with people who are exploited all the way up to people who are trafficked. And what’s fascinating about the way in which the trafficking act has influenced my work is that we now have to put, you know, we have to demarcate who was trafficked and who was not. And interestingly, it very much affects what type of services—medical services and other services—we can offer.

So for example, let me give you a quick story. Oftentimes, we get frantic calls from people who want to get out of their egregious situation. And I’ll be talking to them and trying to figure out is it trafficking, is it not trafficking? And quickly we’ll get to sort of the sensitive questions about if there’s been any sort of physical abuse or sexual abuse in the situation. And sadly, I recognize that in the back of my head I’m saying, “Gosh, I hope this person’s been beaten; I hope this person has been, you know, sexually assaulted,” because all of a sudden we have millions of services for that person. We have—unfortunately, we have great protections. We have benefits. We have immigration relief, et cetera, for that particular group of people. But unfortunately, if you fall into this other section where you’ve been abused but not abused enough, we don’t have those same services. We don’t have funding for that person. And so it’s interesting. When those two different individuals come out of a situation, we have very different mental care and medical care available to them.

And you know, again, it’s sort of—it’s an interesting sort of underbelly of this great trafficking act that came out. Yes, we finally have services for a certain group. But unfortunately, there are others who aren’t getting those same services.

KRISTOF: And Sarah, often we try to address the security problem. In the Congo, for example, we have a security problem; we send in peacekeeping troops, then we end up with a new problem, which is trafficking. And a lot of the places that are trafficking centers have been concentrations of servicemen at some point.

So tell us a little bit of the connection between that security issue and, in turn, trafficking.

SARAH MENDELSON: Sure. First, thank you very much to the council and The Global Fund. As a council member, it is wonderful to see you all here on this issue.

I’m a Russia specialist, and I had a grant a few years ago from the MacArthur Foundation to look at military-to-military contact—U.S.-Russia. And everybody said look at Bosnia; this is a great success story. So when I started interviewing people who had served with the Russians—Americans who had served with the Russians—I started hearing another story. I started hearing a story about how U.S. peacekeepers serving with Russians were encountering on their patrols many trafficked females from various parts of the former Soviet empire. And these American military officers would try and raise the issue up their command chains only to be told not to say anything—“shhh! Don’t bring this issue up.” The Russia relationship with NATO is more important than the human rights of these women and girls.

And then, of course, as I dug deeper, I realized it’s not just about the Russians. There are U.S. contractors. There’s involvement of, in some cases, U.S. military. There’s French involvement. You mentioned the Congo, and there are many other documented cases where for example trafficking in women and girls had followed the peacekeepers in Bosnia and then in Kosovo.

We have a story that broke a few days ago in the Chicago Tribune that hasn’t been picked up by The New York Times or The Washington Post that there is widespread labor trafficking in Iraq by U.S. contractors. And we have the order that General Casey issued in response to this finding, and we have the response by at least one contractor—Kellogg, Brown & Root—which is entirely superficial, and it betrays the fact that I think they’re not going to take this issue of labor trafficking seriously.

This is also to say that there are security implications when those involved in peacekeeping missions engage in human rights abuses. The link between abuse and security is a very serious one that has gone unrecognized by many policymaking communities. The local community knows what’s going on. These abuses undermine the mission. A lot of these missions are about trying to help enforce rule of law. When anyone associated with the peacekeeping missions engage in criminal acts and abuse, they’re directly undermining it. In some cases, we had those who are responsible for force protection—that is, entry to the base – who were in some ways involved. This is extremely worrisome.

Also, in a lot of conflict and post-conflict situations, organized crime is a main security threat. When you have people either turning a blind eye or actively engaged in purchasing humans as chattel, there’s a continuum, and there’s different kinds of harm that are done. But they all harm not only the victim, but they harm the mission.

And understanding and getting our arms around the role that organized crime plays and what we can do about, what you can do about it, who you can call to try and affect policy I think is in some ways one of the more hopeful aspects of trafficking. We can stop international and U.S. engagement in this. We’ve got the tools; we just have to enforce the policies.

KRISTOF: Let me ask a skeptical question that I open up to anybody who wants to take it, and it was one that was raised in the last panel. And that is really whether the notion of trafficking is the best way to slice this issue or to look at it. If one looks at the security nexus, for example, in the former Yugoslavia, the problems there clearly have to do with trafficking. In other parts of the world—I mean, for example, Congo—a lot of the victims are local people who aren’t being trafficked in any kind of conventional sense. Likewise, in terms of the AIDS connection, you have these trucking routes in India where the issue is very much trafficking. In Zambia, you have similar routes from South Africa where you have truckers and brothels. But the women in the brothels in many cases aren’t trafficked. They’re local women who have gone there on their own.

And so I wonder if really the most useful way to look at this issue is trafficking, or whether it’s, you know, some other method such as forced labor, or exploitation or whatever.

MENDELSON: What I’m hearing – in e-mails, conversations, and even a recent U.N.O.D.C. report—I’m hearing repeatedly about cases of force, fraud, coercion, and exploitation in the context of peacekeeping operations or ongoing conflicts. So I think there is a merit to using the language of trafficking in this case. I’m hearing about cases in Kabul where there are “Chinese food restaurants” that are—as one contractor e-mailed me – “the worst kept secret in Kabul”. They are fronts for brothels where expat males go. And in a situation where you have third-country females (meaning - not Afghan, not US or other troop contributing countries but from some place not obviously associated with NATO) in a place where there is no legal sex industry, you immediately worry, who are these people? How did they get there? And what’s going on with them? You worry that this is a case of coercion, exploitation, and fraud.

Let’s take Korea—you don’t usually think of Korea as a peacekeeping mission, but that’s how the U.S. military is poised there. And there are females that are trafficked from the Philippines and the far east of Russia to Korea. And the U.S. military had an effort to address these issues—we can talk about how good an effort it was. But when the general who was trying to enforce this left Korea, the e-mails that I’m getting suggest that the problem has gotten worse. Any efforts to address the links between trafficking and peacekeeping ended.

There are different modality to all of these types of abuse. And I think in Congo, it is much more of a case of sexual exploitation and abuse as opposed to trafficking. I don’t know that any trafficking experts have looked at it closely. The U.N. is sometimes impenetrable, although we have some people who are very much working with us to try and combat this from inside the UN.

MILLER: I’d like to actually take a slightly different take; a double answer—which that on the one hand I agree with Sarah that many of the conditions that we see people—women and men recruited and moved into in a range of both post-conflict and so-called peacetime situations—are rightfully called trafficking. What the term trafficking gets you, however, will not necessarily be all of the interventions that you need to address the other questions of general HIV/AIDS prevention at a population level, more general health care systems and the repair of access to health services for poor and unprotected populations. So we have to do, I think, a bit of both. It will sound like bait and switch because the media, to a large extent, will follow a story of trafficking. What we need to then do is ensure that the response to the specific harms documented by Sarah. Or there are a number of colleagues in this room working with projects with Physicians for Human Rights in regard to trafficking in Thailand; Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International have done specific documentation projects on those specific harms.

But what we cannot do is mistake the specific harm response as being sufficient as a policy response to the other set of problems that you raised, Nicholas—which include how do we strengthen the way that both individuals and populations confront the AIDS epidemic? And that is information, services, self-organization and broader associational rights. So we always—we need to focus on specific response for trafficking but not be misled into thinking—and this comes hard to those of us who are used to doing traditional human rights work when you rescue one torture victim and that feels enough. We’re talking about setting up, as the earlier panel said, processes of prevention that stop the funnel of people into exploitative situations. And we’re talking within the HIV/AIDS epidemic and responses to health problems with a whole host of long-term and short-term empowerment strategies that make it more likely that people can avoid the risk of HIV/AIDS, or get the services they need if infected. And those two things have to be dealt with at the same time. But as we know, one tends to eclipse the other. And this, I think, is our challenge.

ZAREMBKA: I agree wholeheartedly with both Ali (ph) and Sarah on this point, but it really provides a tool. I mean, I often say as a social service provider that our social services are really the chemotherapy. And making the systemic changes—that’s the cure to the cancer. And we have to be working on both of those simultaneously. We can’t just continuously be giving services if we’re not changing the sort of—the overall focus.

And I mean, interestingly in the United States, I would dare say I’m enslaved to the semantics and the legislation as it relates to trafficking. And so we have to use those definitions, and we have to use the word trafficking to be able to get the services that are necessary and needed. I also think that the fact our trafficking act includes psychological coercion is very important. That people are being enslaved not just because they have shackles on their ankles but because they’re being coerced into staying. They’re being threatened at home. They’re being threatened by violence. It doesn’t have to be, you know, the sexual assault. It doesn’t have to be the beating. There’s various ways in which people are being psychologically coerced. And so I do appreciate that part of our trafficking law that takes that into consideration.

MILLER : Nicholas, can I add one more point? I’m going to here reference the work of a colleague who’s here in the room working in South Korea precisely in regard to the issue that Sarah raised an anthropologist Sealing Cheng is here and can speak for herself later. But her work has demonstrated that on the one hand, the range of people who move and are moved into the entertainment basis around the—entertainment areas—around the U.S. military bases are a mixture of trafficked and non-trafficked women. And one of the ironies in her published articles that I, at least, have been involved in the reviewing, is that they have of have indicated that some of the anti-trafficking interventions—because they are about removing women and sending them home—are a part of breaking up the capacity to do effective labor rights work and AIDS work. Simultaneously within the Korean structure, people who don’t move into the entertainment industry—migrants in other forms of work—are entirely unaddressed by the U.S. attention in regard to trafficking for a range of sexual labor, including forced prostitution. So we have again this double issue that I’m going to endlessly ask us to think about. Because if our long-term goal is stopping immediate harm, but doing, as I think Jyoti Sanghera said so eloquently on the first panel, empowering and building the structures for the human rights protection of the individuals most at risk, we can’t just stop at the one or the other.

And I think within the Korea example—and I think there’s a history there. And this links back again to the first panel that the pressure on the Korean government from the U.S. government, among others, because exposees in the U.S. on U.S. military bases and the way in which the exchange—sexual exchange between U.S. soldiers and Filipino and other women in the entertainment industry, and nonsexual exchange—has led to shutting down of movement of a lot of those women out. There’s questions about whether the law reform that happened in South Korea is good. This reform happens— in part to move up the tier from the lowest tier of not doing enough to recieving, you know, the Good Housekeeping seal of approval, it happens as countries are raised up the review process under the U.S. Trafficking in Persons Report, which is issued by the U.S. State Department. Whether those pressures and whether that change in the law has been good for the people most affected is precisely the question we should be asking. And I think we’ll hear more about that also from colleagues in the audience.

KRISTOF: Let me raise one of the most controversial areas in this whole issue, which is the question, as was raised in the last session as well, of prostitution versus sex work. And in particular, the U.S. law curbs provision of money to groups unless they say that they are opposed to prostitution. How does that work on the ground from each of your perspectives in terms of effectiveness of dealing with, for example, these kind of public health issues?

MENDELSON: This issue of complexity that you’re hearing about—we need to have complex responses in our policy . This is really quite critical. And the problem is that this debate of prostitution versus trafficking has in many ways, I think, inhibited us from developing complex responses—for example, in the case of the Department of Defense, we have, actually, a DOD policy on trafficking. In a $450 billion budget, give or take a billion or two, however, there is no line-item to implement this policy – zero dollars. And the response by the DOD has been to develop long-distance training modules, which DOD basically did themselves without any serious engagement with expert communities.

The main response that DOD has done is that they have added language about prostitution to the UCMJ—the Uniform Code of Military Justice. They’ve tightened it up a bit. But they haven’t done any kind of systematic effort to change the organizational culture within the DOD or within the armed forces or within the contracting community to understand this issue at all. And we had a fix actually in the trafficking bill that was passed in December 2005. When the bill was first introduced in March 2005, there was a large piece in there that drew on research a lot of us have done advocating for an office to really get out in front on this issue and provide leadership and resources. The House Armed Services Committee refused to pass the bill with that language in the bill. So there’s still language about peacekeeping, but the policy tools—the office, the resources, the leadership—were taken out.

And my impression is—and I would be very encouraged to hear from some of you if I’m wrong—my impression is the DOD and House Armed Services Committee thought they were doing everything right because they had other language that they were working with inside the DOD on prostitution. But they weren’t really addressing the fundamental issues in the field.

MILLER: Can I take a step back and perhaps explain the law and the way the two conditionalities on the flow of money function, because I think that may be useful to people.

There are two pieces of legislation, both enacted in 2003, which contain language specific to prostitution and related in different ways to the conversation today about anti-trafficking. The first piece of legislation where the language first appeared is in the U.S. Global Leadership Act on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the language and conditionality in that flow of money. So that is the money that basically feeds the president’s—the PEPFAR—the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief—response to AIDS act. And that was the kind of big pledge of we will—the U.S. government as part of fighting the global AIDS pandemic will put in $15 billion, and we will do both prevention and treatment. So the act in its big lineaments was revolutionary in many ways and represented the joining together of many forces. And it had a prevention component and a treatment component. But as many of you following the work around sexual and reproductive health will understand, the politics of sexual and reproductive health have been quite polarized to the extent where evidence-based work on what is both useful—in particular, for women to enjoy their sexual and reproductive health rights—is less important than certain ideological frameworks. That’s a trend throughout the congressional work. And there’s quite a good working piece on U.S. policy in regard to this that I can refer you to by a woman named Francoise Girard (ph), currently at the OSI, who did a piece on the intersections between all this.

Fast forward to the bill itself. It’s about getting money out to combat the AIDS epidemic. Within that, there is a set of conditionalities that says no U.S. money can be used for the advocacy of legalization of prostitution or the promotion of prostitution. That part’s—and also in favor of sex trafficking. No one is in favor of sex trafficking. Obviously, it’s the first part that is the contentious part.

It is a norm for the U.S. government to say what you can do with our money/U.S.. It’s the second half that is particularly problematic, which says that no NGO is eligible to receive this money—and remember, this is part of a big push for public-private partnerships in combating HIV/AIDS around the world. No NGO is eligible to receive this money if it does not have a policy opposing prostitution. Now, what that means in function is that an NGO both has to make a policy, and not only can it not use U.S. money for this in any way that doesn’t oppose prostitution but it cannot in any of its other activities, anywhere in the world, do anything that might fall afoul of this conditionality.

So two kinds of problems. What is falling afoul? What does it mean to insufficiently oppose prostitution? If you organize with sex workers and teach them language skills, which help negotiate safer sex as colleagues an NGO in Cambodia have been doing, is that part of the promotion? Is that insufficient opposition, because they’re also more successful in holding onto their money and—one catches the drift. What is that?

The second half, which people who follow reproductive health will recognize elements of what’s often called the Mexico City policy or global gag rule around abortion. There was an assumption that you could constrain what an NGO says by giving it U.S. money would not apply to NGOs based in the United States, because NGOs in the U.S. would have First Amendment rights. That general assumption, which has held true for the abortion gag rule, is no longer true for this prostitution pledge. U.S. NGOs that receive this money are now bound by this conditionality following a series of internal memos starting last fall of 2004 and then the actual appearance of this grant in U.S. NGO’s contracts, which they sign with USAID.

Now, this same set of restrictions with similar—not identical but similar language also appears in the 2003 anti-trafficking—what people have been referring to as the Trafficking Victim Protection Act (TVPA) or now the Trafficking Victim Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2003 -- same set of restrictions—U.S. money use and NGO can’t do other or speak, and applied to U.S. NGOs receiving this money.

Now, the First Amendment part of that is being challenged in two sets of lawsuits, because U.S. groups can fight for their First Amendment rights through U.S. courts. But I want to highlight the fact that although this lawsuit is proceeding—two different suits filed—we can speak more about them if people are interested in it—in last summer and fall of last year—one suit in D.C. by a population services group called DKT International, which receives about (16) percent of its funding from USAID, and the second suit filed here in New York by OSI and Pathfinder International, both groups who work in sexual and reproductive health more generally. So that lawsuit proceeds. But I want to highlight the fact that even the success of that lawsuit does not remove the restriction from non-U.S. NGOs receiving this money. And as a public health person—and we can talk about the research that shows that peer-based education programs with people in sex work that both help them fight abuse and fight AIDS are among the most successful AIDS prevention strategies—this is a problem for us.

So I hope that wasn’t too long.

ZAREMBKA: And let me give a concrete example of this, if I will. As I mentioned, we work mostly with domestic workers, but we also have individuals who have been trafficked into prostitution. And we are a subcontractor of monies that are to be used to provide services to these individuals.

Now, we had some clients—and this is prior to this passing—but we had some clients who came to us who had consented to coming to this country to work in the sex sector. They knew that. But once they arrived here, they were forced to work against their will. It was above and beyond what they thought and signed up for—right. They were trafficked into their situation. And when they got out, they came to us.

Now, we offered them services. We did everything we could in terms of language. Our main gist is to meet people where they are and help them move toward self-sufficiency—so, you know, everything from food, clothing, shelter to, you know, life skills, language, et cetera.

Now, we can’t force these people to do one thing or another. We can’t say okay, but you can never go back into prostitution. We had no control over what they did next. Now, they ended up returning to their home country, and we can’t really say what happened to them.

But am I promoting prostitution by helping individuals who’ve been trafficked but now are trying to get back on their feet? And how do I even negotiate that? Am I violating this? So interesting questions like that are going to continuously come up until we have more definition. And you know, I think it’s very problematic that we can’t just do the service provision that we had signed up to do for trafficked individuals without worrying about, quite frankly, a policy that has nothing to do with the work that I do. I don’t have—we don’t have a policy on prostitution. It’s not of any interest to the work that we’re doing. But we’re wondering how is that going to stymie our ability to actually serve our clients.

KRISTOF: The administration doesn’t have a lot of fans on the panel, maybe -- (laughter) -- but let me ask a question about that. I mean, this issue has been—had tremendous hostility from a lot of the NGO community. But it’s also my impression that actually on the ground, it matters much less than people have feared. And part of that is because NGOs lie. And part of that is because in fact policies in Washington always get diluted on the ground as they go through layers and layers and layers. And so I wonder if in fact all the, you know, concern about this issue—and, for example, in Poipet, Cambodia, and in Livingstone, Zambia, and in Calcutta—each of those three places I’ve seen programs that are getting U.S. funding that on their face would raise precisely these kinds of concerns but that are going through and that are doing great work.

And so I wonder whether we really need to be so alarmed (it doesn’t come to much ?) about this particular issue?

MENDELSON: – It might be useful to go back to what was said on the first panel about the funnel issue, and that the way in which this issue is destructive is that it diverts attention—it’s the “politics of distraction,” as our colleague, Martina Vandenberg, likes to say. It distracts from the larger issue of root causes and where the money from both public and private foundations should be going and how U.S. foreign policy should be executed and whether or not you place rights and development really fundamentally behind the rhetoric. There’s a lot of rhetoric out there.

I don’t know how many of you have read the national security strategy that came out recently. I read it and I thought well, on paper, , this is a very rights based national security strategy. But when you look at the implementation, and you look at the budgets that’s where things begin to fall apart. And this administration is not of one voice, frankly. And when you look really closely inside, even with the executive branch, there are people who are beginning to think about this and trying to figure out how to move it forward. And there are many people on the legislative side who are very frustrated by both this debate taking us away from the real fundamental issues, and trying to keep it back on track.

ZAREMBKA: And I think—I think we need to look at what this looks like—the impact on the ground. Even though perhaps some NGOs might be able to slither around, I think it’s most important to note that many of the social service providers that do not have a policy do not have funding anymore. Funding has completely been diverted to faith-based initiatives and other such areas, so that it actually is having a really strong impact on those who have, you know, sort of built up an expertise in this work over the years. But now, for example, we don’t have any sort of funding streams that are coming specifically from the office of victims of crime or from Health and Human Services.

MILLER: I’d like to add that—to support this conversation about the way in which uncertainty makes for bad programming. It may be true that NGOs lie, and certain USAID program officers can nod and wink. It is not consistently true, and the inability to know when that will be true means that you cannot program. And services cannot be given on a heroic and ad hoc measure, which is what essentially we’re asking for—that people be heroic, ad hoc and individual. And I do love individual heroes, but that’s not the basis of good programming, either in prevention or in response.

So as just a fundamental matter, all of us are caught by saying yes, good stuff’s going on; can’t talk about it. (Laughter). Do we give the credit to the policy for that and secondly that can’t talk about it—and as someone who is both an academic and an advocate, not being able to talk about the impact of policies and research, to really look at and even to go back to the vexed question of what are the relationships between different forms of unprotected labor and exploitation—if we cannot talk, network and associate with people who are receiving U.S. money and get operational-based research, we can’t do good intervention.

And I think Joy’s second point that the flow of money is shifting because of this policy—not just this policy, but the general shift. So one wants to pay attention to each of those pieces, even as we say yes, good programming, go forward. But we cannot give a bad policy the credit to the fact that those programs survive.

There are individual incidences which keep scaring people to self-censorship, to limiting even what they can do under the program, to shutting down good programs, in part because of the intersection of certain moments of U.S. foreign policy. A recent set of events in India, which you may be familiar with illustrate this. Last summer an advocate who has been working for years both in regard to AIDS prevention—named Meena Seshu -- and in looking at anti-exploitation was named as a child trafficker in pres accounts. She found herself caught in a battle between interventionists and rescue and raids, the leaders of which found the group (VAMP) that she worked with insufficiently helpful to them against prostitution, and which then attempted to shut down and intervene with AIDS programming. Seshu had worked with collectives who were also looking to remove people from exploitative circumstances in the brothel. And that particular vortex of rescue and raid interventionists shut down very good AIDS programming; the incident was part and parcel of the intersection of this ideology with domestic U.S. politics. Thus the policy is affecting programs on the ground, even as good programs may continue to sort of slither under the radar.

KRISTOF: Let me ask a very practical question as sort of how we translate all this into reality.

Maybe the worst place for trafficking I’ve ever seen was old Svay Pak in Cambodia where you used to be able to, you know, buy 7-year-old girls. They were completely imprisoned and so on. Doctors Without Borders—MSF had a program there. They had a clinic there twice a week where they sent a doctor who would provide free medical treatment for these very young, essentially enslaved girls and treat STI and so on. Then they were criticized because the notion was it was effectively like providing treatment to slaves so they could work harder. And so they pulled out. They closed that clinic. In the meantime, Svay Pak has been to some degree closed down. But what do you—what does one do in that kind of situation? Suppose, you know, each of you are whatever—whether it’s ambassador to Cambodia or you’re U.N. OCHA head in Cambodia or you’re head of a major NGO there, and you have this kind of a brothel district. What do you do with the public health problem there?

MENDELSON : In the policy community, we’ve not been able to get beyond this and have serious conversations about what is a viable response to this. I think a lot of us might view giving medical treatment to a 7-year-old in that situation as enabling her terrible situation.

On the other hand, with all due respect, the idea of purchasing somebody to getthem out is also, I mean -- (laughter) -- could be construed as trafficking—


KRISTOF: President Bush is calling to -- (laughter).

MILLER : Sorry. I thought it was off. Oops!

Miller: I had no idea it was still on; it was supposed to be off. My apologies.

MENDELSON: Maybe they had some constructive ideas. (Laughter.)

MENDELSON: It’s a very serious issue, and I don’t think that we’ve put in place the kinds of policies that can address the situation of that child. If you have somebody who comes in and they buy somebody, to most victims, they are just another trafficker. To the person who’s being bought, they’re no different. I mean, you’re a good person and you weren’t taking them and reselling them. But the move to rescue and the move to repatriate, -- none of this frankly is adequate. W are not dealing with the situation they are returning to.—We have something in place, but it’s not adequate—

And the one place I would disagree with the first panel is that there are still very large, unresolved issues in Eastern Europe and Eurasia, and there is not a lot of money going to the health and education of children and youth. And there’s not much for these people in many parts of Eurasia. And you can understand why people would end up in these terrible situations.

So at the moment, the answer is “cloudy-asklater”, but we need to be talking about this. And we need to be doing it in a way that – does not immediately back everyone into a corner, where one person is saying, “so, you are pro-prostitution?”. And then you can’t go on to meaningfully address the real issues. And then it’s of no help to anybody.

ZAREMBKA: I often—I often—at the end of any talk that I give about trafficking, people want to know, what can I do? And while my first inclination is send me money -- (laughter) -- I know that that’s not the answer. My second answer is send money to these sending countries. I mean, you know, support some sort of economic initiative. You know, help a school in that area where these young, you know, 7-year-olds are not able to get proper education. I think that—I mean, I’m just really wanting to echo what we heard in the first panel, this idea of really thinking about systemic change that’s going to allow us to take away the root causes and conditions that are then leading to these trafficking situations.

I think we need to start talking about long term versus short term. You know, buying a slave is a short-term solution, but it doesn’t really replace that revolving door that’s going to put another slave in that exact same position. So sort of taking a step back and—

MILLER: I think—and I come from the world of specific human rights intervention and moved into public health. So the questions are both about what you do when you see a single individual [facing harm] and also try to change systems [that lead to harm]. I understand this as being a point of tension. But I would actually somewhat also take issue with the notion that what you described [about MSF]—and in my work in Cambodia, I did not see brothels full of 7-year-olds. One of the interesting questions is how to respond immediately to the extreme situation but not characterize it so that the extreme is seen to be true of the whole. And that sounds really cold-hearted, but that is what we have to do.

Cambodia has a deeply—and I’ve spent some time working with NGOs working within the criminal justice system in the early mid-90s to try to set up the criminal justice system. It is still an incapable and unfortunately still highly corrupt criminal justice system. A colleague who was with us for the last two days, Carol Jenkins has written a report will be recently released that talks about more than 70 percent of the women that she interviewed who were in prostitution were raped by police. So that the idea that on the one hand we’re trying to respond to the 7-year-old, but we’re calling into play a set of authorities that are themselves unaccountable in a way that we aren’t now talking about becomes part of the problem there.

So I want to see a discussion that says, one, how do we actually understand who’s in the brothels in Phnom Penh and outside Phnom Penh. And the study that was spoken about this morning was very interesting—an investigator who followed cab drivers until he felt like he had mapped out all of the known brothels that both foreigners and non-foreigners went to, and then within that did representative sampling of the people in those brothels, which is the first of its kind actually in that area. And it did not turn up hosts of 7-year-olds. It doesn’t say that there aren’t any. But it’s just so now how do we respond to both sets of problems (under 18s in brothels and non-trafficked women).

In regard to health and terms of MSF’s own work, part of the notion of thier approach is to to work with the people in the brothels. In brothels, there are organizations of sex workers attempting to organize to fight exploitation. How do we support them as well as their work to get children out of the brothels? And that work includes to tease outwhat is going to be shut down by certain versions of anti-trafficking policies that don’t allow us to try to do both things. And this is the problem for many of us who are trying so hard to end the harm of trafficking, end the systems that lead to the harm, and effectively respond to HIV/AIDS.

KRISTOF: I’ll go to questions in a moment, but let me just push you all a little more on that question of specifically, you know, what we do, or what interventions you’ve seen that you think are great. And everybody talks in the long run about raising the status of women and about educating girls and so on. But you know, if you were ambassador to Cambodia, you’re going to be there for two or three years, you know, what do you do in the here and now that is going to make a real difference on the issue?

MENDELSON: I would make sure that if I have troops that are on Fighter Management Pass Programs, “R&R,” that are going to Cambodia, that if they are engaging in trafficking or facilitating trafficking, that they’re prosecuted DOD has a “zero-tolerance policy”, but as has been pointed out several times, “zero prosecutions.”

MILLER: The other piece is that you work with the Cambodian legal system to protect the people who have been trafficked, because the statistics that trafficked and/or any person in prostitution is more likely to be raped by the police has to become top of your list. And I think that we should step away from the notions that poverty causes trafficking, girls’ education will stop trafficking. The earlier panel made it clear that the causative factors are differential development, inability to move safely into good work, inability to have job opportunities that pay a living wage. Those are different problems. In fact, there’s evidence in both northern Thailand and Cambodia that a little bit of education—because it increases the ability of a girl or a young woman to be able to move—increases her social capital. That does not increase her ability to move safely becomes a factor in trafficking. So we have to stop listing these things as just educating girls will fix the problem. It will not.

Within public health, we know that individual behavior change efforts are useless if the structures that force people into unsafe behaviors don’t change. So I think my ambassador’s going to talk long and hard, but spend a lot of time with these differential issues: the cross-border movement of people into Thailand; the fact that people in Thailand, either non-registered Thai people or Cambodians, have no ability to argue for their rights; the fact that they are deported without neither prosecution of the harms against them or any ability to appear in Thailand to claim their rights and very few groups are able to speak with them and for them; the fact that the debt bondage system has continued to be left in place, which means that when you send one child home to Cambodia from a begging operation in Thailand, a younger child is sent; which means Operation Hope has been doing extremely good work in Thailand trying to break the debt bondage system and work with the individuals and stop the pressures that move the younger and younger children who are less and less able to move safely. Those are the things I would focus on.

ZAREMBKA: I don’t want to be ambassador. (Laughter.)

KRISTOF: Okay. Your turn. Now, we don’t have a floating mike and so—but, you know, same idea. Please just stand up and identify yourself and ask a question that is a genuine question.


QUESTIONER: (Off mike.)


KRISTOF: I should re-rephrase the question for the transcript which will be done. Andrew Pierre asked about the connection between these kinds of issues and other kinds of illicit behaviors, whether arms or drug smuggling for it—other kinds of trafficking issues.

MENDELSON: When I was in Bosnia, meeting with senior U.S. military who were serving there, they would say “I’m all about slaying the dragon, I’m all about stopping trafficking in arms and drugs.” Well, what about trafficking in humans? I asked. “Hmmm,” they would respond, “trafficking in humans? When I just said that, that’s the first time I’ve ever said it or thought about it.” For a lot of people, in the DOD, at NATO, there hasn’t been an understanding of how these criminal networks are connected, partly because the research has not been done in the way that it should be.

There’s one report that came out in July 2004 from IOM that talked about how these criminal networks were interlinked. Somebody once said to me “what I need in order to be able to really move this issue—I need a chart that shows me X percentage of persons indicted for war criminals are making money off of Y percent from trafficking in arms, some percent from trafficking in drugs, and some percent from trafficking in women, and the rest, from legitimate business. I need to understand the illegal political economy of this region, and then I will respond.” And what they were doing was essentially leaving the trafficking in humans part aside. And without that evidence, they weren’t seeing trafficking in people as a security issue, and that’s partly why they weren’t responding to it.

So research on some level is needed. The commanders need the evidence. They need to the connections made explicit for them.—I keep waiting for Radko Mladic to be picked up, and that they’re going to go through the sources that were supporting him. And it’s going to be all sorts of illegal activity and the connectivity is going to be very intense.

QUESTIONER: (Off mike.)

MENDELSON: UNODC just has a report out—I don’t know how many of you have seen it. This is the part of the U.N. that looks at drugs and crime. And there seems to be the strongest link between groups that traffic in drugs and human trafficking

KRISTOF: I’m not sure to what extent a moderator should try to moderate himself, but just two quick thoughts. One is that, purely anecdotal, you sure do see that, I mean, trafficking in humans is run by the same connection of—these cartels, criminal cartels, which usually means a law enforcement cartel hooked in with is. And that’s true of all of these things—all of these activities. And as a result, one of the best ways I think to try to fight some of these issues is to undermine economic incentives for trafficking. And one can do that in sensitive ways.

The other thought is that technology in some ways is undermined or has acted (to ?) great accountability on trafficking and, in particular, cell phones. Particularly in the case of China, I see that, for example, young women from Fujian or young people generally from Fujian province routinely now are trafficked all over the world. And now they call back and tell their families and their villagers what kind of situation they’ve ended up in. And so people in the village, in the community, have some idea whether a given trafficker in that area—to what extent they’re telling the truth about the final situation. So that has created a real—sort of changed the dynamic of that kind of situation.


QUESTIONER: Lisa Kurbiel from the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping, and my question is also for Sarah. Sarah, you’ve been a leader in pushing NATO, the U.N. and DOD on trafficking, and there’s been a seismic shift. We have policies in place. We admit at the U.N. that we’re part of the problem in peacekeeping. NATO has put into place an implementation strategy. But as you highlighted, lip service—and what will it take to get this room of advocates linked to those contractors at Halliburton and those multimillionaires who run those companies -- (off mike) – When can be done to get Washington, Brussels and New York to really step up? Any advice on how we can all work together in our efforts?

KRISTOF: Lisa Kurbiel (ph) from U.N.—


MR. KRISTOFF: -- asks about what it actually takes to go from lip service to actually making a difference with whether Halliburton or other operations on the ground.

MENDELSON: Traffickers work in networks, and counter-trafficking works in networks and, Lisa at UNDPKO has been part of this counter-trafficking, peacekeeping network.

We did have momentum, and I think when we got the policies we thought: that was it. And frankly, what needs to happen is more research. We need to have more reports. We need reporters also going out and finding information. We need to expose that this problem has not been addressed by policies that have not been implemented. We need independent, nongovernmental eyes and ears on the ground looking at how policies are being implemented.

Essentially, what’s happening is the DOD, NATO and the U.N.—they hide behind the policies. But there’s no real examination of how they implemented their policies. So the very political issue, though, is that international organizations are a reflection of members states, right? So NATO and the U.N. sign onto a policy. The policy may be good, but it all goes back to the member states, right? This is a kind of organic community, and the member states make up what it does.

In the Euro-Atlantic region, which is where I both live and work, I think there is actually a crisis of human rights. I think that it’s happening for a variety of reasons, but human rights is considered more or less a luxury. There isn’t serious implementation of these policies. And what happens concretely is that states are not putting in the money to implement the policies. We’ve witnessed it at DOD. We saw in the legislation [TVPRA 2005] there was a piece to deal with this. It would have given us the ability of having the U.S. lead, and on a global military front it’s actually very important what the U.S. does. If the U.S. is engaging in abuse, it affects the entire human rights regime. If it’s more compliant with international human rights and humanitarian law, it affects the human rights regime.

So the fact that DOD did not respond—guess what the NATO leading member troop contributing country responses are? Not much. That’s the U.S., UK, Germany, Italy, France. Nothing. I mean, essentially there have been a series of meetings since NATO passed their policy in June 2004. –Let’s see, we have been invited to a meeting in Finland—non-NATO state – a meeting in Switzerland—non-NATO state – a meeting in Sweden—non-NATO state. And what members of NATO deployments are present? Nobody from Afghanistan, nobody from Kosovo where there are large NATO deployments. The NATO guys who are in Macedonia, like all five of them, come to these meetings. They’re really nice guys. (Laughter.) They actually know some things now about trafficking. And believe me, there’s trafficking problems in Macedonia. But this is an utterly un-serious effort.

And these main troop contributing countries, including our country, they need to be shamed, essentially. They need to be brought before audiences in New York, in Washington, in Paris, in London, and they need to be asked, what are you doing about this issues? How are you implementing? And then we need people out there on the ground in Kosovo or in Bulgaria and Romania where we’re going to build bases. (We’re going to do vertical integration in trafficking. We’re going to provide the contractors to source countries. And unless somebody is really watching—you know, it could be trouble.) I was told that the inspector general’s office that went out to Iraq to look at the contracting issue—they told some friends in the legislative branch that “well, I understand that the passports of these people were taken away, but that was for security reasons.” These are the people who are tasked with inspecting whether or not there is a problem with contractors or U.S. military engaging in trafficking.

So to date, it has been utterly un-serious. We need a serious campaign. We can do a disciplined campaign. It involves resources. It involves people. It involves a plan—a campaign plan—but it’s possible.

MILLER: Can I ask Sara a question? Because in classic human rights terms, one says that immunity equals impunity. And in the world of—and some interesting studies about what actually allows trafficking to flourish, whether it’s in sweatshops in terms of garment-making sweatshops, or in plantation work, or in different forms of the sex sector. What allows trafficking to flourish is the impunity for the offense. And I’m wondering if you wanted to say more on what—in particular, the pieces that have been left out of the—because we’re very concerned in general anti-trafficking work to understand how it is that certain forms of employers are immune, which increases the likelihood that they will commit abuses, because they have impunity. It’s a very short link.

MENDELSON: There’s impunity, but there’s also the perception of immunity. Since 2000, in the US, there’s been something called the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act—MEJA. And it would cover any crime that was committed by somebody serving under a DOD contract. One of the things that did stick in the 2005 reauthorization act is that the jurisdiction was extended from not only DOD contractors, but to any U.S. government contractors – for crimes committed in association with trafficking.

The problem is the regulations for the Act haven’t been written yet, or if they’ve been written, they haven’t been implemented. Is anybody from the DOJ in the room? [No]It’s literally been six years and the regulations haven’t been written. There needs to be more, and we’ve got this instrument called MEJA—it could be implemented. The worst of it is, though, that people who are on the ground—for example, the criminal investigative division—has no idea that the contractors could be prosecuted back in the U.S. They don’t know what tools are available. And –plus, the response of most employers if they have somebody who’s been doing something is “rapid repatriation.” The contractor disappears in the middle of the night. So no witness, no prosecution.

One of the things that was remarkable about the Zeid report that came out from the U.N. in March 2005 was how it was a blueprint for essentially revolutionizing, modernizing peacekeeping operations, stability operations—pick whatever word you want to use—both in terms of legal and forensic methodologies. If you had somebody who was involved in a crime, he was advocating that forensics be used so you could actually prove the case—you know, welcome to the modern world. Asfar as I can tell, the impact of the Zeid report has been almost zero at the UN.

And so we need reporters to be asking a year later inside the UN, what is the impact of the Zeid) report?

ZAREMBKA: I wanted to piggyback on that answer with an example much closer to home. We’re finding here in the United States individuals who bring in domestic workers who work at the—unfortunately, I hate to pick on the U.N., the World Bank, the IMF—individuals who work there are allowed to legally bring their domestic workers with them here. And unfortunately, in embassies—I was going to get to the embassy part and diplomatic immunity. We have a lot of cases where unfortunately, due to diplomatic immunity, we’re not able to go after these individuals who are abusing their workers. And it’s the exact same thing—the taking of the passports, individuals not being allowed to leave the home and being made to work around the clock. And yet, of course, there are all sorts of things on the books somewhere that should be stopping this, but there’s no implementation. And unfortunately, the abuses continue.


QUESTIONER: (Off mike) -- human rights organizations ought to make common cause with right-wing think tanks -- (off mike) -- notably in an article published in Foreign Affairs and (our ?) publication here. (Off mike) -- is there a benefit (cluster ?) for the human rights -- (off mike)?

MR. KRISTOFF: So should human rights organizations work together with the faith-based community on some of these kinds of issues?

QUESTIONER: And they mention the trafficking -- (off mike) --

ZAREMBKA: I think it makes a lot of sense. I think there’s a lot of synergy that can happen there.

I think the bigger problem that we’re seeing is that you have—at this point, you have specialized organizations that are really interested in doing things that are culturally appropriate. The human rights organizations that have been working on this issue for a while sort of have the linguistical capacities. They’ve sort of built up programs. And now newer faith-based organizations are getting involved, and I think that’s important. But the money is now being shifted to folks who don’t have any experience working with trafficking, and they’re somewhat tacking it on to some of the other programs they have and say oh, it’s just like domestic violence; we can, you know, send them through that channel. And it hasn’t yet come together. I think we need to really think more about how those two groups can be talking about, so the expertise can be shared, so the funding can be shared. And I think that there’s a lot of possibility there—yeah.

MILLER: I’m assuming you’re talking about the piece by Holly Burkhalter from Physicians for Human Rights. And part of what was both implicit—explicit and less explicit than I think it could have been in that piece is that in working together, one presumes that you would have agreement on core principles and underlying values, which would undergird the work. It cannot simply be a political tactic to appear together, and therefore to appear appropriately in a coalition.

In my own work in human rights coalitions, both in this country and elsewhere, what you set as a basis is the core values that underpin the agreed-upon common work together. And what was also partly clear in Burkhalter’s article and quite clear in much of the work against trafficking is we don’t have those agreed common principles yet.

For example, one of the panelists on the earlier panel talked about as a human rights principle protecting against both discrimination and coercion, and the basis of understanding that your goal is to create the conditions where a person becomes more empowered and more in control of their own life. If that were agreed common value, then perhaps we could work together. But that—one of my colleagues in Cambodia who heads a crisis center was asked to hold women against their will who had been rescued from a brothel. That cannot be part of the common values of a human rights organization.

So I would say possible, talk about the values, talk about the rights principles and then include in that the conversation about the impact of the different interventions from rights principles, both short term and long term. Then we can talk about the possibilities of coalition.

MENDELSON: Let me give a slightly different answer. I am on a steering committee for Human Rights Watch, and I work very closely with Russian organizations. So I would be amiss if I didn’t follow the words that we often talk about in the Russian context, which is in certain cases it strategically does make sense to work as a coalition. And I think that the answer is really case by case. And it depends on which organizations and individuals. It depends on which case.

I think that we’ve done some great work with Mr. Smith in Congress, who is both a human rights activist, but also religious. I mean, he’s a fundamentalist Christian.

So you know, in certain cases it can be enormously effective. I don’t think there is a sweeping generalization – that in every case we should be doing this, but that there’s a way to negotiate it. So maybe a little microresponse.

MILLER: I think the other piece, in my experience after 20 years of doing prisoner rights work in this country, many organizations that would be called faith-based worked in prisons under a common thread of human rights principles. So we should be careful about also understanding what we’re talking about when we talk about different kinds of faith based organizations and be clear about the content of that work. And then I would agree with Sarah in terms of strategy.


ZAREMBKA: I think, again, it’s—I don’t know if I would break them up in that way. For me, I think it’s really important that we’re working with organizations that are interested in making sure the agency stays with the actual trafficked individual. I’m often struck by the fact that some organizations take somebody out of a situation where they’re trafficked, where they had no control over their food, their clothing, their shelter, what they did with their lives. And then they go to agencies who again take away their agency by then telling them what they can wear, what they can eat, how they need to operate.

So I think—right. How frequently they might have to pray. You know, that sort of—perhaps that element might be part of it. And I think that’s—the real concern is, again, going back to are we coming at this from a similar point of view? And I think interestingly, though, we’re being forced—whether it’s strategically right or not for different groups to be working together, the funding is now forcing everybody to come together. There are task forces. Money now in the United States has been given out in terms of task force. It’s going to law enforcement. It’s going to faith-based organizations. And if you’re interested in being part of it, you have to show up at the table and work collectively.

And to answer the earlier question, I think it is good that law enforcement and NGOs are talking a lot more—somewhat strange bedfellows for some folks, but it’s really important if we’re going to figure out how to identify people and get them out of trafficked spaces. But it’s actually a sort of a forced situation that we’re dealing with at this point.

QUESTIONER: (Off mike.) My question is for Alice, and it’s a broad question. And that is how useful is the trafficking way of looking at things for actually solving the problems? At -- (off mike) -- we’re organized around exploitation of labor, commercial sexual exploitation, exploitation by military, and exploitation of refugees and -- (off mike) -- peoples. And in each of those spheres, for every bit of exploitation (that’s trans-border ?), there are a dozen ( U.S. domestic ?) -- (word inaudible).

So in fact, the trafficking is a consequence of these forms of exploitation rather than a driver and how we’re managing -- (off mike). And the big problems are interstate in each of these spheres—not to say that being trafficked is a high-class problem, but there’s a lot more focus. And yet, the causes are different and the solutions are different, which is really important -- (off mike) -- in our looking at it. How you deal with military exploitation and trafficking and how you deal with labor exploitation and trafficking and how you deal with sex—each are different things, different ministries, different international agencies, different U.N. agencies, and so on. So then come back—is the trafficking (paradox?), you know, part of the solution or part of the problem?

KRISTOF: So is interstate trafficking really part of the solution or part of the problem?

MILLER(?): Before getting to the framing of the bigger question—a point of legal information on trafficking law. By both U.S. law and the U.N. law, the trafficking cover situations that are not cross-border movements—under U.S. law, if you meet the standard of trafficking if there is recruitment by duplicity or with coercion into a situation of servitude, peonage, et cetera, it falls as trafficking. [NOTE: In the UN protocol, you need some kind of activity or actor to be outside the country.] You don’t need cross-border movement per se.

The focus on movement—and I’ll expand from the law part—the focus on movement comes from our kind of historical association of trafficking of being—of coming out of what was often termed the white slavery scare, the movement of women into prostitution across borders. Both the U.S. and international legal definition of trafficking don't require that, but we’re left with that legacy of storytelling. And to a large extent, that legacy of storytelling is part of what you hear us responding to today.

So we have a story that was told that got attention and money, but attention and money to policies and with programs that are not always, as you say, effective responses to either the root causes of the harm or to the specific problems we see people present with. So we have that terrible kind of paradox of being careful what you wish for. Stet something that many of us spent 15 years trying to put on the agenda gets put on the agenda. And I think it is fair to say the rhetoric of anti-trafficking is far more pervasive than actual work against exploitation.

In the U.S., because the TVPRA is an actual law with the capacity to give specific benefits, if you can walk a person, as Joy often does, through the door as a traffic victim, then it has some utility as a legal project. The question is whether the analysis, including the historical legacy that keeps trailing over everyone’s account of it, is useful to us in understanding the problems of uneven development, irregular immigration and worker policies, and unprotected labor spheres in which young people work. I think the answer is often no, but we have to walk through the language of trafficking to open up attention and hopefully get better responses.

It’s a frustrating moment, because many of us worked so hard to get attention to this thing that we called trafficking. But I would be interested in hearing the specific programming that you think works, because those are the kinds of good models that were also earlier today being discussed, because they end exploitation in the short and the long term.

KRISTOF: Let me actually follow that up. In terms of good models, I would like to, you know, look at some lessons we can learn or some specific kinds of things that can be done, whether in public health or in security issues. I mean, for example, in the public health field, what a number of countries have done is regardless of whether they legalize, they in effect regulate. And they have some kind of regular system where prostitutes of all kinds, whether they’re trafficked or not, get some kind of examination for STI, for HIV. So they try to drive down the public health problems of HIV. Are those—is that approach useful? Or, I mean, another way of putting it is if you got—if you inherited, you know, a billion dollars tomorrow and wanted to make a big difference on these kinds of issues, then where would you invest that money? What kinds of specific interventions would you engage in?

MENDELSON: You know, a lot of work that I’ve done—not specifically on trafficking but on human rights in Russia—we spent an enormous amount of time surveying—public opinion surveys, random samples, large random sample surveys. How do Russians feel about X—democracy, authoritarianism, Stalin, the war in Chechnya? It has been very difficult to get funds to do surveys of young females or young males on trafficking. But if you’re going to program money, it seems to me that you need to have a better sense—and empirical sense—of what kind of gender-based discrimination, harassment, abuse they’ve experienced. And then you use the results in programming, whether it’s public service announcements or whatever. There’s this really sinister thing that goes on where—and I see it in HIV work and in trafficking—we do it on the cheap. We develop messages that come out of our heads, but have nothing to do with surveys, have nothing to do with public opinion, have nothing to do with how the target audience thinks about an issue.

On the lessons learned on the peacekeeping front:, the good news is that in 2000, when I went to NATO with a group from the Council and raised this issue in every meeting (and was then labeled the, you know, feminist in the group) – many rolled their eyes, you know, both in our group but also senior military—senior—senior military snickered “boys will be boys.” And literally four years later, at NATO there was a policy. So if you push, there is a response that can happen, but it needs to be sustained and it needs to go on.

KRISTOF: We’re short on time so you’re going to have to solve the problem pretty quickly.

MILLER: I think I would look to Brazil, which had a health and human rights approach to its AIDS epidemic and dealt both with the prevention side about being realistic and real about sexual reproductive health and rights, organizing from the ground up, and from the treatment access side—and we can talk more about what that means in terms of generic drugs and access for poor people.

And then quickly, in terms of regulation. Data is extraordinarily bad, but most of those systems are, in fact, abusive in two ways—one of which is health information is known about a person who is a registered sex worker, but he or she does not control the information. It is accessible to others, and second, in that model, the focus is not on voluntary counseling and testing, but coercive testing, which in general we know is a failure as a model.

There’s some indications that this sort—so that the commercial regulation is generally a tool of abuse and almost never a doorway into effective health education and health services. I’m actually going to Senegal in about a week to look at what is often touted as the best version of this system. I’ve seen dueling reports, but in general I think right now it’s a failed system. So the short answer is commercial—regulation of sex work by the government, as far as it impacts on people’s health and rights—probably is not good—may or may be actively bad.

ZAREMBKA: While I didn’t want to be ambassador, I’ll be a billionaire -- (laughter) -- for just a moment and I’m going to give a very ethnocentric answer about changes that could be made in the U.S. I think, you know, everything else should happen. But interestingly here, I mean, we still are not getting the public awareness and the training out there about this issue. I mean, when I tell people what I do, you know, people are still at this point, you know surprised that this sort of thing is happening, you know, in the land of the free, that folks are actually being enslaved.

So I think I would actually put quite a bit of money into not only training the general public but also law enforcement—in particular, FBI and immigration, who are now, you know, tasked with doing this work but don’t yet quite have a grasp of the issue.

KRISTOF: Presumably, you would also give a large share of that one billion to Break the Chain.

ZAREMBKA(?): Yes, yes. (Laughter.)

KRISTOF: I’m afraid that our time is up. We will have maybe informally a chance to raise some of these, and some of the larger issues can be raised in the next session for those of you who are staying.

I’ve been asked to in turn ask everybody to move directly on to the lunchroom as there is an event upstairs and we don’t want to lose people in either direction.

And finally, please join me in giving the panel a great hand.









Top Stories on CFR


This interactive examines how nationwide bans on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, as proposed by the Biden administration on April 28, 2022, could help shrink the racial gap on U.S. lung cancer death rates.


Sheila Smith, the John E. Merow senior fellow for Asia-Pacific studies at the Council, sits down with James M. Lindsay to discuss the reasoning behind Japan’s new defense strategy and the Japanese government’s decision to double defense spending.

United States

In addition to minority communities and those on the political left, far-right and white supremacist extremism threatens violence against institutions conservatives cherish as well, such as the U.S. military.