2023 Trafficking in Persons Report

Please note that this introduction contains substantial input from the Human Trafficking Expert Consultant Network (the Network).  The purpose of the Network is to engage experts, particularly those with lived experience of human trafficking, to provide expertise and input on Department of State anti-trafficking policies, strategies, and products.  The introduction of the 2022 TIP Report highlighted the importance of engaging survivors as partners in establishing effective victim-centered, trauma-informed, and culturally competent anti-trafficking polices and strategies that address prevention, protection, and prosecution efforts.  In light of this year’s theme on partnership, we continue to prioritize partnering with survivors through this year’s TIP Report.  The programs and technological innovations mentioned are intended to be illustrative of promising practices and applications.  It is not an exhaustive list as there are numerous examples of promising technological innovations to combat human trafficking, advance partnerships, and strengthen responsible supply chains.  The Department of State does not endorse any organization or program mentioned. 

Historical Background

Effective, multidisciplinary partnerships have long been essential to the success of the “3P” framework of prosecution, protection, and prevention in global anti-trafficking efforts. A comprehensive approach to human trafficking requires governments to prioritize multiple layers of cooperation, including internally between government agencies and externally with other governments, international organizations, the private sector, academia, media, community leaders, NGOs, and survivors and survivor-led organizations. The 2023 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report) introduction examines and highlights how governments and a wide range of stakeholders have used partnerships to advance anti-trafficking priorities and goals. The introduction also shares innovative approaches and specific examples of partnerships that have complemented and supported the success of prosecution, protection, and prevention efforts.

The UN TIP Protocol and the United States’ Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, as amended (TVPA), recognize the importance of both the “3P” framework and strategic partnerships in global efforts to fight human trafficking. Over the years, multilateral organizations have been at the forefront of establishing and supporting a strong international framework for partnerships to address human trafficking. In 2010, the UN General Assembly adopted a Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, which included a section on partnerships and highlighted the wide range and types of partnerships necessary to strengthen global anti-trafficking efforts. Alliance 8.7, a global partnership committed to achieving Target 8.7 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, convenes anti-trafficking stakeholders across various sectors to take measures to eradicate forced labor, end modern slavery and human trafficking, and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labor by 2030. Alliance 8.7 further demonstrates the breadth of organizations and individuals that should be included in effective partnerships such as governments, international and regional organizations, workers’ and employers’ organizations, the private sector, NGOs, survivors and survivor-led organizations, academic and research institutions, and public and private donors. In 2021, the UN General Assembly reaffirmed its commitment to implement the Global Plan of Action and recognized that both it and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development mutually reinforce the importance of partnerships.

Other multilateral frameworks bolstering partnerships include the Addendum to OSCE’s Action Plan, which formally incorporates partnership as a fourth “P” and highlights the need for enhanced international cooperation, including among law enforcement entities, between origin and destination countries, and between public institutions and the private sector. While not every partnership needs to have global reach, the prioritization of partnership by multilateral organizations has been essential to the establishment and potential of international anti-trafficking efforts.

The Role of partnerships in supporting the “3P” framework

Strategic, multi-disciplinary partnerships can enhance the work of governments, the private sector, NGOs, and survivors and survivor-led organizations to further investigations and prosecutions, support victim identification and protection efforts, and develop targeted prevention programs. Depending on the goal, partnerships can comprise a multitude of actors, such as in North Macedonia, where the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy maintained mobile teams composed of social workers, law enforcement officers, NGO staff, and psychologists across five regions to identify vulnerable populations, including unaccompanied children, children who were homeless, and trafficking victims. Since the start of these mobile teams, a record number of trafficking victims have been identified, and experts deemed this model a promising practice in proactive identification and cooperation among stakeholders with varying expertise, particularly between civil society and government. Partnerships can also better equip anti-trafficking stakeholders to respond to evolving human trafficking trends, such as refining and leveraging advancements in technology, collaborating to eliminate forced labor in supply chains, and sharing information and resources to better address the nexus between human trafficking and climate change.

Interagency Coordination

Coordination and partnership within governments are essential to a comprehensive, national anti-trafficking response. Adopting a whole-of-government approach to anti-trafficking efforts, which can be organized by a coordinating body operating at the cabinet or ministerial level, enhances opportunities for government agencies to better partner with one another to implement and enforce national trafficking laws, provide protection and services to survivors, coordinate prevention activities, address information gaps, incorporate survivor-informed and trauma-informed approaches, and streamline or coordinate on overlapping efforts.

Strong multilevel and multi-sectoral coordination between the central government and sub- national or local-level governments is also critical. The ability to effectively coordinate across levels of government may depend on the size of a particular country, the government’s level of centralization (usually due to whether a federal system of government is in place or not), and the availability of resources. In Argentina, the government’s Federal Council for the Fight against Human Trafficking and Exploitation promotes intragovernmental coordination on anti- trafficking efforts. The Council’s biannual meetings facilitate collaboration between provincial and federal anti-trafficking authorities and allow representatives of Argentina’s 24 jurisdictions (23 provinces and one federal district) to review the activities of the federal government’s Executive Committee for the Fight Against Trafficking and Exploitation of People and the Protection and Assistance of Victims.

Governments should consider conducting a mapping exercise to review and assess organizational charts of government agencies—at all levels—that may encounter victims or traffickers during their duties. Governments should map government and civil society-administered services and resources available to victims upon identification, and training should be made available to ensure that agencies at all levels are familiar with victim identification and the resources available. Authorities should be knowledgeable about care available to victims following a trafficking situation, and these services should be readily accessible. In Chile, the government’s Interagency Taskforce on Human Trafficking (MITP) is composed of 32 government and nine civil society entities with a role in anti-trafficking efforts. Its executive secretariat oversees the interagency protocol for the referral of trafficking victims and other dedicated anti-trafficking resources and liaises with a network of regional anti-trafficking taskforces across the country. Data on human trafficking should also be gathered nationwide and locally as a means to best target anti-trafficking efforts, and training should be made available vertically to ensure that state and local authorities are familiar with national programs that can strengthen their efforts. This knowledge can be used to determine opportunities for partnership to optimize government anti-trafficking responses, as well as identify and close gaps.

Partnerships with Survivors

Collaborating with survivors as experts and equal partners is critical to understanding the realities of human trafficking and establishing effective victim-centered, trauma-informed, and culturally competent anti-trafficking polices and strategies. Survivor leaders can contribute to and enhance efforts across all aspects of anti-trafficking responses, including the development of programs and policies to improve protection for victims, identifying and implementing effective frameworks to support prevention efforts, shaping policies and pathways for establishing and supporting survivors’ long-term financial stability and independence, and advising on trauma-informed courtroom practices. Recognizing that survivors are equal stakeholders in anti-trafficking work is required for effective partnerships with survivors.

Meaningful partnerships with survivors must include a diverse range of survivor voices that consists of traditionally underserved populations and a variety of trafficking experiences to provide input on anti-trafficking efforts. It is also crucial to recognize that survivors’ lived experiences can provide skills and knowledge as valuable to global anti-trafficking efforts and partnerships as those gained from traditional work experience. To that end, partnerships should be designed to thoughtfully incorporate survivors’ input and create safe spaces that address or balance power dynamics to permit the sharing of unique perspectives. Partnerships should also acknowledge and promote survivors as professionals in the field through fostering opportunities for them to grow with the organization and initiative. Prioritizing opportunities for survivor leadership is essential to fighting human trafficking and should be a priority in establishing and engaging in partnerships.

Governments around the world have increasingly prioritized survivor engagement, such as through establishing consultant mechanisms or advisory councils. Since 2019, Tunisia’s National Authority to Combat Trafficking in Persons has consulted a network of survivors that serve as a council to share experiences, advice, and recommendations to improve the work of the National Authority. More recently, in 2022, Israel established a national anti-trafficking advisory committee, which includes two survivors advising on a range of topics, including forced labor in supply chains, foreign labor recruitment by foreign construction companies, preventing forced labor and labor violations in an agriculture internship program for foreign students, permits for Palestinian workers in Israel, and visa waiver programs. Likewise, countries including Bangladesh, Botswana, Finland, Iceland, North Macedonia, and Uganda engaged survivors in national anti-trafficking planning efforts within the past two years. Countries including Australia, Canada, and the United States committed to survivor engagement through their national action plans. Many governments and multilateral organizations are advocating to include a call for developing survivor-informed policy to strengthen anti-trafficking efforts in multilateral resolutions. For example, delegates at the ILO’s 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour adopted the 2022 Durban Call to Action on the Elimination of Child Labour, which commits to strengthen “the protection of survivors through data-driven and survivor-informed policy and programmatic responses” along with the “prevention and elimination of child labor, including its worst forms, forced labor, modern slavery and trafficking in persons.”

Despite these developments, the meaningful inclusion of survivors as anti-trafficking experts must be further integrated across global anti-trafficking efforts and accepted as a norm. Partnership between governments, multilateral organizations, and survivors of human trafficking not only improves anti-trafficking efforts, but also dismantles the risk of misconceptions, shame, re- traumatization, and re-exploitation of survivors within their communities; these risks can also be perpetuated by organizations proliferating sensationalist or inaccurate stories. Addressing these barriers—as well as engaging in co-creation processes with survivors—empowers survivors, promotes equity within organizations, and reduces vulnerability to re-victimization.

Partnerships with Civil Society and Other External Stakeholders

Creating a plan that is clear, resourced, realistic, and informed by a group of relevant and diverse stakeholders is key to proactively addressing trafficking and out-maneuvering complex and well- organized trafficking operations. Government partnerships with domestic and international NGOs, including survivor-led organizations, are critical to both a comprehensive response to trafficking cases and supporting national action plans as well as resulting programs and policies. NGOs are often funded by governments to provide protection services to victims and contribute to the preparation and implementation of national guidelines for victim identification and referrals to law enforcement. In Niger, the Government’s National Agency for the Fight against Trafficking in Persons and the Illicit Transport of Migrants works closely with IOM on victim referral and protection efforts, including by collaborating to implement and train frontline officials on the national referral mechanism. Additionally, the Government of Niger partners with IOM on the provision of medical, psycho-social, and legal assistance in its government shelter for trafficking victims. NGOs, especially those that are survivor-led, serve as a bridge between victims and government agencies and are well equipped to provide feedback on government anti-trafficking policy based on their expertise in the protection realm. Involving NGOs and survivors in the development of government anti-trafficking programming and policies can improve the effectiveness of these efforts by ensuring they reflect the realities of human trafficking and integrate trauma-informed, survivor-informed, and victim-centered approaches.

Government partnerships with NGOs and survivors promote improved anti-trafficking plans and better outcomes; however, NGOs and survivors should not be expected to carry the financial burden of a government’s anti-trafficking responses. It is essential for governments to provide adequate resourcing and financial support, especially when external partners have limited sources of funding. When governments share resources, information, and decision-making ability with organizations working towards a common goal, these partnerships will begin to build a more trusted and collaborative anti-trafficking response.

Partnerships to Further Investigations

Effective partnerships for furthering investigations can be established between actors equipped with data-collection capabilities, intelligence sharing skills, and insights from individuals with lived experience of human trafficking, such as NGOs, CSOs, intelligence or investigative agencies, and survivor-led organizations. These types of partnerships allow investigators and prosecutors to build a successful court case against the trafficker without solely relying on the victim’s testimony or involvement, a practice that often results in further harm and re-traumatization. Emerging and promising features of such partnerships include an increased focus on investigating the trafficker and evidence that is available regardless of the victim’s participation, collaboration with related financial crimes investigations to uncover and dismantle trafficking operations, and cross-sector data sharing. Whether victims are required to testify or have a more limited role in the court case, support for their long-term well-being should be at the forefront of considerations, proactively ensuring connections are made between the victim and community stakeholders that will be available after the case is closed. These partnership strategies can often make way for more efficient use of resources, higher conviction rates, reduced harm to victims, and more meaningful engagement with survivors.

Another form of partnership to better understand and prevent human trafficking is through financial investigations. Human trafficking is a financially motivated crime at its core. Banks and other financial institutions are best positioned to identify and report crimes that frequently occur in tandem with human trafficking, such as wage theft, money laundering, and bribery. Other financial activities that support trafficking operations include payments associated with the transport of victims and other logistics (e.g., hotels or plane tickets) and the collection or movement of proceeds generated by the exploitation of trafficking victims and by the sale of goods produced through their exploitation. Survivors can be caught in the crosshairs of financial crime identification as traffickers conduct illicit transactions using their victims’ identities and bank accounts. In recent years, coordination and information-sharing between law enforcement, survivors, and financial institutions has led to a better understanding of the strategies traffickers employ to control victims, make transactions, and keep their illicit activities hidden. Polaris, a U.S.-based NGO, partnered with PayPal to create its Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), which combines the anti-money laundering, banking, and law enforcement communities with the expertise of human trafficking survivors and others in the anti-trafficking field to interrupt trafficker cash flows and enable prosecutions for financial crimes. Through regular meetings attended by representatives of financial institutions, Polaris’s FIU analyzes case studies, industry trends, and potential solutions to inform stakeholders’ anti-money laundering investigative practices as it relates to human trafficking. Financial institutions and anti-money laundering experts are increasingly well-equipped to identify and intervene where financial activities and crimes facilitate human trafficking operations; this strengthens law enforcement investigations and the availability of evidence that can be used instead of or as a supplement to victim testimony.

Partnerships to Address Cross-Border Trafficking

As human trafficking often occurs transnationally, international partnership is key to effectively identifying victims and prosecuting the perpetrators. Whether it be detecting victims during border crossings, identifying overseas workers exploited in forced labor, or repatriating victims caught without identification, cooperation between source, transit, and destination countries’ governments and law enforcement, as well as with NGOs, international organizations, and the private sector, is key to preventing, identifying, and prosecuting transnational human trafficking cases. Identifying and ensuring protection services, policies, and laws that protect foreign national victims from being removed from countries, and instead helping them integrate, also often requires coordination amongst a variety of stakeholders.

Government agencies should join forces with local NGOs and survivor-led organizations with expertise in addressing victims’ overall needs and well-being in a safe, timely, and trauma- informed manner, and in helping victims by providing comprehensive services such as establishing residence in a new country when needed or supporting victims’ repatriation. In the case of Nigeria, the government often coordinates with foreign governments and international NGOs to mitigate their citizens’ risks of becoming trafficking victims, and to support citizens subjected to trafficking abroad. In January 2023, the Center for Human Trafficking Research and Outreach at the University of Georgia, working with Free the Slaves, coordinated with authorities in Senegal and Nigeria’s National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) to secure the approval for the travel and safe return of 19 Nigerian women and children who were identified as victims of sex trafficking in Senegal’s gold mining region.

As demonstrated in Nigeria, understanding human trafficking trends and gaps can help identify opportunities for partnership. In late November 2022, ECPAT Luxembourg organized a consultative meeting in Kathmandu with government stakeholders focused on cross-border trafficking between India and Nepal. NGO partners from those countries presented updates and highlighted challenges faced in both countries in identifying and supporting survivors returning to Nepal. Following the meeting, the NGOs co-developed a list of recommendations for the Government of Nepal and highlighted opportunities for government stakeholders to improve protection mechanisms for vulnerable populations by increasing anti-trafficking coordination. In October 2022, Jordan approved SOPs for implementation of its NRM to assist victims requesting repatriation after identification and encourage coordination with home country governments. Jordan’s NRM defines the roles of government, international organizations, and NGOs in various stages of the process to ensure coordination. The Russian government’s ongoing war of aggression against Ukraine creates significant vulnerabilities to trafficking for the millions of refugees who have fled Ukraine and for the internally displaced persons and others in need of humanitarian aid and protection assistance within Ukraine. The OSCE and Thomson Reuters collaborated to create the BeSafe campaign to help Ukrainians spot the warning signs of human trafficking, minimize their personal risk, and get assistance. More than 15,000 Ukrainians accessed BeSafe resources and hundreds of thousands more helped to raise awareness by sharing campaign information on social media. Private sector partners, including Vodaphone and Uber, continue to amplify the campaign. Partnerships between foreign governments and international NGOs help address gaps and emerging forms of trafficking that are difficult to prevent, detect, and prosecute, such as online-facilitated trafficking in which there are insufficient avenues for prosecution and providing services to victims.

Partnerships to Advance Technology and Innovation for Anti-Trafficking Purposes

Partnerships focused on discovering and applying technological innovations to combat human trafficking are increasingly evolving among a range of multidisciplinary stakeholders, including governments, international organizations, civil society organizations, private sector businesses, technology professionals, and those with lived experiences of human trafficking.

The Tech Against Trafficking (TAT) initiative was formed in early 2018 as a coalition of technology companies collaborating with nonprofit organizations, academics, international organizations, and other stakeholders to advance knowledge-sharing and accelerate the impact of technological solutions to combat human trafficking.  TAT and the Office of the OSCE Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings partnered to conduct a landscape analysis of technology tools used to combat human trafficking, producing the compendium “Leveraging innovation to fight trafficking in human beings: A comprehensive analysis of technology tools.”  This research uncovered 305 technology initiatives and outlined the types of anti-trafficking tools, geographical coverage, primary users, ethical considerations, data protections, gaps, and recommendations.  The recommendations include general ones for all stakeholders involved in the use of technology to combat human trafficking, and more targeted ones for governments to bolster and guide their use of technology to combat the crime.

TAT also launched an Accelerator Program in 2019 to identify promising uses of technology in the anti-trafficking field and harness the expertise and resources of member companies to advance and scale the work of the organizations deploying such technologies. Through the program, technology companies provide mentorship, education, and greater network access as NGOs develop prototypes, pilot initiatives in specific communities or geographic locations, and/or replicate successful models. For example, Microsoft, British Telecommunications, Salesforce, and Amazon had been assisting IOM to advance privacy-preserving mechanisms, clarify data standards, and increase usage of IOM’s global human trafficking data hub—the Counter-Trafficking Data Collaborative (CTDC). The goal is to reduce barriers to sharing information publicly and highlight trafficking trends based on up-to-date, reliable, and standardized data on human trafficking. One component is to better utilize and protect victim data. Microsoft Research and IOM developed and refined an algorithm to generate synthetic data from the CTDC’s sensitive victim case records. The resulting synthetic data accurately preserves the statistical properties of the original victim data without identifying actual victims.

Another technology-centered partnership advances connections among anti-trafficking organizations and companies through an online search platform. The Global Business Coalition Against Human Trafficking, the RESPECT Initiative (consisting of IOM, Babson College Initiative on Human Trafficking, and the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime), and the UN Global Compact through the Action Platform on Decent Work in Global Supply Chains, with support from Alliance 8.7., built an interactive map for businesses that provides information on relevant anti-trafficking organizations who work with the private sectors to combat human trafficking. Companies and other stakeholders can search for NGOs, foundations, and initiatives using filters that include type of human trafficking, geography, industry, and services provided.

Finally, partnerships have formed to develop technology tools for law enforcement to support investigations and prosecutions and to protect communities, including through the use of big data analytics and cognitive machine learning to collate and analyze vast amounts of qualitative and quantitative data. In the United Kingdom, Trilateral Research use their Honeycomb app to present patterns, trends, and actionable insights and tools for policymakers and decision makers. More specifically, this app was designed to help stakeholders in public and private sectors take a more robust approach to combating human trafficking in the region. When authorities detect a spike in chatter about a certain venue, they can investigate further. When they detect the need for transportation or legal services for survivors, they can more swiftly address the gaps.

Partnerships for Monitoring and Eliminating Forced Labor in Supply Chains and Enhancing Worker Protections

Governments can learn from and replicate innovative tech applications and partnerships among the private sector and civil society to improve their own efforts to advance responsible supply chains by strengthening supply chain management with risk mapping and due diligence tools; bolstering worker engagement through the provision of rights-based information and training; and driving worker empowerment through technologies designed to bolster responsible recruitment and grievance mechanisms. Procurement of goods and services by governments, international organizations, and multinational companies is extensive, often with thousands of suppliers and hundreds of thousands of workers around the globe, so partnerships and innovative tech applications are essential to enhancing responsible supply chains and advancing worker protections. Strategic collaboration among governments, global brands and retailers, suppliers, recruitment agencies, workers, and those with lived experiences of human trafficking can maximize impact and make major contributions to preventing forced labor, as well as creating and promoting trauma-informed environments and care in the workplace.

The social enterprise Quizrr, which has operations throughout Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, North America, Mexico, and the European Union, is partnering with businesses and other organizations to educate factory owners and empower workers worldwide through training and knowledge-building about their rights. Partners include the IOM, the Ethical Trading Initiative, Ulula, Fair Fish, and BetterWork Bangladesh, among others. As of April 2023, more than 460,000 employees in 800 factories received training covering areas such as supplier standards, responsible recruitment practices, safe and respectful workplaces, effective workplace dialogue, and grievance channels. This training is now offered in 27 languages.

The Issara Institute, an NGO based in the United States and Asia, is advancing responsible supply chains through worker empowerment programs, long-term partnerships, and innovation. With major business and government partners as well as local grassroots partners in Burma, Cambodia, Nepal, Malaysia, and Thailand, the Issara Institute educates job seekers on safe ways to find jobs and build the capacity of “community-based Mobilizers” to spread knowledge and empowerment. The Inclusive Labor Monitoring (ILM) system and Golden Dreams smartphone app helps connect employers and factories with job seekers, improve the flow of information, educate workers about their rights and options, and verify and validate recruitment conditions. The goal is no fees, no middlemen, and no language barriers. The Issara Institute, with the support of major corporate foundations, also launched an updated worker-driven ethical recruitment toolkit in October 2022 to help government and civil society organizations better understand responsible recruitment and advance global brands’ and retailers’ efforts to drive more effective and inclusive approaches to responsible recruitment.

The U.S.-based NGO Winrock International and other private sector companies are partnering to enhance safety along irregular migration corridors, which have elevated trafficking in persons risks, with funding from the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office through the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery. This collaboration resulted in SafeStep, a digital tool to empower individuals relocating overseas for work with the necessary knowledge and resources to ensure their recruitment and employment is conducted in safe and transparent ways.

Lessons Learned: Mitigating Harm when Establishing and Working in Partnerships

As the anti-trafficking field continues to advance, an increasing number of stakeholders seek to collaborate with each other in recognition of the value that building multi-sectoral information sharing and support systems, both domestically and internationally, brings to the “3P” paradigm. Over time, a field of promising practices emerged from these partnerships, building upon lessons learned and aiming to mitigate harm when establishing inter-organizational relationships among anti-trafficking professionals. Multistakeholder collaboration holds its own challenges surrounding power, status, financial resources, conflicting values and priorities, and considerations related to gender, racial, ethnic, and other differentials. However, the more pressing challenges tend to focus on the victim’s immediate needs rather than also considering how to address the aforementioned factors to support the individual’s long-term needs as a survivor. Throughout the history of the anti-trafficking movement, there was a clear lack of both short- and long- term meaningful partnerships with survivors. Quite simply, failing to incorporate survivors as key partners or mitigate further harm to recent victims and survivors when engaging them as partners is counterproductive to anti-trafficking efforts.

When establishing or working in partnerships between governments, law enforcement, NGOs, civil society, and survivor leaders, the following insights and lessons learned can mitigate further harm to victims and survivors of human trafficking:

  • Avoid promoting stereotypes of survivors of human trafficking as damaged, weak, or powerless. Doing so is counterproductive to empowering survivors and supporting effective anti-trafficking efforts and even contributes to public confusion and misunderstanding of human trafficking within the anti-trafficking movement. Organizations should strive for meaningful engagements with survivors to inform anti-trafficking efforts and provide competitive compensation for survivors’ expertise and contributions.
  • Ensure staff and volunteers understand human trafficking as a crime, its systemic and root causes, and survivor-informed and trauma-informed approaches to combating it. When providing training opportunities on these topics, organizations should prioritize partnering with survivors. If this is not an available option, organizations should first vet the training and trainers.
  • Foster a culture of empathy within anti-trafficking organizations through the application of trauma-informed principles. This will benefit survivors as well as staff who have not experienced human trafficking but still interact with this challenging subject matter.
  • Provide immigration relief and work authorization for survivors of human trafficking in a timely and trauma-informed manner to prevent prolonged suffering and the risk of re- victimization.
  • Avoid inappropriately penalizing victims of both sex and labor trafficking, including children, for crimes they committed as a direct result of being trafficked.
  • Utilize a variety of strategies when investigating human trafficking cases rather than relying solely on victim cooperation and testimony, including strategies from other crimes where victims are not able to provide testimony. Law enforcement and prosecutors should coordinate to more effectively confront the complexities of human trafficking cases, including the challenges to securing victims’ and survivors’ participation in the investigative process. Victims’ and survivors’ access to exit and recovery services should not be dependent on their compliance in investigations which also may put them at risk of stigmatizing themselves as well as causing further harm to the well-being and safety of the survivor and their family.

Taking Action: Considerations for Anti-Trafficking Stakeholders to Support and Promote Partnerships

Human trafficking is a multi-dimensional crime requiring multidisciplinary approaches. No single anti-trafficking actor can eradicate human trafficking on its own. All stakeholders should commit to partnerships, though governments at all levels have a unique responsibility to initiate collaboration across sectors and foster an environment where partnerships can thrive. This whole- of-government approach requires incorporating the expertise of anti-trafficking stakeholders from a variety of organizations. Whether by partnering with individuals who were victims of human trafficking or coordinating with the private sector to understand and dismantle trafficking operations, governments are responsible for facilitating and ensuring a cohesive and well- resourced anti-trafficking response as well as creating a safe environment where civil society can operate freely and independently around the world and partner effectively to support victims.

We encourage governments, as well as all anti-trafficking stakeholders, to continue to support, pursue, and advocate for approaches to partnership that:

  • Take steps to ensure close coordination in international partnerships to effectively address cases of human trafficking that involve foreign nationals. Acknowledge that human trafficking crimes happen both within and across borders, and that an effective anti-trafficking response calls for coordination. For example, partnerships with foreign governments can support legal immigration pathways for victims or facilitate their safe return and reintegration, increase protection and assistance for survivors of human trafficking and their immediate family members, facilitate the identification of traffickers and hold them accountable, and improve efforts to prevent cross-border human trafficking cases.
  • Incorporate multidisciplinary partners, especially individuals who experienced human trafficking, in the design and implementation of victim assistance strategies, including effective NRMs, national action plans, and related grantmaking efforts.
  • Encourage ongoing coordination between law enforcement, NGOs, and the private sector, especially with the financial sector, to investigate and combat illicit financial activity related to human trafficking and co-occurring crimes such as money laundering.

Despite great strides in the anti-trafficking field to regularly establish and work in partnerships on local and global levels, there are still considerable gaps and challenges in anti-trafficking responses that would benefit from establishing or enhancing partnerships.

Governments and anti-trafficking stakeholders should continuously seek to improve existing partnerships or identify new opportunities for partnerships, while also considering the following:

  • Prioritize partnerships with survivors as subject matter experts in all anti-trafficking aspects, including to enhance trauma-informed services for victims, prevention and training efforts, and anti-trafficking policy at all levels of government. Meaningful partnerships with survivors also include employing survivors while providing adequate and individualized support. Additionally, clear data on the outcomes of these engagements may provide insight on how they can be improved and scaled.
  • Meaningfully include all relevant stakeholders when developing and implementing a plan to monitor and respond to emerging issues and crises such as natural disasters, conflict, climate-related vulnerabilities, and the rise and evolution of online-facilitated human trafficking.
  • Address the transnational aspects of corruption that fuel and encourage trafficking by strengthening the existing international anti-corruption architecture and addressing corruption as a global problem through public-private partnerships with civil society, including financial institutions, the private sector, multilateral organizations, and NGOs.
  • Strengthen coordination between governments and relevant stakeholders to detect, trace, and report forced labor in supply chains by establishing and adapting policies to guard against it, as well as fostering a culture of consumer awareness domestically and globally.
  • Establish an open feedback loop among all partners when focused on information, data, and intelligence sharing. Ensure governments, NGOs, and the private sector can provide feedback on the quality or impact of shared information. Comprehensive feedback loops will enable those gathering intelligence to improve and alter their approaches accordingly as well as fill information gaps related to vulnerable and marginalized populations and current victims.
  • Enhance data to get ahead of traffickers and prevent the potential or further victimization of individuals that traffickers target.

Partner to Protect: Multi-Stakeholder Approaches to Addressing Impacts of Climate Change on Human Trafficking

Climate change is a threat multiplier that creates unfavorable conditions that can exacerbate vulnerabilities to human trafficking, especially among marginalized populations. Environmental changes can amplify existing stressors, such as economic hardships, gender or identity-based discrimination, weak national frameworks of protection, and underlying conflict and insecurity, creating greater risks for human trafficking as individuals migrate as a result of these environmental changes.

Despite the intersectoral nature of the issue, anti-trafficking and environmental movements often operate in silos, hindering efficient and sustainable efforts. To create sustainable, transformational change, a multisectoral approach to address climate change—drawing on expertise from a variety of disciplines—is necessary to develop responses that mitigate risks and unintended consequences leading to exploitation. Partnerships are essential to developing solutions that account for the risk factors, socio-cultural behaviors, and adaptive strategies associated with both climate change and human trafficking to protect the world’s most vulnerable from further exploitation.

Cross-cutting partnerships are emerging as a crucial aspect of uniting environmental and anti-trafficking efforts, including the following recent efforts:

  • The Rights Lab, assisted by Delta 8.7 and the World Wildlife Fund, hosted a roundtable event to harness the knowledge of anti-trafficking experts and environmental actors and develop a roadmap for using a multi-stakeholder approach to address the nexus between human trafficking, environmental degradation, and climate change.
  • The International Institute for Environment and Development, in partnership with Anti-Slavery International and the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, are partnering to examine the impact of climate change and environmental degradation on deepening inequality, driving migration, and creating vulnerability to human trafficking, including forced labor, within and across borders. This will bring development actors, climate change specialists, and anti-trafficking experts together to develop joint recommendations for policymakers.
  • In Bangladesh, Winrock International is partnering with the Government of Bangladesh and the University of Pennsylvania’s Development Research Initiative to integrate anti-trafficking policies into the government’s existing policies, plans, and responses to address vulnerabilities due to climate change while building the resilience and adaptation of communities.
  • In East Africa, IOM is partnering with leading environmental experts to address human trafficking that exists due to vulnerabilities and displacement exacerbated by climate change in Kenya.

The impacts of climate-change-induced vulnerability to human trafficking cannot be addressed by one party alone. Proactive solutions to create systemic change require participation from governments, civil society, and the private sector and expertise from environmental and anti-trafficking specialists and communities affected by this issue. With continued partnership and commitment from diverse voices, climate adaptations and anti-trafficking initiatives will emerge stronger.


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