U.S. officials across agencies reaffirmed their commitment to combating trafficking in persons, including following the recommendations of the Advisory Council on Human Trafficking, which released its report last week.
The advisory council, made up of 11 survivors of human trafficking, called on government agencies to increase availability of victims’ services, including relocation and housing services and specialized training of law enforcement and government officials dealing with victims of human trafficking.
After almost a year without a leader, the State Department Trafficking in Person’s office has a new Ambassador, Susan Coppedge Amato, confirmed by Congress in October. She certainly seems like a good choice for the job.
At her first public appearance today, Ambassador Coppedge, a former federal prosecutor from Georgia with a strong record prosecuting human trafficking cases, made clear that while the United States has some strong laws on the books to prosecute traffickers, “we must all do more to address this problem.”
Speaking at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, Coppedge presented her office’s 2015 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, a 382-page volume on anti-trafficking efforts around the world that Coppedge called “the United States’ principle diplomatic tool” to convince other countries to do more to fight this form of modern slavery.
The credibility of that report has recently been called into question, however – an issue the new ambassador will need to address. As a Reuters news report revealed in August, the TIP report released last summer (before Coppedge took office) upgraded the rankings of 14 countries, even though State Department experts reportedly did not believe the evidence supported improvement on their efforts to combat trafficking.
Malaysia, for example, long criticized for not doing enough to combat forced labor and sex trafficking, was upgraded this year to “Tier 2 Watch List,” a step above its previous “Tier 3” ranking – essentially a failing grade. (Tier 3 countries are those “whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.”) Malaysia’s upgrade was crucial to President Obama’s ability to win “fast-track” approval for his proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in Congress, since Malaysia would be a partner in the proposed trade agreement, and Congress has prohibited “fast-track” approval of any trade deal that includes a Tier 3 country. The upgrade of Malaysia therefore raised understandable suspicion that the State Department’s change in rank was more an attempt to push through the trade deal than a reflection of any actual improvement in the country’s anti-trafficking efforts. The lack of a leader in the State Department to champion the anti-trafficking cause may have smoothed the way for that upgrade – or at least left skeptics suspicious.
To read the full story by Daphne Eviatar at Human Rights First: Click Here