TIP What!?

Every year, the State Department puts together a Trafficking in Persons report that details the state of human trafficking globally and where countries rank in combating trafficking.

The TIP report is the most comprehensive report on modern-day slavery in the world. It acts as leverage for legislation, a guide for governments and NGOs, and a highlights major problems hindering the elimination of slavery each year.
The U.S. government uses the report to direct funding for anti-trafficking efforts and engage with foreign governments over their efforts to end trafficking within their borders.

The State Department included the U.S. in its report for the first time in 2010, helping raise awareness about sexual exploitation and labor trafficking close to home and provide a catalyst for stronger anti-trafficking and victim protection laws.

The focus of this year’s report is victim identification. Last year, only 47,000 victims worldwide were identified, out of an estimated 27 million people trapped in slavery, according to the report.

Countries are ranked by tiers based on whether they comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, the U.S. anti-trafficking law. Countries in tier 1 prohibit, punish and work to eliminate trafficking. Countries in tier 2 fall short in compliance with TVPRA, but are making an effort to prevent trafficking. Countries on the tier 2 watch list are at risk of being downgraded to a tier 3, the lowest rank reserved for countries who aren’t doing anything to punish or prevent trafficking.

Only 30 of the 188 countries in the report, including the U.S.,  are in tier 1 this year. Most fall in middle, with 92 countries in tier 2 and 44 on the tier 2 watch list. Twenty-one countries are in tier 3.

This year’s report, released in June, downgraded China, Russia and Uzbekistan to tier 3, a serious consequence of repeatedly failing to fix its trafficking laws and prevention efforts. More countries were downgraded than upgraded this year, according to testimony by Luis CdeBaca, Ambassador-at-Large of the Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

The TIP report can be a powerful tool for producing change in unresponsive countries’ trafficking laws and attitudes toward victims. According to International Justice Mission, Cambodia’s tier 3 ranking in 2002 for ignoring the exploitation of children allowed the U.S. government to threaten to cut foreign aid until the Cambodian government took notice and passed laws address child sex trafficking.

“This year has been especially notable because of the bravery of the decision to downgrade China and Russia and the report showing strong leadership and decisiveness on the rankings of several other countries, especially when we had heard that Tip was likely to show a softer line this year,” said Holly Burkhalter, vice-president of government relations and advocacy at International Justice Mission, according to the Guardian. “It shows that the Tip report is able to really be a champion of pushing governments to step up their anti-trafficking efforts and that it isn’t afraid to show leadership on this despite the political ramifications.”

By: Michal Conger