2021 Trafficking in Persons Report sends strong message

Spanning more than 600 pages, the 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report is viewed as the “gold standard” in assessing government efforts to combat human trafficking. Photo by Amanda McCarthy
Spanning more than 600 pages, the 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report is viewed as the “gold standard” in assessing government efforts to combat human trafficking. Photo by Amanda McCarthy

By Ashley Hernandez

For more than 20 years, the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP) has led the Department of State’s efforts to produce the TIP Report—virtually the world’s most comprehensive resource of governmental anti-trafficking efforts. As the availability of information on human trafficking grows, so does the scope of the report. Secretary of State Antony Blinken released the 2021 TIP Report in a live stream event, July 1. 

Throughout the last two decades, the report’s design and content has evolved, in part due to rising Congressional mandates. But its purpose has remained the same—to serve as a diplomatic and diagnostic tool to engage foreign governments and guide broader policy engagement on human trafficking. The TIP Report is a helpful resource, relied on by the Department, other federal agencies, and NGOs as a public awareness tool. 

Each year, the report’s introduction features a different theme and highlights promising practices and tools that anti-trafficking practitioners can use to care for victims and combat the crime. The 2021 TIP Report—covering the reporting period from April 1, 2020 through March 31, 2021—centered its introduction around how the pandemic exacerbated trafficking situations and significantly increased the number of people worldwide at risk of exploitation. It also included information about how traffickers have adapted their methods to take advantage of current circumstances and shared lessons learned from practitioners, offering ideas on how to rebuild strong anti-trafficking strategies, and ways governments can combat the compounding effects of the crisis on trafficking victims and vulnerable individuals. The introduction also reinforced that survivor voices must be integrated into developing comprehensive policy responses, and the importance of advancing an equity-based approach, including racial equity, into anti-trafficking efforts. 

Generally, the TIP Report outlines and analyzes governments’ anti-trafficking efforts in 188 countries and territories, including the United States. It calls out those governments that have a “government policy or pattern” of trafficking, including forced labor in China’s Xinjiang region and beyond. This year’s report also highlighted 15 governments on the 2021 Child Soldiers Prevention Act List for having governmental armed groups or supporting non-governmental armed groups that recruit or use children in armed conflict. Conversely, and on an inspirational note, the report recognized eight heroes from Albania, Central African Republic, Gabon, Japan, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Qatar, and Spain who have devoted their lives to the fight against human trafficking. 

Spanning more than 600 pages, producing the TIP Report is no small feat. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic brought about additional challenges as posts worldwide and TIP Office staff worked to gather and assess information from foreign governments, local and international NGOs, international organizations, and survivors. A team within the TIP Office also worked with interagency partners throughout the federal government to gather information and draft the U.S. narrative. They plan to collaborate on efforts to implement the recommendations for how the U.S. government can improve its anti-trafficking efforts at home and abroad. To foster continued progress, TIP Office staff and posts will also continue engaging foreign governments on implementing the recommendations from the country narratives in the report.

Ashley Hernandez is a public affairs specialist in the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

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