New data suggests that countries that rank higher in economic freedom are better at preventing human trafficking.

A new report released by The Heritage Foundation found that when core tenets of economic freedom, such as rule of law, are practically applied to fight trafficking, the results are positive. The report used data from The Heritage Foundation’s 2016 Index of Economic Freedom and the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report to show that countries that promote economic freedom are more likely to be effective in combating trafficking in persons.

>>>To Read the Full Report by Olivia Enos and James M. Roberts: To Reduce Human Trafficking, Fight Corruption and Improve Economic Freedom

One such example of this is the International Justice Mission’s work in Cambodia and the Philippines. The International Justice Mission uses a rule of law model that emphasizes prosecution of traffickers and protection of victims by enhancing specialized anti-trafficking training for local law enforcement, and access to legal and judicial solutions for victims.

The International Justice Mission’s three-year pilot program, Project Lantern in Cebu, Philippines, documented a 79-percent decrease in the number of minors available for commercial sex. They had similar results in Cambodia where the availability of minors for sex trafficking dropped between 15 and 30 percent in the early 2000s to just 8.16 percent between 2014 and 2015. The availability of children under age 15 is even lower at 0.75 percent.

This emphasized the importance of free markets and entrepreneurship as keys to enhancing prosperity and reducing poverty. Since poverty and lack of access to economic opportunity are drivers of human trafficking, promotion of a free and open economy is likely to positively correlate with reductions in human trafficking.

One key to enhancing the free market is to eliminate development policies that merely fuel corruption by propping up powerful elites.

The Heritage Foundation paper recommends that more aid resources go toward funding targeted rule of law programming, including enhanced training of local law enforcement and judicial training programs.

It also suggests that U.S. foreign aid go to countries with significant human trafficking challenges that already have a demonstrated track record and proven willingness to combat trafficking in persons. Finally, the paper suggests that greater emphasis be placed on free market and private sector-led growth.

Advancing economic freedom should be viewed as central to any anti-trafficking strategy. Two ways to augment pre-existing strategies are to promote rule of law and free market solutions to trafficking.

Policies should therefore be responsive to this correlation and emphasize rule of law and free-market solutions to combat the global scourge of human trafficking.