Breaking the Bonds of Modern Slavery and Restoring Human Dignity Across the Globe

Posted by Kari Johnstone
July 30, 2015
A bonded child laborer rests his head in his hands after being rescued during a raid at a garment factory

This week, Secretary of State John F. Kerry released the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, the State Department’s key diplomatic tool in the fight to end modern slavery, which assesses the anti-trafficking efforts of 188 countries and territories, including the United States.  In addition to the country-specific narratives and recommendations that serve as the cornerstone of the Report, this year’s TIP Report also highlights emerging and troubling trends.  For example, the use of modern slavery as a tactic in armed conflicts, as documented in the Report, is particularly alarming in the Iraq and Syria conflicts where women and children are targeted and enslaved by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.  In Latin America, Africa, and the United States, the link between extractive industries and sex trafficking is of increasing concern as reports indicate women and children are subjected to sex trafficking in areas where these mining operations prosper.  News reports in recent months highlight the continued vulnerability to human trafficking of fishermen and migrants, including those who leave their homes in search of better opportunities or to flee persecution.

While numerous challenges remain, we also celebrate significant achievements of the past year. These include: a historic gathering of religious leaders representing Anglican, Buddhist, Catholic, Hindu, Jewish, Orthodox, and Islamic faiths to sign a declaration against modern slavery; the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ receipt of the Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons; and the tireless efforts of governments and individuals around the globe, including the 2015 TIP Report Heroes, to combat human trafficking. 

The theme of this year’s Report focuses on preventing human trafficking in global supply chains.  It highlights the risks so many individuals, especially migrants, face while seeking a better life through better jobs, often far from home.  It highlights the methods traffickers use to further compound vulnerabilities in the recruitment process.  Finally, it highlights the critical role governments and businesses play in preventing human trafficking in the global marketplace, including the need for increased transparency in often long and complex supply chains.  According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), forced labor in the private economy reaps some $150 billion in illicit profits each year. 

Many of the practices that can lead to human trafficking in a supply chain often occur in the recruitment process before workers even start their jobs.  To further understand how methods such as debt manipulation, contract fraud, and recruitment fees can exploit workers, the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP Office) funded UNODC and the ILO to conduct coordinated global research on abusive recruitment practices known to facilitate human trafficking and identify emerging responses to protect individuals from such abuses.  On June 29, 2015, both organizations jointly released their reports with key findings and recommendations, including a call for action of governments, social partners, businesses, organizations and other stakeholders to improve recruitment practices worldwide. 

We have a lot of work ahead of us.  We know that no nation can end modern slavery alone.  This year marks the 15th anniversary of the UN Palermo Protocol -– and as of today -- 167 countries have become States parties to it.  As more and more countries stand up for freedom, the anti-trafficking movement grows stronger.  Individuals also can make a difference.  Each of us plays a part in this highly complex and interconnected world -- not only through our advocacy, but also through our purchasing power to demand goods and services free of forced labor at every stage of the process.  I implore you to join us to help break the bonds of modern slavery and restore human dignity across the globe.  

About the Author: Kari Johnstone is the Acting Director of the State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

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