Government legislation to address human trafficking has been enacted, while public and faith community engagement in anti-trafficking initiatives has increased, over the past 20 years.

Yet, an estimated 25 million persons remain enslaved worldwide, according to the U.S. State Department’s 2020 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report published June 25.

A set of trafficking guidelines – known as the Palermo Protocols – was adopted by the United Nations in 2000.

Only four nations had ratified the protocols when the first TIP report was released in 2001. By 2020, all but 15 of the 190 nations in the report had done so.

Leaders from the Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim faith traditions joined together in 2014 to commit to work together to end trafficking.

A joint declaration was issued on Dec. 2, 2014, calling trafficking (modern slavery) “a crime against humanity.”

“Faith-based communities, organizations and congregations are powerful and necessary forces in the fight against human trafficking. Unlike governments, faith-based organizations are not limited by jurisdiction, election cycles or political will. Nor are faith communities hemmed in by borders,” the 2020 TIP report said.

“Faith-based organizations are well-positioned by their familiarity with local threats, their stake in keeping their communities safe, and their ability to develop context, build trust, establish relationships and provide protection before a trafficker ever acts.”

Yet, only 34 of 190 nations currently meet the minimum requirements of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA).

TVPA is legislation passed by the U.S. Congress in 2000 (and reauthorized several times since then) that instituted requirements related to the prevention of trafficking, prosecution of traffickers and the protection of victims.

It also mandated an annual report on global human trafficking, which was first published in 2001.

Nations were initially ranked into three tiers based on the State Department’s assessment of anti-trafficking efforts, with a fourth tier added in 2008.

Explanations are provided for each nation’s ranking, detailing compliance, or lack thereof, with TVPA.

“Throughout the year, the report serves as a roadmap for diplomatic engagement with governments around the world on human trafficking,” the report said. “Department of State officials from U.S. embassies and consulates, as well as the TIP Office, use the TIP Report when they meet with foreign government officials across a variety of agencies to draw attention to human trafficking, discuss policy recommendations and work toward solutions.”

Tier 1 is for countries that meet TVPA minimum standards. For 2020, 34 nations were designated tier 1, up one from 2019.

There were 89 nations included in tier 2 for 2020, down from 93 last year. Tier 2 is for nations that do not meet TVPA minimum standards but have made substantial efforts to do so.

Tier 2 watch list is for countries that do not meet minimum standards, have seen an increase in trafficking and lack sufficient documentation of efforts to reduce trafficking. There were 45 countries placed on the watch list for 2020, up from 38 in 2019.

Finally, 19 nations were designated as tier 3, which means they have not met the minimum standards and not made any effort to achieve them. This is down from 22 last year.

Libya, Somalia and Yemen were listed as special cases for a second year in a row due to significantly impaired governmental functions due to ongoing conflict and humanitarian crises.

“The last 20 years have shown that criminalizing all forms of human trafficking and providing victims with access to comprehensive care require commitment and time,” the report said. “Yet, when governments take action and lead, progress toward a world free from human trafficking is possible.”

The full report is available here.

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