A Little Focus Goes a Long Way

Jesse Eaves is Senior Policy Advisor for Child Protection, Advocacy and Government Relations, International Programs at World Vision, an ATEST member organization.

How focused investments can tip the balance in the fight against slavery and trafficking

Do you remember your New Years’ resolution where you said “I want arms like Michelle Obama” or “I want Ryan Gosling’s six pack”?  Well, if you actually followed through with your goal, you found yourself focusing on the area of your body you felt needed the most improvement.  You lifted, ran, squatted, or crunched your way to success.  You focused and got the desired results (give or take a few bags of potato chips).  Believe it or not, that same principle also applies to fighting human trafficking, also known as modern day slavery.

More and more people are learning every day about how the use of fraud, force, or coercion to exploit a person for profit constitute the heart of modern day slavery.  However, despite the growing public awareness about the existence of this crime, there is still a shockingly limited amount of money available to fight human trafficking effectively.  According to the International Labor Organization, human traffickers bring in at least $32 billion a year.  U.S. Government funding to fight international and domestic modern-day slavery accounts for only 0.003% of the federal budget. The United States is currently spending 10 cents for every $32 a human trafficker earns.  That’s not a lot.  But that small amount can go a long way – if it’s spent wisely.

Many countries around the world have made the necessary steps to combat human trafficking.  They’ve passed the right laws and appointed the right people.  But often times, the great work that exists on paper does not translate into real action.  The U.S. Government has multiple tools available that would allow the creation of focused partnerships with countries to assist in the creation of sustainable responses to trafficking.  It’s time to take the tools out of the box.

In a recent report, the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST) proposes that the U.S. Government undergo a process to identify countries that are most likely to benefit from an infusion of significant resources and capacity to combat human trafficking.  Specifically, ATEST urges the U.S. Government to identify countries where an influx of help could allow those countries to reach a “tipping point” in a particular area of their fight against trafficking.  For some countries like the Philippines, it may be to strengthen the Filipino justice system to investigate and prosecute the backlog of trafficking cases they are currently experiencing.  For countries like Ghana, the United States could help the Ghanaian Government strengthen the implementation of a child labor monitoring system to help stop the use of child labor in the fishing industry in Lake Volta.  There are many countries where a focused investment over a few years could yield high returns in achieving freedom for millions of people, and governments that are prepared to fight this crime in the long-term.

Given the restrictive fiscal climate in which all U.S. Government entities that combat trafficking are operating, a focus country approach as outlined in the ATEST report would allow for innovative and targeted efforts to combat TIP.  And unlike most of us when we try to hone in on improving some part of us, when the U.S. Government uses the tools available to it, it doesn’t back down until the job is done.  In creating a process for selecting countries where there can be dramatic gains in particular areas, the United States can show how concentrated funds and support can lead to effective change in the fight against human trafficking.


The Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST) is a U.S. based coalition that advocates for solutions to prevent and end all forms of human trafficking and modern slavery around the world.

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