Tag Archives: Partnerships in Counter Trafficking

Important tips for the Trafficking in Persons US State Department report of 2012

16 Sep

Earlier this year, before Olympic fever spread across the globe, the United States Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons released the 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report (Tip Report). The Report, issued in June each year in accordance with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, sets out to provide a comprehensive account of human trafficking and anti-trafficking efforts around the world. It acts both as a primary reference and as a source of information on government efforts to combat the trade. The Report reviews the work of 184 countries and then ranks them according to three tiers based on the extent of trafficking in the country concerned, and the progress being made to combat it. These rankings act as the United States Government’s primary diplomatic tool regarding anti-trafficking efforts by foreign governments, representing an opening for dialogues with different states, aimed at advancing anti-trafficking actions and a better allocation of resources.

At first glance, it is apparent that many countries have improved their performance in combating trafficking. While Bangladesh and the Dominican Republic were recently ranked as having paid poor attention to human trafficking, new legislation and the implementation of comprehensive strategies to attend to the Four Ps – Prevention, Protection, Punishment and Partnerships – have moved both countries up a tier. Meanwhile the Czech Republic, which slipped down a tier last year, regained its Tier 1 status, following developments in anti-trafficking laws and the securing of a number of convictions under this new legislation.

However it is notable that the tier rankings of certain states have not improved over time, with several countries falling down a tier again this year. Many of these countries are plagued with widespread violence and conflict. such conditions have made the assessment of anti trafficking efforts and developments more difficult. It remains, though, that while the Report aims to encourage better efforts regarding the Four Ps, certain states are not responding to the measuring ‘stick’ it represents.

In large part, such a failure to respond may be the result of the United States being perceived as failing to allocate funds based on the recommendations of the tier system. While the Report’s aim to improve anti-trafficking efforts through a carrot and stick approach of economic benefits for efforts to comply with standards and sanctions for continued failures to meet standards, the continued failure to actually apply sanctions on certain states, whilst continuing to sanction others, has led to a growing perception of bias. Such accusations were articulated on the 19th June 2012 by Russia, which expressed clear discontent at its continued placement in Tier 2, whilst other states, including the United States itself, continue to receive a Tier 1 ranking despite profound trafficking issues and large numbers of identified victims.

The Report undoubtedly provides valuable and indeed critical information, currently being one of a select body of those collating trafficking data now including the efforts of the International Labour Organization and the recently upgraded research capacity of the United Nations GIFT hub. However the above complaints highlight some valid issues around the nature of the evaluation system being used to rank countries. First, the criteria and requirements for tier placement are difficult to identify. They are mired in complexity, which added to a lack of transparency in the way in which data is collected, collated and translated into ranking positions, opens up the Report to partiality. Second, the Report only assesses the actions of governments and not the actions of other organisations operating within a designated country. Such a limitation means that organisations which may have significant impacts on trafficking, remain unaccounted for and not fully assessed.  Third the ranking adopt United States standards rather than internationally agreed standards, imparting culturally specific criteria that could result in unique factors operating in other countries being ignored. For instance , several Caribbean and South American states have pointed out that their child labour problem is being overstated, as it is common for young family members to help out with agricultural harvest, without being paid. They argue that this is a culturally normal, non-exploitative, household-based form of labour in states where farming remains resolutely a family effort.

What all this evidence suggests, is a need for the United States to engage other countries and jurisdictions in formulating the Report for 2013. Developing co-operation around data collection and the matrices which inform the interpretative grid, must occur both before, during the process of collation and after publication. The State Department needs to take heed of its own advice and focus on the fourth P of Partnership building. By mobilising different resources and working with its critics, the Department will be able to build greater counter-trafficking resilience, understandings and interventions based on clear evidence and transparent processes which are essential to push the fight against trafficking further along its path.