around the bar
March 27, 2012

Partnerships Critical to Combating Trafficking, Say ABA Panelists

Human trafficking is a $32 billion industry, with an estimated 27 million people entrapped at any given time, said Norman Greene, the moderator of a recent panel, “Combating Human Trafficking: The U.S. Government’s Response.”  Attendees and webinar listeners of the program sponsored by the Section of International Law, of which Greene is also a member, heard from several agency representatives who explained some of the ongoing efforts against trafficking.


U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)

Talking about how to counter trafficking is always timely, Greene continued, given its severity.  In addition to existing federal legislation, principally, the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, as reauthorized, legislation pending in Congress to address the issue was introduced by U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney.  The “Business Transparency on Trafficking & Slavery Act” would require companies to disclose measures they have taken to identify and address instances of human trafficking, slavery and child labor in their supply chains.  The bill, designed to help consumers make informed choices and to motivate businesses to ensure humane practices, was modeled after the California Supply Chain Transparency Act signed into law in 2010, but is broader in scope.

New counter-trafficking in persons — or C-TIP — policy within the United States Agency for International Development, as explained by panelist Veronica Zeitlin of the Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance Bureau at USAID, seeks to outline concrete principles and objectives to reinvigorate and focus C-TIP investments.  Among these objectives are: improved counter-trafficking integration into relevant USAID initiatives (such as gender discrimination and education programs); rigorous monitoring and evaluation in counter-trafficking; enhanced institutional accountability — both government employees and contractors; increased investments in critical trafficking challenge countries, such as in nations with weak governments; and increased efforts in conflict and crisis-affected areas.

Marisa Ferri, with the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, said that part of the department’s emphasis in the area beyond the three “Ps” —prosecution, prevention and protection — is partnership.  And that includes establishing working relationships with state, federal and local governments; non-governmental organizations; businesses and others.  The State Department’s annual trafficking in persons report includes data for some 180 countries, for which the department works with embassies in country and with embassy offices in Washington, D.C., as well as with NGOs, to conduct the analysis.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor and Human Trafficking works to reduce the prevalence of the worst forms of child labor, forced labor and human trafficking worldwide.  The department’s efforts, said Leyla Strotkamp,  who is a member of that Office, include: detection and law enforcement; victim services, including employment one-stop shop services; and transnational engagement, for example, signing joint declarations and working with other nations to ensure that workers coming into the United States are knowledgeable about their employment rights.

How do we make trafficking more costly and drive the traffickers out of business was a question posed by Wade Channell, of the Office of Economic Growth, Agriculture and Trade Bureau at USAID.  Channell urged lawyers and lawyers-to-be — the room was filled with many law students — to put aside their revulsion about trafficking and look at it as a business model.  In explaining trafficking further, he said that sometimes the product in and of itself is illegal or atrocious, such as sex trafficking; sometimes the way the product is made is illegal, as in soccer balls or clothing that is made with illegal labor.  Either way, it’s a business.

Channell suggested increasing the risks, and thus the costs, of such business.  Societal woes are also part of what leads to engaging in trafficking.  When there are bad choices or no choices at all, people take risks that they would not take if they had other opportunities.

Panelist Eric Beinhart, with the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program at the U.S. Department of Justice, highlighted the MTV Exit Campaign, which aims to raise awareness of the problems of trafficking.  He also said that police are an enormous factor in how citizens see their government:  citizens reactions to government often hinge on their dealings with the police.  Beinhart provided an example of police training in Indonesia that ICITAP undertakes.

Holly Burkhalter, vice president for governmental relations at the human rights agency, International Justice Mission, emphasized the importance of other governments understanding that combating traffic was a priority for the United States.

The program was held at the George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C., which co-cosponsored the event along with the American Society of International Law.

Learn More About:  Human RightsInternational Law.

Learn More About:  Human RightsInternational Law