Top TiP from the US 2016 – Ask the right questions

“If there is a single theme to this year’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report,”  Untitled pictureannounced Secretary of State John F Kerry in the presentation of the fresh off the presses 2016 TIP report,  “it is the conviction that there is nothing inevitable about trafficking in human beings. That conviction is where the process of change really begins—with the realization that just because a certain abuse has taken place in the past, doesn’t mean that we have to tolerate that abuse in the future or that we can afford to avert our eyes.  Instead, we should be asking ourselves—what if that victim of trafficking was my daughter, son, sister, or brother?”

So the stage is set yet again, where the global scenario of human trafficking not parties to the UNODC ppis set within the context of connectedness. Across the TIP report one reads of the state of each nation’s efforts to address human trafficking and the grading which the US assigns to their efforts.  Tier 1 is thetop score you can attain as a country working against trafficking,  whilst Tier  3 is a place to escape from with some rapidity, if you want to be working with the US Government in Trade, or US Aid related schemes.  Tier 3 countries are designated as ‘ Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.’

And this year Secretary John F Kerry pulls into the front of the stage the ‘victim’ of trafficking, fairly and squarely centre stage for the imaginary of politicians, business executives, prosecutors, immigration personel and protection agencies world wide.  For the victim isn’t to be seen as ‘other’ as an opaque figure, lacking clarity in the wider obfuscation of the counting exercise which global policy makers are caught in, in order to make proportionate allocation of resources in the fight against trafficking networks.  Rather the ‘victim’ is being posed as someone, a sentient human being, one who could have relational, familial, household connectedness with the decision maker, or reader of the report.

This is an important reminder for those of us who struggle to discern the quantity and geographical distribution of those trafficked within the agglomoration of statistics, unsegmented data, migration records and algorithms designed to spit out  ‘hard numbers’ for policy makers and Gift a netpoliticians alike. To announce some form of ‘familial connectedness’ in the imaginary,  invites us to explore more deeply the fundamental issues  at stake within the globalisation of the economic activity of the world.  For the forces driving migration, the assymetries in wealth, access to land, access to protected human rights and dignity,  the essential levels of protection which the United Nations calls on the world’s 194 Nation States to respect, but which are corroded both within and without, are the very forces which put millions of people’s lives at risk of being exploited through forced labour and human trafficking, in their watercourse of erosion.

John F Kerry Secretary of State“Ending modern slavery isn’t just a fight we should attempt” announces John F Kerry in the preface to TIP 2016,  “it is a fight we can and must win.”
To win the fight, we need to understand the forces which are arraigned against people which put them at risk of trafficking abuse.  We also need to be asking wider questions around the business model of trafficking, which means that there is ‘demand’ for a market of those whose rights are being flagrantly violated by others, and unprotected by the states and communities through which they pass and where they end up exploited.

We need to ask the right questions,  dig deep into the prevailing context of global, regional and national inequalities, and explore the wider system in which Human Trafficking is set.  We need to ask  tough questions about location, ethnicity, gender, age-set, sexuality, the mode of labour and biological reproduction,  the distribution of state and cultural power, priveleged buyers and underprotected sellers, all leading to a the compromising of safety, security, and sustainable living for a significant proportion of the world’s population.

Ending slavery in the end is perfectly possible, but the time-line for its chinese worker in chinarealisation, when our ability to acknowledge the ‘other’ as brother, sister, son, daughter, mother, father, in the face of the migrant, the unaccompanied minor, the refugee, the street hawker, the urban slum dweller or the West African child pulled out of education at 13 because of household poverty,  is depressingly some way off.

For more on the TIP report, and its analysis of the state of various nations strategies to address Trafficking,  do follow @ccarht where we shall be delivering key details of the report, and be following the inputs to our CCARHT Summer School, where TIP 2016, the UNODC Global Report 2016 and the Global Slavery Index 2016 will comprise some of our first two days work.  With our faculty lecturers drawn from Universities in India, Africa, Asia, Europe and Canada, we shall be unpicking the methodological underpinnings of TIP, and exploring the implications of global data analysis in the struggle to mitigate Human Trafficking and ‘end modern slavery’.  See more here – some Early bird tickets still available.

ilm-logo-1cambridge summer school

Some Tips for the TIP report

Earlier this year, before Olympic fever spread across the globe, the United States Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons released the 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report (‘TIP Report’). The Report, issued in June each year in accordance with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, sets out to provide a comprehensive account of human trafficking and anti-trafficking efforts around the world. It acts both as a primary reference and as a source of information on government efforts to combat the trade. The Report reviews the work of 184 countries and then ranks them according to three tiers based on the extent of trafficking in the country and progress on combating it. These rankings act as the United States Government’s primary diplomatic tool regarding anti-trafficking efforts by foreign governments, representing an opening of dialogues with different states aimed at advancing anti-trafficking actions and better allocating resources.

At first glance, it is apparent that many countries are doing better in combating trafficking. While Bangladesh and the Dominican Republic were recently ranked as very poorly attending to trafficking, new legislation and the implementing of comprehensive strategies to encourage the Four Ps – prevention, protection, punishment and partnerships – have moved both countries up a tier. Meanwhile, the Czech Republic, which slipped down a tier last year, regained its Tier 1 status following developments in anti-trafficking laws and the securing of convictions under these new laws.

However, it is rather notable that the tier rankings of certain states have not improved over time, with some several countries falling down a tier again this year. Many of these countries are plagued with widespread violence and conflict. Such conditions have made the assessment of anti-trafficking efforts and developments more difficult. It remains, though, that while the Report aims to encourage better efforts regarding the Four Ps, certain states are not responding to the Report.

In large part, such a failure to respond may be the result of the United States being perceived as failing to allocate funds based on the recommendations of the tier system. While the Reports aim to improve anti-trafficking efforts through a carrot and stick approach of economic benefits for efforts to comply with standards and sanctions for continued failures to meet standards, the continued failure to apply sanctions on certain states whilst continuing to sanction others has led to a perceived bias. Such accusations of bias were articulated on 19 June 2012 by Russia, which expressed clear discontent at its continued placement in Tier 2, whilst other states, including the United States itself, continue to receive a Tier 1 ranking despite profound trafficking issues and large numbers of victims.

While clearly the Report does provide valuable information, such complaints highlight some valid issues around the nature of the evaluation system being used to rank countries. First, the criteria and requirements for tier placement are difficult to identify. They are mired in complexity, which, added to a lack transparency in the way in which data is collated and translated into ranking positions, leads the report to appear only partial. Second, the Report only assesses the actions of governments not the actions of other organisations operating within a country. Such a limitation means that organisations that may have significant impacts remain unaccounted for and not fully assessed. Third, the rankings adopt United States standards rather than internationally agreed standards, imparting culturally specific criteria that could result in unique factor operating in other countries being ignored. For instance, several Caribbean and South American states have pointed out that their child labour problem is being overstated, as it is common for young family members to help with harvests without being paid. They argue is a culturally normal, household-based, and non-exploitative form of labour in states where farming remains a family effort.
What all this evidences is a greater need for the United States to engage other countries and jurisdictions in formulating the Report for 2013. Developing co-operation around data collection and the matrices which inform the interpretative grid must occur both in before and after publication. The State Department must take heed of its own advice and focus on the fourth P, partnerships. By mobilising different resources and working with its critics, the Department will be able to build greater counter-trafficking resilience, understandings and interventions that push the fight against trafficking further along its path.