Renewing the Journey Toward Freedom

The anti-trafficking movement is at a pivotal moment. Eighteen years into the new millennium, more people than at any other time in human history are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. And as we mark another January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking is taking stock of progress to end human trafficking; learning from trends, positive and negative, that impede or abet modern-day slavery; and renewing our collective efforts to ensure lasting solutions to prevent labor and sex trafficking.

ATEST highlighted protection issues and offered trafficking-prevention solutions to lawmakers and responders in the wake of natural disasters last year. Emergencies—like the 2017 wildfires in California, earthquakes in Mexico and Iran, and hurricanes in the Caribbean and American South—disrupt communities and can heighten people’s vulnerability to trafficking during the chaos and uncertainty that follows any large-scale crisis. Men, women and children living on the economic and social edge are at particular risk. In 2017, we flagged human trafficking prevention to policy-makers and will continue, in 2018, to advocate for an anti-trafficking lens in the U.S. government’s disaster response and recovery planning, for example distribution of basic anti-trafficking awareness materials during aid delivery and prioritizing the reestablishment of agency services critical to fighting trafficking.

Last year, Congress came close to reauthorizing the landmark Trafficking Victims Protection Act—but progress has stalled. This bipartisan legislation is the lynchpin of U.S. engagement on the issue, both domestically and around the world, and funds anti–human-trafficking programs and enforcement efforts to combat this heinous crime. Every three years since the first passage of the TVPRA congress has acted to ensure authorizations for much needed anti-trafficking programs and provide innovative methods to combat modern-slavery based on prior years learning .This is the first time in almost 20 years that the reauthorization process is at a stand-still so close to completion. If our congressional champions cannot finalize this legislation soon, efforts to combat human trafficking will suffer, and more women, children and men will become prey to traffickers.

The first week of 2018 also marked th of the U.S. Advisory Council on Trafficking, a congressionally mandated advisory group comprised of survivor leaders who offer the president and federal agencies ways to strengthen the U.S. response to human trafficking. These champions of our movement marked the end of their two-year term with a call for their successors to be appointed and funded with stipends, so they would better able to participate. ATEST strongly supports this call to action and reiterates the critical value that accrues from, and the common sense that requires, welcoming and fully supporting survivors into policy and planning discussions around anti-trafficking efforts. The U.S. government and, indeed we all, must do better in 2018 to elicit these critical voices and perspectives.

Last year, ATEST celebrated a decade’s progress in advocacy against human trafficking, and transitioned from a funded project of a visionary donor to an independent coalition of committed organizations that have long been leaders in the anti-trafficking movement. This year, we are renewing our efforts to forge new alliances across the movement and beyond it, finding the intersections with other human rights causes of our day, and leveraging other investments and opportunities to mutually reinforce our overlapping missions. ATEST will also continue to advocate for effective enforcement of existing anti-trafficking regulations, including those related to global supply chains. For instance, we are eager to continue supporting the requirements under the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) for federal contractors to implement strong anti-trafficking measures in contracts performed overseas and we will continue to promote vigorous use of existing trade and customs regulations to prohibit the importation of goods to the U.S. market make with forced labor.

In 2018, we must not forget the suffering that lies behind the facts of modern slavery. We must never allow our elected officials and policy-makers to forget the horror that pervades our economy, our supply chains, our cities and our rural communities. Human trafficking is not a partisan issue. It does not belong to urban elites or the working poor. It is not a political football. It is one of the great moral outrages of our time, and it is happening in your community, wherever you may be as you read these words. Now more than ever before, the anti-trafficking movement must come together and advance our historic mission to end modern slavery in our lifetime with a holistic approach that encompasses both labor and sex trafficking of men, women and children in the U.S. and globally.

Who we are
ATEST is a U.S.-based coalition that advocates for solutions to prevent and end all forms of human trafficking and modern slavery in the United States and around the world. ATEST is comprised of the following organizations: the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), Free the Slaves, National Network for Youth (NN4Y), Polaris, Safe Horizon, Solidarity Center, Verité, and Vital Voices Global Partnership.