Topics of Special Interest

Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons


Religious leaders have long played a vital role in combating human trafficking. On December 2, 2014, leaders representing Anglican, Buddhist, Catholic, Hindu, Jewish, Orthodox, and Islamic faiths met for the first time in history to sign a declaration pledging to end modern slavery and calling for action against it as a moral imperative.

These leaders urged their followers to work to find ways to end human trafficking. Each religious authority gave a statement urging the world to support this effort, including Hindu leader Mata Amritanandamayi, who said, “if we fail to do something, it will be a travesty against future generations.”

We, the undersigned, are gathered here today for a historic initiative to inspire spiritual and practical action by all global faiths and people of good will everywhere to eradicate modern slavery across the world by 2020 and for all time.

In the eyes of God,* each human being is a free person, whether girl, boy, woman or man, and is destined to exist for the good of all in equality and fraternity. Modern slavery, in terms of human trafficking, forced labour and prostitution, organ trafficking, and any relationship that fails to respect the fundamental conviction that all people are equal and have the same freedom and dignity, is a crime against humanity.**

We pledge ourselves here today to do all in our power, within our faith communities and beyond, to work together for the freedom of all those who are enslaved and trafficked so that their future may be restored. Today we have the opportunity, awareness, wisdom, innovation and technology to achieve this human and moral imperative.


His Grace Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury

Venerable Bhikkhuni Thich Nu Chan Khong (representing Zen Master Thích Nhât Hanh)

The Most Venerable Datuk K. Sri Dhammaratana, Chief High Priest of Malaysia

His Holiness Pope Francis

Her Holiness Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma)

Dr. Abbas Abdalla Abbas Soliman, Undersecretary of State of Al Azhar Alsharif (representing Mohamed Ahmed El-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar)

Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi al-Modarresi

Sheikh Naziyah Razzaq Jaafar, Special advisor (representing Grand Ayatollah Sheikh Basheer Hussain al Najafi)

Sheikh Omar Abboud

Rabbi Dr. Abraham Skorka

Rabbi Dr. David Rosen

His Eminence Metropolitan Emmanuel of France (representing His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew)

*The Grand Imam of Al Azhar uses the word “religions.”

**The term “crime against humanity” has a particular legal meaning that the U.S. Department of State does not view as being implicated here.


This year marks the 15th anniversary of the adoption of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (Palermo Protocol). The impact of the Palermo Protocol has been remarkable—today, 166 countries have become a party to the Protocol. Many countries have implemented the “3P” paradigm of prosecuting traffickers, protecting victims, and preventing the crime through the passage and implementation of national anti-trafficking laws. Countries continue to update their legal framework to better address this crime. In 2014, Haiti enacted the Law to Combat Trafficking in Persons. Burundi also enacted its first anti-trafficking law in 2014. In March 2015, the United Kingdom enacted the Modern Slavery Act to refine the country’s legal framework.

While the promulgation of anti-trafficking criminal laws points to increased commitment to address the crime, challenges in fully implementing the promise of Palermo remain. In an effort to monitor implementation of the Palermo Protocol, the United Nations in 2004 established a special rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, who conducts fact-finding missions to study human trafficking conditions and provide recommendations on ways to better address the problem. Over the past two years, the special rapporteur has visited Malaysia, Morocco, Italy, the Bahamas, Belize, and Seychelles.

In 2009, the Conference of Parties to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) convened a working group on trafficking in persons to facilitate implementation of the Palermo Protocol and make recommendations to States parties. The working group has met five times and recommended governments involve civil society as partners in anti-trafficking efforts; consider investigating suspected traffickers using a wide range of tools including tax and labor law; and consider using administrative tools and regulations to combat the crime. The working group will meet again in November 2015 to continue discussion of the implementation of the Palermo Protocol and make further recommendations. While 2015 is a milestone, particularly in the near universal adoption of the Protocol, significantly more must be done in the next decade and beyond to fulfill its mandate.


Extractive industries involve the removal of non-renewable raw materials such as oil, gas, metals, and minerals from the earth. Although communities can benefit from such industries by using these natural resources for sustainable development, their extraction has also “triggered violent conflicts, degraded the environment, worsened gender and other inequalities, displaced communities, and undermined democratic governance,” according to the UN Development Program. Furthermore, mining, drilling, and quarrying activities often occur in relatively remote areas with minimal infrastructure and limited rule of law, leading to the development of makeshift communities, such as mining “boom towns,” that are vulnerable to crime.

Forced labor in extractive industries has been well-documented; however, the link between these industries and sex trafficking is increasingly an issue of grave concern among governments and advocates alike. Bolivian and Peruvian girls are subjected to sex trafficking in mining areas in Peru, and women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking near gold mines in Suriname and Guyana. NGOs have reported continued commercial sexual exploitation of children related to mining sectors in Madagascar. In some areas, this exploitation involves organized crime. For example, in Colombia, NGOs report organized criminal groups control sex trafficking in some mining areas.

Any discovery of raw materials will necessarily lead to a large influx of workers and other individuals, some of whom will create a demand for the commercial sex industry. In Senegal, a gold rush resulted in rapid migration from across West Africa; some of these migrants are women and children exploited in sex trafficking. Likewise, in the oil industry, individuals are sometimes recruited with false promises of work opportunities, but instead are exploited in the sex trade. Service providers in areas near camps surrounding large-scale oil extraction facilities, such as the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota, report that sex traffickers are exploiting women in the area, including Native American women.

Sex trafficking related to extractive industries often occurs with impunity. Areas where extraction activities occur may be difficult to access and lack meaningful government presence. Information on victim identification and law enforcement efforts in mining areas can be difficult to obtain or verify. Convictions for sex trafficking related to the extractive industries were lacking in 2014, despite the widespread scope of the problem.


Cultural norms, practices, and traditions play an important role in defining a country or society. Unfortunately, some cultural norms are at times used or distorted to justify practices or crimes, including modern slavery, that exploit and harm others. A 14-year-old girl may be advertised for sex, an 11-year-old boy may be hired as a domestic worker, or a young transgender woman may be subjected to trafficking in a popular sex tourism destination. Such customs may also create significant challenges that impede efforts to combat sex and labor trafficking.

Harmful cultural norms drive inequality, poverty, and discrimination. Depending on the particular country or region, these norms can be used to support, hide, or attempt to justify human trafficking and other criminal schemes, undermining laws designed to protect children and adults. Acquiescence to corruption and lack of transparency can also facilitate human trafficking and make it difficult to detect and combat.

Cultural norms that perpetuate inequality and a cycle of violence against women are closely linked with sex and labor trafficking in all regions of the world, from North America to South Asia and the Pacific. Other practices common to many regions of the world can harm children, migrants, and domestic workers and help facilitate forced child labor or exploitation of migrant workers. Examples include minorities forced to beg and steal throughout Europe, children compelled through debt bondage and other means to work in hazardous conditions in South American and African mines, or workers exploited aboard fishing vessels at sea in East Asia. In addition to increasing the vulnerability of individuals, harmful cultural norms like these can hinder a government’s efforts to prevent human trafficking and create an environment in which the crime either remains hidden or is socially accepted—or even facilitated—and, therefore, more difficult to address by law enforcement.

Steadily increasing efforts to combat human trafficking around the globe challenge certain cultural norms. The Palermo Protocol, which has been accepted by 166 States parties and does not allow for any cultural variations, requires the criminalization of all forms of trafficking in persons, as do newly enacted domestic anti-trafficking laws. Likewise, public awareness campaigns and other prevention efforts can also push some traditions to change. In the Middle East, small robots have replaced young boys as jockeys in the sport of camel racing, and in East Asia and the Pacific, some governments have begun to strengthen their responses to child sex tourism by increasing public awareness that it is a crime and denying entry to known foreign sex offenders. African societies are beginning to recognize child domestic servitude as a crime and an injustice to children who instead deserve an education and a supportive environment in which to live. Efforts to prosecute, protect, and prevent human trafficking should continue to hasten the decline of harmful practices that had been defended as culturally justified and thus used to embolden those willing to enslave others.


“[D]omestic servitude has been detected in many OSCE countries, and it is important that we continue to work with the diplomatic community to prevent it.”

–Ambassador Madina Jarbussynova,
OSCE Special Representative and Coordinator for
Combating Trafficking in Human Beings

Involuntary servitude of domestic workers in diplomatic households has been detected in the United States and in many other countries around the world. In 2014, OSCE released a handbook on preventing this form of human trafficking. The handbook is a useful reference tool designed for foreign ministry protocol departments and other relevant authorities and international partners to help regulate and oversee the employment of private domestic workers hired by diplomatic personnel. It informs officials about how to detect and respond to human trafficking, and protect the rights of domestic workers. The handbook highlights various preventive measures related to domestic servitude in the context of diplomatic immunity and presents several approaches to resolving disputes. It also provides examples of promising practices in addressing allegations of abuse that governments have adopted and put into practice. The handbook How to prevent human trafficking for domestic servitude in diplomatic households and protect private domestic workers is available on the OSCE website at The 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report, for the first time, assesses the efforts of governments to proactively train and provide guidance to their diplomatic personnel to prevent such abuses.


UNODC and ILO Collaborate on Global Research*

In 2014, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) each began research on the abusive recruitment practices known to facilitate human trafficking and emerging responses to protect individuals, particularly migrant workers, from such abuses. ILO and UNODC released their global research in June 2015. This coordinated research included three stakeholder meetings and field surveys conducted in different countries and regions of the world.

Some of the reports’ key findings and recommendations include:

1. Workers who have to borrow from third parties to cover recruitment fees and who suffer from fraudulent and abusive practices during their recruitment are at higher risk of coercion and debt bondage. As a result, they are more likely to accept exploitative working conditions, making them vulnerable to forced labor or compulsory service.

2. There is an emerging trend toward stronger regulation to prevent such abuses. Various national regulatory models, including under labor and criminal law, have emerged to strengthen the governance of internal and cross-border labor recruitment.

3. There is further need to strengthen compliance with national and international standards. Government authorities, workers’ and employers’ organizations, businesses, and civil society have a key role to play in promoting compliance with standards of fair recruitment.

4. At present, illegitimate or unethical recruiters are usually not being prosecuted under anti-trafficking laws in identified trafficking cases. Abusive and fraudulent recruitment practices often precede exploitation on the job site, making it difficult to prove that unscrupulous labor recruiters were part of the trafficking crime or that they knowingly recruited victims for the purpose of exploitation.

5. Stronger efforts are required to ensure that migrant workers who experienced abusive and fraudulent recruitment practices gain timely access to effective remedies at destination or in their country of origin. Such efforts would create positive incentives for workers to submit complaints and to collaborate with law enforcement authorities.

6. Coordination between labor inspectors and other law enforcement should be enhanced within and across countries to address gaps in enforcement.

These reports are available on UNODC’s and ILO’s websites:

UNODC—The Role of Recruitment Fees and Abusive and Fraudulent Recruitment Practices of Recruitment Agencies in Trafficking in Persons

ILO—Regulating labour recruitment to prevent human trafficking and to foster fair migration: Models, challenges and opportunities

Verité Report on Human Trafficking in Federal and Corporate Supply Chains*

In a report released this year, the labor rights NGO Verité analyzes the risk of human trafficking in federal and corporate supply chains. The report examines a range of sector-specific risk factors, as well as social, economic, and political risk factors in countries of production or service delivery and in those that supply the labor. Eleven sectors were found to be the most likely to have a risk of human trafficking globally:

• Agriculture
• Construction
• Electronics
• Fishing and Aquaculture
• Forestry
• Healthcare
• Hospitality
• Housekeeping/Facilities Operation
• Mining and Basic Metal Production
• Textile and Apparel Manufacturing
• Transportation and Warehousing

The report will also include an in-depth examination of more than 40 of the world’s most important primary commodities, analyzing global production and trade patterns, reports of forced labor and the incidence of child labor (an indicator of the risk of forced labor), and the structure of each commodity’s supply chain. Many, if not most, of these commodities can be found in products used by consumers every day, all over the world.

• Bamboo
• Bananas
• Beans
• Brass
• Bricks
• Cattle
• Charcoal
• Citrus
• Coal
• Cocoa
• Coffee
• Coltan, Tungsten, Tin
• Copper
• Corn
• Cotton
• Diamonds
• Fish
• Flowers
• Gold
• Granite and Other Stone
• Gravel and Crushed Stone
• Jewels
• Leather
• Melons
• Nuts
• Palm Oil
• Pineapple
• Rice
• Rubber
• Salt
• Shrimp
• Silk
• Silver
• Steel
• Strawberries
• Sugar
• Sunflowers
• Tea
• Tobacco
• Tomatoes
• Wheat
• Wool
• Zinc

This report is available on Verité’s website: Verité—Strengthening Protections Against Trafficking in Persons in Federal and Corporate Supply Chains

* Each of these reports was funded by the Department of State.


Victim testimony can be crucial to human trafficking prosecutions, but recounting exploitation and directly confronting traffickers can be traumatizing, especially when traffickers threaten retaliation or psychologically manipulate victims to distrust authorities and avoid seeking assistance. In addition to protecting victim-witnesses from their traffickers, governments should ensure victims have access to comprehensive services, including medical and mental health care, legal services, and if desired by the victim, case management support throughout the criminal justice process. Such protections are key to minimizing the likelihood victims will be traumatized again during the investigation and prosecution of their accused traffickers.

Governments that embrace a victim-centered approach have adopted the following promising practices in witness protection:


• Provide an opportunity for victims to consider their options and make an informed decision about participating in criminal proceedings.

• Provide access to legal counsel for victims who wish to participate in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers.

• Permit a professional, such as a social worker, legal advocate, or counselor, to accompany and support victims throughout investigations and prosecutions.

• Collaborate with civil society and NGOs to ensure victims receive comprehensive support services, including mental health care, if requested.

• Offer victims placement in non-restrictive shelters that provide care appropriate to age, gender, and special needs.

• Help victims secure safe, long-term accommodation.

• Conduct safety planning and extend protection to victims’ relatives, if necessary.

For example, the Australian program Support for Trafficked People, administered through the Australian Red Cross, provides income support, safe accommodation, and legal assistance, among other services, to victims, irrespective of their willingness or ability to assist with the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers. After 45 days of support, those who choose to aid the prosecution are eligible for additional support, including long-term accommodation, income and employment assistance, and skills training. Victims who are willing but unable to assist the prosecution are also eligible for extended support.

In addition, countries party to the Council of Europe’s Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings must provide victims with a reflection period of at least 30 days to stabilize and carefully consider whether to participate in the prosecution of their traffickers. During this period, governments cannot make a decision to remove the victim from the country, nor can a previous removal decision be brought into effect.


• To the extent permissible by law, protect victims’ identities and privacy.

• Allow victims to provide testimony in a manner that is less threatening, such as testimonies that are written or recorded, delivered via videoconference, or produced with audio or visual distortion.

• Provide a separate waiting area for victims, for example in court, to minimize interaction with the accused traffickers or their associates.


• Explain to victims how their testimony will be delivered and to what extent their identity will be revealed, if at all, to the defendant and the public.

• Establish a point person to communicate in a language the victim understands and provide updates on the status of the case and information about available services.

• Inform and prepare victims on what to expect before testimony and court examinations, including realistic expectations in the sentencing phase.


On June 11, 2014, the tripartite constituency of the annual International Labour Conference (ILC) in Geneva comprised of governments, workers, and employers, voted overwhelmingly to adopt a protocol and recommendation to supplement the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention concerning Forced or Compulsory Labour of 1930 (also known as the Forced Labour Convention or Convention 29).

Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention

The new Protocol of 2014 (Protocol 29) updates the widely ratified Forced Labour Convention by addressing gaps in its implementation and reaffirming the obligation of States to take effective measures to prevent and eliminate forced labor in all its forms. It reaffirms the definition of forced labor contained in Convention 29 and provides concrete guidance to ratifying States on effective measures to prevent and eliminate all forms of forced labor. The legally binding Protocol 29 also complements other international instruments such as the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (2000) and mandates specifically that measures include actions against trafficking in persons. Protocol 29 is open to ratification by governments that have ratified the Forced Labour Convention and will enter into force one year after it has been ratified by two Member States of the ILO.

Obligations under Protocol 29 include:

• Developing comprehensive national policies and action plans for the effective and sustained suppression of forced labor;

• Providing victims with protection and effective access to remedies, such as compensation, irrespective of their presence or legal status in the territory;

• Sanctioning perpetrators;

• Strengthening and applying labor laws and policies to all sectors, as well as inspection services;

• Supporting due diligence by both the public and private sectors to prevent and respond to risks of forced labor; and

• International cooperation between and among States.

Forced Labour Recommendation No. 203

Also on June 11, 2014, the ILC adopted the Recommendation on supplementary measures for the effective suppression of forced labour (Recommendation 203), which provides detailed technical and practical guidance to States on the implementation of Protocol 29 in the areas of prevention, protection, and access to justice and remedies, such as compensation, enforcement, and international cooperation. This recommendation supplements both Protocol 29 and the Forced Labour Convention. As a non-binding instrument, Recommendation 203 is not open to ratification.

Provisions of Recommendation 203 include:

• Regulating labor recruiters and employment agencies, and eliminating recruitment fees charged to workers;

• Supporting the private sector to address the risks of forced labor in their own operations, as well as those of their suppliers;

• Immediate and long-term assistance for victims, taking into account the safety of the victims and their family members, and the protection of their privacy and identity, regardless of the victims’ willingness to cooperate in criminal or other proceedings;

• A reflection and recovery period for foreign victims, as well as temporary or permanent residence permits and access to the labor markets, irrespective of their legal status; and

• International cooperation to prevent and address the use of forced labor by diplomatic personnel.


“When you are living in a globalized economy and a globalized world, you cannot live in isolation, all the problems and solutions are interconnected, and so the problem of child labor in any part of the world is your problem.”

-Kailash Satyarthi

The world was formally introduced to Mr. Kailash Satyarthi and his work fighting child labor when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, together with child activist Malala Yousafzai, “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.” During his acceptance speech, he issued an impassioned call to action: “I refuse to accept that some children are born to live without human dignity.” He further insisted, “[e]ach one of you has some moral responsibility. It cannot go on me alone.”

For more than four decades, Mr. Satyarthi has worked relentlessly for the rights of children and waged a peaceful struggle to keep children in school, rather than in the workforce. He has helped to free children trapped in bonded labor, assisted them with vocational training and education, and challenged public discourse in India on child labor and child trafficking. In 1980, Mr. Satyarthi founded Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement), which has removed more than 80,000 children from exploitation. His contributions have not only affected India, but have also changed the world: in 1998 he organized the Global March Against Child Labor, the world’s largest campaign against child labor that led to the adoption of ILO Convention 182 on the worst forms of child labor. Mr. Satyarthi also founded Good Weave in 1994, which now implements a certification scheme to ensure no child labor is used in the production of carpets in India, Nepal, and Afghanistan.

In 2007, the U.S. Department of State recognized Mr. Satyarthi’s contributions to the global fight against forced child labor by selecting him as one of ten Trafficking in Persons Report Heroes.

Coalition of Immokalee Workers: recipient of the 2015 Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons

On January 29, 2015, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) received the Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons from U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry. For more than 20 years, CIW has stood by Floridian tomato workers, organized communities, and pioneered a zero tolerance policy on forced labor and sexual assault through its Fair Food Program, which puts worker protections and social responsibility at the absolute center. This program ensures a price premium that buyers agree to pay and growers agree to pass on to farm workers, and provides worker-to-worker training sessions—on site and on-the-clock—at participating farms. CIW has also partnered with law enforcement to help uncover and investigate several modern slavery cases involving farm operations across the southeastern United States. Owing to its outstanding efforts, CIW has effectively eradicated human trafficking in the farms participating in the Fair Food Program.


Armed groups, violent extremists, and militias fuel conflicts that devastate communities and weaken social and governmental structures, leaving adults and children defenseless and vulnerable. Women and children in armed conflicts are particularly vulnerable to multiple abuses, including those involving human trafficking and sexual and gender-based violence.

The use of modern slavery as a tactic in the armed conflicts in Iraq and Syria is particularly alarming. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), as well as other armed groups and militias, continue to intimidate populations and devastate communities through unconscionable violence, fear, and oppression. ISIL has made the targeting of women and children, particularly from Yezidi and other minority groups, a hallmark of its campaign of atrocities. In the past year, ISIL has abducted, systematically raped, and abused thousands of women and children, some as young as 8 years of age. Many of the horrific human rights abuses that ISIL has engaged in also amount to human trafficking. Women and children are sold and enslaved, distributed to ISIL fighters as spoils of war, forced into marriage and domestic servitude, or subjected to horrific physical and sexual abuse. ISIL has established “markets” where women and children are sold with price tags attached and has published a list of rules on how to treat female slaves once captured.

In a recent UN report, women and girls who managed to escape from ISIL recounted how they were treated. A young woman shared how she was taken to a school and given to an ISIL emir as his slave, and in another case, 150 unmarried girls and women were reportedly transported to Syria from Iraq to be given to ISIL fighters as rewards. Some isolated reports indicate ISIL has begun transporting captive women and girls to buyers in the Gulf. Men and boys are also vulnerable to trafficking, as entire families are reportedly abducted and forced to work in agriculture, such as on sheep and poultry farms in Iraq. Additionally, there is growing concern that some ISIL recruits from Central Asian countries may be vulnerable to trafficking after arriving in Syria. Others, deceived by recruiters promising jobs in Turkey, are later taken to Syria and forced by extremist groups to fight, work, or endure sexual servitude.

ISIL continues to actively and unlawfully recruit, including by abduction, train, and use children—some as young as 12 years old—as soldiers in Iraq and Syria. These children are forced to undergo military training to join the front lines of combat, while some are deployed as human shields or made to patrol ISIL checkpoints. In training camps, children nicknamed “Cubs of the Caliphate” are trained to use weapons, make bombs, and deploy as suicide bombers.

Whole communities in Iraq and Syria continue to be displaced internally and in neighboring countries, as increasing numbers of adults and children flee the horrors of war, including those perpetrated by ISIL and other armed groups. The UN estimates 2.8 million individuals in Iraq have been displaced and nearly four million Syrians have fled the country, mostly to Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq. This displacement is compounded by the use of human trafficking as a tactic by ISIL in the armed conflict.

The use of modern slavery in armed conflicts is not unique to ISIL, but is also evident in the case of other armed groups that are forcibly recruiting children and training them to be soldiers or otherwise exploiting them. Boko Haram has forcibly recruited and used child soldiers as young as 12 years old, and abducted women and girls in the northern region of Nigeria, some of whom it later subjected to domestic servitude, other forms of forced labor, and sexual servitude through forced marriages to its militants. In Somalia, al-Shabaab has recruited and used children in armed conflict. The Lord’s Resistance Army, a Ugandan rebel group that operates in eastern regions of the Central African Republic, enslaves boys and girls for use as cooks, porters, concubines, and combatants. The use of human trafficking in the midst of armed conflicts further amplifies the unspeakable devastation communities and families experience and perpetuates intimidation and fear among oppressed communities.