Human Trafficking Affects Us All

Today human trafficking traps over 20 million people worldwide.  As modern-day slavery, it is a crime that happens almost everywhere and affects virtually everyone.  Yet many still think of human trafficking as an issue affecting only other people, in other countries.  The truth is it affects you; it affects us all.  Trafficking victims may have helped produce the newest smartphones we buy, the make-up we wear, and the food we eat.  In fact, there is little we can buy with total confidence that no workers were forced create it.

Victims of human trafficking, whether of sex trafficking or forced labor, come from a variety of backgrounds and their stories often begin with aspirations for a better life and a lack of options to fulfill them.  Traffickers exploit this reality.  In particular, people seeking employment opportunities – at home or abroad – face the risk of fraudulent and abusive recruitment that can lead to human trafficking.  In such cases, they find they are unable to leave jobs in mines, factories, and agricultural fields, on construction sites and fishing boats, or to escape the commercial sex trade, which often flourishes alongside these industries.

The 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report, released by Secretary Kerry on July 27, 2015, highlights these risks and the actions governments, businesses, and consumers can take to combat human trafficking.  Each of us can make a difference.

Governments must continue to combat human trafficking in all its forms through strong law enforcement efforts and effective victim protections, as well as with policies to prevent trafficking, including in their own supply chains.  A government can lead by example.  It can set high standards and clear expectations for the private sector, and adopt policies that strengthen protections against modern slavery in supply chains.  When governments improve efforts to monitor their own purchasing practices, they drive change in the global marketplace.

The private sector also has a real opportunity to lead on this issue.  Businesses can create anti-trafficking policies and map their supply chains down to the level of raw materials to identify gaps in transparency and vulnerabilities; address the trafficking-related risks in their operations; and balance growth with anti-trafficking efforts so the freedom, well-being, and dignity of workers throughout the supply chain is not sacrificed for higher profits.

Individuals have an important role to play in the fight against human trafficking in supply chains, too.  By using consumer awareness tools such as, individuals can better understand how human trafficking affects their daily purchases and leverage their buying power to demand that companies take steps to prevent modern slavery in their supply chains.  Individuals can also put pressure on their governments to adopt policies that protect workers and ensure accountability and transparency in their procurement practices.

Ensuring supply chains are free from human trafficking will take increased attention, resources, and collaboration between governments, the private sector, and individual consumers.  By working together and leveraging the strengths of different actors, the global market can become a place where innovation and growth thrive alongside a workforce free from modern slavery.

Hans G. Klemm
Ambassador of the United States of America