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Listen to lead: the victim-centred US anti-human trafficking approach

In this blog, we examine the US Department of State’s 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report, and the role AML plays in detecting trafficking globally.

Napier AI
August 24, 2022
“Human trafficking affects us all. Its impact ripples across the fabric of our global community. We must work together, and in partnership with survivor leaders, to effectively address this crime.”

The above was said by Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, in the introduction of the US Department of State’s 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report (USDOS TIP 2022), published in July 2022.

In the global fight against human trafficking (HT), Napier wholeheartedly supports the technology-backed, data-driven, sustainable approach of anti-HT initiatives increasingly being pursued by non-governmental organisations (NGOs), non-profits, and government bodies.

In this blog, we examine one such initiative, USDOS TIP 2022, in terms of the challenges it highlights, how the US and its global partners combat HT, and the part which anti-money laundering (AML) technology and practitioners can play in ending this modern-day plague.

What is human trafficking?

Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery whereby victims are transported through deception, fraud, or intimidation for the purposes of forced labour.

The scale of the human trafficking problem

Introducing the report, Secretary of State Blinken said there are currently almost 25 million active victims of human trafficking (HT), and reiterated the USA’s commitment to wiping out the scourge.

That harrowing number echoed that cited by The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2020 (GLOTiP 2020), which estimated that in 2018 alone there were 49,032 victims of HT detected.

Allied to that egregious human toll is the estimated $150.2 billion in illicit profits which the suffering of HT victims generated for the traffickers.

Asia recorded the highest profits in trafficking with $51.8b, its lead attributed to the sheer number of victims, followed by the developed economies (including the European Union) with $46.9b, in cold terms, calculated as of value extracted per victim.

The challenges in combatting human trafficking

Against the backdrop of the current humanitarian crisis and HT risk facing millions of Ukrainian citizens fleeing Russia’s invasion of their country, five areas of special interest were additionally highlighted for the anti-HT movement:

The climate crisis

Extreme weather events- such as rampant wildfires or floods- and conditions- like heat waves or rising sea levels- could, by some estimates, see up to 150 million people displaced by 2050, with an associated increase in populations becoming 20-30% more vulnerable to exploitation.

Corruption and human trafficking

Echoing the December 2021 United States Strategy on Countering Corruption, the report recognised the interplay between corrupt activities and HT, particularly where illicit funds are laundered through the US financial system.

Forced labour from China’s belt and road initiative (BRI)

Since 2013, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has embarked on numerous BRI projects throughout the world, duping its own citizens into foreign work contracts which leave the victims impoverished, isolated, and in danger.

Forced labour and clean energy

As demand for clean energy solutions to the climate crisis increase globally, there is potential to simultaneously clean up the blind spots in current energy supply chains which foment and conceal forced labour practises.

Promising practices in data infrastructure

The acquisition, analysis, and evidence-based, targeted implementation of data is a core component in the monitoring and evaluation of anti-HT frameworks for effectiveness.

The US approach to fighting human trafficking

“We can't talk about partnership, collaboration, and policies as fundamental international frameworks to combat human trafficking without including survivor leaders as stakeholders.” - Malaika Oringo, lived experience human trafficking leader and founder of Footprint to Freedom.

Making HT survivor engagement the cornerstone of the anti-HT framework was identified by the report as a key priority, to be approached as follows:

  • Victim-centred: ensuring the interests, requirements, and priorities of the HT survivor are paramount.
  • Survivor-informed: including a diverse cross-section of HT survivors’ input in policies and programs.
  • Trauma-informed: understanding the psychological and emotional impact suffered by HT victims, and intervening or assisting with the appropriate sensitivity.
  • Culturally competent: developing a support framework which can accommodate and adapt to cross-cultural and linguistic barriers.

A major US success in the fight against HT was the establishment of the United States Advisory Council on Human Trafficking, which is the first survivor created and led formal platform of its kind worldwide. The Council advises and makes recommendations to the federal President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

How can technology and AML practitioners help to combat human trafficking?

The tone of multi-lateral engagement, dialogue, and implementation set out by the US Department of State’s in its 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report was encouraging to see, especially its acknowledgement of the key role of HT survivors in forming strategies to combat this crime.

We believe that digital transformation and implementing a victim-centred, data-led approach to compliance frameworks is key to enhancing the effectiveness of the vital role financial institutions play in tracking the financial flows associated with HT, and hasten the eradication of this modern-day scourge.

Contact us to discuss how we can partner with your organisation to upgrade its AML defences and help you better detect and fight predicate offenses to financial crime, such as human trafficking, or request a demo to see how the technology works in practice.

Photo by Eugene Golovesov on Unsplash

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