I am pleased to announce that this week in Washington, D.C., Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton officially released the 12th annual Trafficking in Person’s (TIP) report. The report was openly released on June 19th in the Benjamin Franklin Room at the Department of State. The event was open by invite to key government officials, leading anti-trafficking leaders and NGOs, and to credentialed member of the media. The gilded room gave grandeur and prestige to the report, which was first released 12 years ago in a small, simple room, highlighting the strength the anti-trafficking movement has gained. The events surrounding the briefing and release were lead by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons Luis CdeBaca delivered remarks. Meanwhile, the Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs, Maria Otero, opened and closed the briefing.
At the State Department’s release of the report, Secretary Clinton spoke directly regarding the shift in viewing human trafficking in a deeper light so as to see it for what it truly is: slavery.
In the United States today, we are celebrating what’s called Juneteenth. That’s freedom day, the date in 1865 when a Union officer stood on a balcony in Galveston, Texas and read General Order Number 3, which declared, “All slaves are free.” It was one of many moments in history when a courageous leader tipped the balance and made the world more free and more just. But the end of legal slavery in the United States and in other countries around the world has not, unfortunately, meant the end of slavery.
Today, it is estimated as many as 27 million people around the world are victims of modern slavery, what we sometimes call trafficking in persons. As Lou said, I’ve worked on this issue now for more than a dozen years. And when we started, we called it trafficking. And we were particularly concerned about what we saw as an explosion of the exploitation of people, most especially women, who were being quote, ‘trafficked’ into the sex trade and other forms of servitude. But I think labeling this for what it is, slavery, has brought it to another dimension.
The 2012 TIP report is highly comprehensive in its examination and ranking of 184 countries and their efforts to combat human trafficking in all forms. This year’s most significant change is the upgraded rankings of 29 countries on the list, including Bangladesh and the Dominican Republic, who were previously some of the lowest ranked countries. These countries were recognized for their improvement in observing the Four P’s–prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnership–and implementing new anti-trafficking laws.
The United States, who is “a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor, debt bondage, and forced prostitution,” was also listed in the report. The U.S. was listed under the tier 1 country ranking, meaning it meets a minimum standard of compliance as set forth by the 2000 U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), upon which the TIP report is based. The TVPA was unanimously reauthorized by Congress in 2003, 2005, and 2008. With each reauthorization, improvements were added to continue to fight the ever-evolving modern slavery industry. Sadly, in 2011, the TVPA expired, and Congress failed to reauthorize it, despite needed improvements and considerable backing for the report.
“Congress’ inaction gives no hope for the 20 million slaves around the world and makes millions of men, women, and especially children around the world even more vulnerable to exploitation,” said Eaves. “This issue has always brought together all sides to work together to fight slavery. The release of the 2012 TIP Report should be a reminder that the United States can continue to be a global leader in that fight.”
It is somewhat strange to witness so much improvement in the fight against modern slavery in the past year by so many actors and countries, only to then see the very law that helped create this detailed and needed report possible fail to pass Congress. As each day passes without Congress reauthorizing the TVPA, the impact of the TIP report is weakened–including U.S. influence overall in the fight against modern day slavery.