Anti-trafficking experts from around the world convened in Washington last week to mark the publication of the U.S. Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report. On June 20th, Secretary of State John Kerry presented the report and honored ten heroes who have risked their lives to expose modern slavery.
In his opening remarks, Secretary Kerry emphasized the problem’s pervasiveness:
“If the cries of those who are enslaved around the world today were an earthquake, then the tremors would be felt in every single nation on the continent on every continent simultaneously. For years, we have known that this crime affects every country in the world, including ours. We’re not exempt.”
The report is a compilation of the efforts of 188 governments, including the United States, to combat this global phenomenon. The theme of this year’s report is The Journey from Victim to Survivor, and its findings raise awareness and serve as a tool to encourage international cooperation in tackling the issue. Headed by Ambassador-at-Large Luis CdeBaca, the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP) assembles the report, which is filled with stories as well as statistics. The report brings to light the plight of some 20 million people who are victims of human trafficking.
The TIP Office also nominates key players from a wide spectrum of industries – law enforcement, social services, government, and the judicial system – to become TIP heroes. Out of 75 nominees, ten finalists fly to the United States to share their expertise with American counterparts and explore how government agencies, NGOs and community groups here combat human trafficking.
Meridian International Center has administered more than 75 TIP projects since 2002, as part of the International Visitor Leadership Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.
The heroes’ two-week program took them from Washington, DC to Cincinnati, Ohio and Los Angeles, California. Meridian hosted a dinner honoring the TIP heroes while they were in Washington. While in Cincinnati, they sat on a panel hosted by the Freedom Center. They discussed their efforts to expose the exploitation of men, women and children for forced sex and labor. The Center works regularly with the State Department’s TIP office on issues involving modern slavery. While in Los Angeles, the group explored outreach assistance and prevention strategies, and learned about the multilateral efforts of a number of taskforces.
The ten heroes work on issues as disparate as victim identification, rehabilitation, and prosecution, but all work tirelessly to expose and dismantle this global criminal enterprise. Modern slavery is endemic to the global economy, with profits exceeding $150 billion a year.
Ms. Jhinna Pinchi, an aspiring chef, escaped from slavery in 2009 and is among the first women in Peru to pursue legal action and testify against her captors in court. At a panel discussion hosted by the American Bar Association, she said, “I have moved from victim to survivor to fighter, and that’s what we need more people to be – fighters.”
Learn more about modern slavery and what you can do to support freedom today here.