This week marked the release of the 17th annual Trafficking in Persons Report at the U.S. Department of State. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson unveiled this year’s report with support from White House Advisor Ivanka Trump. At the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking, we believe that it is important to monitor what is happening in the human trafficking movement both nationally and internationally in order to better engage with and educate our communities here in Colorado.
History and Relevance
The first Trafficking in Persons report was released on July 12th, 2001, nine months after the United States passed the historic Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). Within the same year (2000), The United Nations adopted the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, which contained the Palermo Protocol. Both of these landmark actions supported criminalizing human trafficking under domestic and international law, while laying the groundwork for the Trafficking in Persons report to come to fruition.
The Trafficking in Persons Report ranks countries into Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 status based on their efforts to combat human trafficking in accordance with the TVPA. It also provides broad policy recommendations in relationship to these ratings.
- Tier 1: The governments of these countries fully meet minimum standards for elimination of trafficking set by the TVPA
- Tier 2: These governments do not fully meet the minimum standards set forth by the TVPA but are making significant efforts to eliminate human trafficking in compliance with the standards
- Tier 2 Watch List: These governments are not showing significant efforts to come into compliance with the minimum TVPA standards
- Tier 3: These governments do not fully meet the minimum standards and are making no effort to do so
*Tier definitions provided in the 2017 TIP Report
Highlights From TIP Report Release
- Survivor Language: Survivor leadership and survivor voice continue to gain more recognition. The brief usage of survivor language in this briefing was encouraging and demonstrated that survivor leaders are having a broader influence than ever before. That point was highlighted in remarks from Ivanka Trump: “Here in the United States, we have our own Advisory Council on Human Trafficking, comprised exclusively of survivors. We cannot meaningfully address this pervasive issue without the brave voice of survivors at the table. They can help us understand what they experienced and they will play a leading role in solving this pressing crisis.” At LCHT, we value positioning survivors of human trafficking in a context of influencing outside of a focus on victimization or trauma endured.
- 3P Framework– The 3P framework continues to be a recognized approach to combatting human trafficking (prevention, protection, prosecution). Secretary Tillerson highlighted the “Program to End Modern Slavery” initiative, which will bring broader funding to efforts focused in those areas. In 2011, more anti-trafficking responses added a 4th P to the framework of best practices: partnership. Cooperation and collaboration within communities is a crucial step to combatting human trafficking. The 4Ps are an essential part of LCHT’s Colorado Project Research and the Colorado Action Plan.
- 2017 TIP Report Heroes: This year’s report release also recognized several 2017 TIP Heroes. The State Department describes these leaders as individuals who, “have devoted their lives to the fight against human trafficking.” One 2017 TIP Hero in attendance, Boom Mosby, emphasized a survivor-centered approach being critical to the success of her anti-trafficking work.
Of Note from the 2017 Report
The 2017 TIP Report has generated a lot of discussion in the international news media, particularly surrounding the significance of downgrading China to Tier 3. (in contrast to upgrading Myanmar and Thailand.) As a Tier 3 country, President Trump has the power to levy sanctions against the governments of the Tier 3 countries, and withdraw funding from professional education and cultural exchange programs from these governments. Given recent news coverage about President Trump’s numerous calls on China to take a tougher stance against North Korean aggressions, the TIP Report references a specific request of China to take a stronger lead around labor exploitation.
In another instance, Myanmar – moved up to Tier 2 status – is in the process of democratization but currently enduring ethnic violence country turmoil. The government is facing accusations of being complicit in this violence against its’ citizens, raising some eyebrows as to how it earned its upgraded status in this year’s TIP Report.
Anti-Trafficking Ally, Ivanka Trump
Ms. Trump has been formally appointed as an Advisor to the President, so her remarks about holding listening sessions and round tables on human trafficking signal a potential focus on this issue that could influence the administration. As she navigates and defines her platform, we are hopeful she adds human trafficking formally. White House support for human trafficking is critical both internationally to demonstrate our lead in this global issue, and also domestically to affirm our local community efforts.
The TIP Report and Colorado
How should we use the information outlined in this report to combat human trafficking in Colorado? The report is a good reference point to take a data-driven look at human trafficking in other countries. We are nearly 17 years into combating this crime as a transnational community and we should – we need to – be learning lessons around promising and best practices to combat this crime. The report annually reminds us to take a comprehensive approach to this global issue and to pay attention to how the nature of the crime evolves, as well as our response. There is no room for complacency at a global or local level because that only benefits perpetrators. We can only hope that in future reports, the State Department consider adding the ranking of the US to its global report card.