It is seldom that those who are enslaved encounter much by way of good luck. This is not always the case however. Since about the year 2000 immense work has been done to further the plight of the world’s victims of modern slavery or human trafficking. Public awareness of the phenomenon has improved beyond all expectations. International conventions and protocols have translated into first generation national policies and meaningful action plans. Specialist training has, and continues to be, delivered to police forces who are more sophisticated in their approach. Other specialist units have been established to deal with victims in the aftermath of exploitation. First generation laws have begun to morph into even better second generation ones. Public reaction has progressed from social awareness, to activism, and towards understanding. All of these changes are positive developments. They have come slowly and only through persistent effort. The number and variety of bodies who have made the transition in the fate of the world’s slaves possible is too big and too varied to allow them all to be mentioned. Among them however is one of particular importance and one whose role must remain to the fore if the fight against modern slavery is to retain its momentum.
Ever since it received its mandate through legislation to act on slavery, the U.S. Department of State has been a guiding force in promoting the welfare of victims. Through the work of its Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, situated in Washington D.C., a global partnership has been forged. Charities, non-governmental organizations, and state bodies working on the issue no longer work in isolation, but in loose co-operation with the Department of State through its vast network of embassies. Through its various meetings, events, and communications it has provided an important forum, one where the local efforts encounter international ones certainly, but one too where local efforts addressing one element of the problem encounter local efforts addressing other elements. Yearly it has produced the Trafficking in Persons Report. Such is the importance given to the document that its release is now a noteworthy annual event, one reported in the world’s newspapers every June. To add emphasis to these efforts the Department of State ensures that none other than its own Secretary of State launches the report.
Anybody who has attended these launches, or viewed them online, cannot but be struck by the sincerity of the passion, and optimism of the energy, directed towards helping victims. Aside from the attention the launch of the Trafficking in Persons Report brings to slavery’s reality and to the plight of slavery’s victims, what lies between the report’s covers is of perhaps even greater significance. No effort is spared by the State Department in gathering the global happenings from each of the world’s countries during the previous year. By collaborating with local partners every detail is gathered, collated and carefully cross-checked. No country, not even the United States, is spared this scrutiny. Most importantly this process allows recommendations to be made for individual countries, including the United States, to be published in the next Trafficking in Persons Report, ones aimed at improved prevention, protection and prosecution.
What is clear is how the energization of efforts to combat modern slavery come not just from policy and legislation, but from commitment and leadership. Of central importance to these efforts is America’s Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. Great strides have been made globally during the tenure of the previous ambassador Luis CdeBaca, and during the tenure of present ambassador Susan Coppedge, through their commitment and their leadership.
So much has been said during the course of the America’s presidential election it is hard to conceive there are things remaining unsaid. Sadly this is the case, as throughout the campaign there was no debate on one of the world’s foremost criminal industries. Will modern slavery, or human trafficking, continue to be a priority for the new administration in the way it was a priority for previous ones? Will the administration continue to progress the agenda of earlier Republican and Democratic administrations? Will it show the same levels of commitment and leadership? Even now, when the matter of the presidency has been settled, an unfamiliar cloud hangs over position of the incoming administration. It is certainly the case that those who are enslaved seldom encounter much by way of good luck, but it would be a fatal blow if the incoming U.S. administration were to hesitate in its efforts to help them, especially now when so much has been achieved.