Moving Toward a Decade of Delivery - Government Responsibility

[Introductory Material also available in Chinese | French | Russian | Spanish | Arabic | Persian]

Speaking on behalf of the nine anti-trafficking heroes honored in last year’s TIP Report, Laura Germino from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers said, “We commit ourselves, our continued efforts, to our collective fight to wipe slavery off the face of this earth. We are fighting for Tier Zero.”

Each year, heroes are driven not by tier rankings but by a vision for a world without slavery. Some work to combat root causes – to end the demand for commercial sexual exploitation, to end the constant downward price pressure that often connects corporate supply chains to the shackles of compelled service, and to provide options for women and girls so that risky migration is not their only choice. Others risk their safety and make it their life’s work to fight for a more accountable justice system or to build back the trust of the men, women, and children victimized by human trafficking. They serve ably and nobly, filling gaps created by collective failures of our humanity and governance, working for a world that no longer requires their heroism.

That is the vision of the emerging global abolitionist movement. What then is the vision of governments?

The UN’s Palermo Protocol and the United States’ TVPA have helped to guide governmental understanding of the tools required to fight this crime. The 2010 TIP Report covered in great detail the progress of the last decade: the rise of laws criminalizing all forms of human trafficking; the increase in public awareness and accountability for purchases of any product that could propagate the exploitation of another person; and the 142 parties to the Palermo Protocol and that adopted the “3P” paradigm of preventing trafficking, prosecuting traffickers, and protecting survivors.

The first decade following the UN’s adoption of the Palermo Protocol can be described as a time of building the framework and passing laws that focused largely on the criminalization of human trafficking and the creation of victim assistance mechanisms. Now is the time to build a robust global response rooted in increased implementation of this framework at the national level. Government responses need to trace trafficking to the points of exploitation and exert pressure where it will do the most good. This is in keeping with what governments do: they grant visas and regulate businesses, negotiate trade agreements, and oversee both social services and criminal justice responses. In a post-Palermo world, all of these functions must reflect the “3P” approach and the guarantee of freedom set forth in Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

These principles are most fully set forth in the Palermo Protocol and in the minimum standards to combat trafficking established by the TVPA; the text of the minimum standards can be found on page 404. Governments can evaluate their compliance by asking three simple questions:

  • Does the government criminalize all forms of trafficking and prescribe sentences commensurate with the gravity of the offenses?

Consistent with the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, governments should prescribe maximum criminal penalties of no fewer than four years. Penalties prescribed for sex trafficking offenses should be equivalent to the penalties for rape and other serious crimes.

  • Does the government use its laws to vigorously investigate and prosecute all forms of human trafficking that exist in the country?

Many countries fail to pursue prosecutions diligently or ignore certain types of human trafficking, such as the forced labor of men and boys. Some countries limit their enforcement efforts to either foreign trafficking victims or their own citizens. These shortcomings are noted in the narratives and reflected in the tier rankings.

And finally,

  • Is the government doing what it can to protect victims and prevent trafficking?

Around the globe, governments have pledged to undertake victim protection, though victims continue to go unfound, or worse, they are found, unidentified, and further victimized. Robust victim identification and rehabilitation is what is most needed but is most lacking.

The answers to these questions highlight failures, successes, and emerging global lessons which are profiled throughout this introduction.