This year marks 20 years since the US first made a historic commitment to ending modern slavery.
“We’ve accomplished so much in the last 20 years,” said John Richmond, US ambassador-at-large of the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, during the June 25 release of the 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report.
“Our engagement on this has made a difference. This report and the US have made a positive difference.”
Every year, the US issues an annual report that ranks countries by their progress fighting human trafficking. Countries in the lowest category are restricted from receiving US aid.
The 2020 report lists 22 countries receiving improved rankings for their work on the issue over the past year.
“The department put this out on time without any delays in the midst of a global pandemic and that itself serves to show the priority this administration and the secretary has placed on this issue,” Richmond said, reminding the audience that President Donald Trump had also hosted a summit on human trafficking, and issued an executive order to combat online child exploitation.
But advocates across the globe warn that with the pandemic and economic downturn, there’s an urgent risk that more people will fall prey to human traffickers. They say the report is poorly timed, and counterproductive.
“At this moment, at the 20th anniversary, the State Department wants to tell a story of success and progress,” said Martina Vandenberg, the founder and president of The Human Trafficking Legal Center. “And that’s just not the story that the data tell.”
Especially because right now, she says, the global pandemic is making more people vulnerable to human trafficking.
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Category: Around the World