Advancing the effort to curb human trafficking
Last year I met a group of young girls in Cambodia living in a shelter for survivors of human trafficking. They wanted the same things we all desire for our children: the opportunity to live and learn in safety, to grow up free to fulfill their God-given potential. But for these girls, those basics seemed nearly insurmountable. They had already endured traumas that defy description.
A decade since the United Nations adopted the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, there are more slaves living in the world today than at any point in history. The story of those girls in Cambodia, and the many others like them around the world, should serve as a call to action.
Over the last 10 years, governments around the world have joined this struggle. To date, more than 120 countries have adopted anti-trafficking laws consistent with the U.N. Protocol, which established the 3P Paradigm of prevention, prosecution, prevention.
Recently we made public a new report ranking 184 countries and territories. It finds that we are at a critical moment in this struggle. The last 10 years have been a decade in which governments have made promises, forged partnerships and put in place new ways to combat human trafficking. Yet despite this progress, the number of prosecutions worldwide has leveled off, victim identification is inadequate and protection services are weak.
We cannot allow the momentum of the past decade to slow.
That’s the measure of success. Government action cannot merely be whether legal frameworks and protection mechanisms exist but whether those tools are being implemented effectively and are making a real difference for trafficking victims and survivors.
To live up to those promises, the next 10 years need to be a decade of delivery.
That means governments everywhere must improve efforts to combat all forms of trafficking.
Criminal justice and law enforcement organizations should not only enforce existing anti-trafficking laws but refine their methods to fight modern slavery to keep up with an evolving understanding of the crime.
Partnerships among governments can improve our ability to combat exploitation in all its forms. Recent developments in supply chain monitoring will allow governments to work with the private sector, so that consumers can know whether the goods and services they buy come from responsible sources.
This is a crime that affects every nation, including the United States, and every government must take responsibility for stopping it. In countries with well established rule of law, it is not enough to assume the legal system will just take care of this problem. We must take proactive steps in identifying victims, delivering justice, and providing survivors the support and protection they need. At the same time, those in developing countries cannot plead limited capacity as an excuse for an anemic response. We have seen that political will, creative solutions, and strong partnerships can help fill the void left by a lack of resources.
The story of those girls in the Cambodian shelter is heartbreaking, but it should also give us hope. Their experience shows how effective law enforcement, comprehensive protection measures, and the commitment of good people can bring victims out of the horror of slavery and help them live healthy and productive lives.
Hillary Clinton is the U.S. secretary of state.