The 2014 Global Slavery Index (GSI) found that there are nearly 36 million victims of human trafficking worldwide. Of that, 36 million, nearly two-thirds, are from Asia. Without serious attention from the U.S. and Asian governments, millions of adults and children will continue to be forced into bonded labor, sex trafficking, slave-like conditions, and child soldiering in Asia.
According to the GSI, India, China, Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Thailand are in the top 10 countries with the highest number of trafficking victims in the world. India tops the list with 14 million victims of trafficking, China comes in second at 3.2 million, and Pakistan is third with 2.1 million trafficking victims. India and Pakistan are also in the top 10 countries in the world with the highest prevalence of human trafficking.
The U.S. Role in Combating Trafficking
The State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, which measures countries’ efforts to comply with international human trafficking standards, corroborates many of the GSI findings. The report found that North Korea, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, and Thailand are on Tier 3—the worst ranking a country can receive for trafficking violations. Tier 3 countries are subject to international scrutiny and potential sanctions. Burma, Cambodia, China, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, among others, are under close watch on the Tier 2 Watch List.
Reports such as the GSI and the TIP report are invaluable assets that fill informational gaps on human trafficking, but they cannot substitute for government action on human trafficking. U.S. attention to human trafficking has proven vital to instigating government action against human trafficking around the world.
Judith Kelley, Professor of Public Policy and Political Science at Duke University, and former Ambassador Mark Lagon noted, “In a recent survey of more than 400 nongovernmental organizations around the world, more than 60 percent said the U.S. had been an important—or the most important actor—in their country in the effort to fight trafficking.”
Critical Vacancy in the State Department
Regrettably, Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, Lagon’s replacement in 2009, just stepped down from leading the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the State Department. If this position remains vacant for long, the real gains made through the TIP report and other U.S.-led initiatives may be threatened. The fight against trafficking requires vigilance—something that can only be accomplished with a strong leader at the helm.
The U.S. needs to continue to lead in combating human trafficking and should capitalize on its strong alliance relationships in Asia to fight this global scourge. Over the next several months, researchers at The Heritage Foundation will produce a report providing detailed analysis and recommendations for the U.S.’s continued role in combating human trafficking in Asia.