The 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report had a refreshing take on anti-trafficking strategy—one that emphasizes the role of communities in addressing sexual and labor exploitation.
The report, released annually since 2001, ranks countries according to their compliance with minimum standards for eliminating trafficking in persons. Countries are ranked from best to worst in four categories: Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 2 Watch List, and Tier 3. Countries take their report ranking seriously and take strides to improve anti-trafficking efforts to earn upgrades.
In addition to country rankings, the report selects a theme to highlight that encourages best practices in combating trafficking in persons. Past reports focused on the critical role government plays in addressing human trafficking, but the 2018 report sought to highlight “local solutions to a global problem” and suggested governments and communities address trafficking where it starts—in their own neighborhoods.
This year’s report highlighted a number of positive local efforts to combat trafficking, including:
- Haitian nongovernmental organizations that created community action plans to address local human trafficking challenges. Tailored action plans resulted in reduced child labor and promoted the creation of a network of survivors to assist other victims.
- Denmark’s national identification system that improved victim identification efforts by working with private, local organizations. And Georgia’s similar bottom-up identification approach where victims are identified by community-driven task forces and then reported to NGOs or the national police.
- Mexico and Serbia also were heralded for implementing community-driven protection for survivors. Serbia, for example, created an NGO-based re-integration center for victims where victims are provided with education, employment, and counseling.
Another interesting highlight was the emphasis placed on the importance of developing strong local task forces. In the United States, Jordan, and Guyana, community-specific task forces trained officers to identify key indicators of trafficked victims.
The Heritage Foundation has long advocated the benefits of local task forces in addressing human trafficking in Asia, highlighting their successes in both the Philippines and Indonesia. Task forces in both countries identify victims of trafficking, streamline provision of assistance, and track prosecutions and pending human trafficking cases. Both countries saw an increase in the number of victims rescued because of these task forces.
Shortly after the trafficking report was released, the administration announced John Richmond as its nominee for ambassador to lead U.S. anti-trafficking efforts at the State Department. The position remained vacant for more than a year. Earlier this week, senators heard his confirmation testimony, and are moving to vote on his acceptance. Having a capable leader at the helm will ensure that the U.S. remains a leader in the global fight to end trafficking in persons.
The new ambassador must seize the momentum from the 2018 report and encourage countries to continue making reforms so fewer individuals fall prey to human trafficking. In particular, he should continue to press for critical rule-of-law reforms and community-based, victim-centered solutions to combating human trafficking worldwide.