This module is a resource for lecturers  


Civil society actors


Non-governmental organizations

Many, perhaps the majority of NGOs, include awareness-raising and community economic development activities as part of their efforts to prevent trafficking in persons. A substantial number provide support and assistance to help protect victims. A smaller number of NGOs assist law enforcement agencies in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases by providing information and evidence on suspected trafficking activities in the communities in which they are working. They may also provide legal assistance to victims.

NGOs working in developing communities can contribute in the following ways:

  • Gather and pass on information about suspected trafficking activities received from their communities.
  • Provide a supporting role on rescue and arrest operations, including assisting with sensitive oversight and care of victims on the day of their rescue and accompanying them to the police station, hospital and any temporary shelter in which they will be housed immediately following their rescue.
  • Undertake (both formal and informal) screening interviews of suspected victims, including those who have not been rescued or referred to State agencies.
  • Provide immediate protection and support to victims recently freed through their own efforts, police rescue operations or otherwise released by their traffickers.
  • Assist and support victims through the various interactions they may have with the justice system.
  • Assist and support foreign victims returning to their home countries or nationals returning from foreign countries to which they have been trafficked.
  • Assist and support victims to reintegrate into their communities.

Advocacy networks between NGOs can also be important, with different organizations working together to fill gaps in governmental responses to trafficking in persons (Noyori-Corbett and Moxley 2018, p. 955). Rousseau (2018, p. 7) argues that, for some areas, NGOs can be more effective and have a more positive impact than State agencies. For example, given that NGOs are less focused on criminal justice efforts, they are better placed "to provide grassroots interventions that empower survivors and facilitate their long-term reintegration. Civil society can use its close  interactions with the individuals and communities affected by human trafficking to develop innovative reintegration models that place victim empowerment at the core of the aftercare system".

In a worldwide study of 1,861 anti-trafficking NGOs, Limoncelli (2016) made a number of interesting findings. Of particular note was that the overwhelming focus of NGOs was on sex trafficking, with many focused on child sex trafficking. In comparison, very few NGOs worked on forced begging, child soldiers or trafficking for adoption. In terms of the activities conducted by the surveyed NGOs, the majority focused on education efforts and awareness-raising, following by legal and policy advocacy. Less than a third of NGOs provided services to victims or were engaged in rescue efforts.

Box 5 provides some illustrative examples of the ways in which NGOs have contributed to anti-trafficking efforts.

Box 5

NGO initiatives to counter trafficking in persons

  • ASTRA, a Serbian NGO, launched a nationwide anti-trafficking campaign in 2008. The campaign included television advertisements, radio jingles, billboards and posters placed in selected towns throughout Serbia known to be places of exploitation and/or recruitment. Leaflets targeting youth were disseminated informing them of the dangers of trafficking and ways of seeking help. All the materials include the telephone hotline number for ASTRA, which people can call for information and assistance. From 2002 to 2008, the hotline handled more than 7,500 calls, mainly from victims of trafficking.
  • A Johannesburg-based organization called Community Media for Development launched an innovative awareness-raising campaign through an exciting radio drama. The 13-part story, entitled " Change", was released to radio stations throughout Mozambique and Zambia to raise awareness of the dangers of irregular migration and trafficking. The drama follows a family of women traders who are inadvertently caught up in a mafia scandal and an underground human-trafficking ring. Through their experiences and those of the people around them, listeners are encouraged to ask questions on a range of issues related to trafficking and migration. As part of this initiative, a handbook for journalists and community organizations provided information to spark discussion about the characters and the issues they face.
  • Agir pour les Femmes en Situation Précaire (AFESIP) Cambodia, an NGO founded in 1996 as a grassroots organization, supports the efforts of local victims of human trafficking to reintegrate into society. The children and women who go to the centre after being rescued are welcomed by the staff of AFESIP: the director, a carer, a counsellor, a psychologist and a doctor. The centre's goal is to enable the residents to attain self-sufficiency (especially financial independence) by providing them with the opportunity to find employment or run their own business. AFESIP provides vocational training that corresponds to local market opportunities, the country's development and the resident's wishes. This includes sewing, housekeeping, hairdressing, small-business management, weaving, handicraft production, short courses on income-generation, and training in social work with the potential for subsequent employment with AFESIP.
UNODC, Combatting Trafficking in Persons, A Handbook for Parliamentarians (2009)
Box 6

Special programme on support and protection of victims - Czechia

In Czechia, the Ministry of Interior set up a special programme on support and protection of victims of trafficking older than 18 years. The objective of the programme is to provide probable victims with support and protection based on an individual risk assessment and to enable access to the programme of witness protection. The programme also protects potential victims of THB who are witnesses in a trial and who cooperate with law enforcement authorities. If a potential victim voluntarily accepts an offer to participate in the programme he/she fills in and signs an initial statement which encompasses the rights and duties relating to his/her involvement in the programme. The victims are provided with accommodation, psychosocial services, legal services, vocational training etc. As an integral part of the programme, the victims are granted a 60-day reflection period during which they can decide whether or not they want to come into contact with law enforcement agencies. A system of voluntary return for third-country nationals and EU citizens who are victims of trafficking in persons in the Czech Republic and Czech citizens identified abroad respectively is also included in the programme.


Specialized NGOs or the police can nominate people for placement in the programme, after which the Ministry of the Interior is consulted as the provider of the programme.

What makes this practice successful

All the victims enrolled in the program for the year 2014 gave consent to provide the police with evidence concerning their cases. NGOs can thus make an important contribution to the willingness of victims to cooperate with the police. The NGOs motivate the victims during their reflection period by providing them with information about their rights as well as obligations that arise from being in the position of witness in a trial.

Government of The Netherlands, Manual for experts on multidisciplinary cooperation against trafficking in human beings for labour exploitation (18 January 2016)

NGOs can contribute to and assist the work of law enforcement agencies in investigating suspected cases of trafficking in persons, rescuing victims and arresting and prosecuting traffickers. Often, collaboration between NGOs and law enforcement occurs at meetings of multi-disciplinary teams of comprised of government agencies and NGO representatives. These meetings aim to coordinate the gathering of intelligence, investigation of suspected trafficking situations, planning and execution of arrest and rescue operations and the protection and care of victims.

In particular, some NGOs are uniquely placed to receive such intelligence on trafficking in persons. This may be:

  • Through their development activities in local communities. NGOs often establish close relationships of trust and confidence with leaders and the communities they seek to assist. These communities are often valuable sources of information.
  • Through their contact and relationships of trust with victims of trafficking. Experience has demonstrated that victims living in shelters or receiving assistance and support from NGOs often wish to pass on information about their exploitation to law enforcement with the objective of ensuring their traffickers are brought to justice. They may choose to do so via the NGOs providing them with assistance, or through engagement with NGO staff that they have developed a relationship of trust and confidence with.

Figure 1 provides an overview of contributions NGOs are making in identifying potential victims of trafficking, in the course of carrying out their other activities.

Figure 1: NGOs' identification of victims of trafficking


One important issue for States and NGOs operating collaboratively is the separation of roles between the two. Where should the line be drawn? There are safety and security issues for both NGO staff and victims. There are several codes of conduct providing helpful guidelines to NGOs as to what they should and should not do. For example:

The example in Box 7 describes an instance where the actions of an NGO had a negative effect on the rights and welfare of children.

Box 7 

NGOs in Nepal

The authorities in many countries now insist that children leaving their own country who are below a minimum age (such as 15 or even 18) should carry a letter signed by one or both parents giving their formal permission for the child to leave the country. This is more likely to prevent children being taken abroad by one of their own parents, following separation or divorce, than to stop traffickers taking them across a frontier, due to the various ruses which traffickers use.

Border formalities give immigration officials various opportunities for protection, for example to record which children are entering a country in circumstances which, even vaguely, suggest they may be exploited subsequently and to arrange for them to receive a subsequent visit from a social worker to check on their welfare. However, interceptions can easily become abusive if children who are not being trafficked are refused permission to proceed with their journey.

For example, in Nepal non-governmental organisations have been allowed by the authorities to set up check-points on roads crossing the border to India. They employ specialists known as 'physionomists' who are reputed (in Nepal) to be able to identify adolescent girls who are being trafficked. In effect the NGOs concerned have given themselves police powers to stop adolescent girls from crossing to India, transferring the girls instead to their own NGO transit centres, where some are kept, often against their will. The 'physionomists' appear to use criteria based on caste and social class to identify adolescent girls who belong to social groups where a disproportionately high number of girls have been trafficked in the past. Many of the 'physionomists' reportedly come from such groups and act in good faith under orders from the NGOs employing them.

The girls who are detained in transit and 'rehabilitation' centres view the NGO as a powerful institution which is in league with the authorities and whose power they cannot contest. In the worst cases, intercepted girls who have attended residential training courses given by NGOs have been stigmatised on their return home, because the NGO is known to be involved in anti-prostitution activities and the girl is consequently suspected (unjustifiably) of having been involved in prostitution. Such interceptions are reported to have diminished as the number of children fleeing from political violence has increased. Interception on the basis of little specific evidence that the child concerned is in danger of harm can be justified if the child concerned has not yet reached puberty and is palpably too young to be travelling alone. However, the same does not apply to adolescent boys or girls. In the case of adolescents, it might be justified if there is substantial evidence that the vast majority of adolescents crossing a border are being trafficked-such a large proportion that it is reasonable to make the presumption that most adolescents crossing the border are destined for exploitation. However, in the case of Nepal, NGOs made this assumption without obtaining adequate evidence. It was not until 2005 that an international NGO commissioned research into the reasons why young people crossed the border and concluded that there were numerous good reasons. Furthermore, interceptions are acceptable when carried out by law enforcement officials such as the police or immigration officials. The involvement of NGOs in stopping adolescents or young adults from exercising their freedom of movement is an abuse of power, as well as of human rights.

International Federation Terre des Hommes, A Handbook on planning projects to prevent child trafficking (2007)

While NGOs are a useful and often integral part of a response to trafficking in persons, their involvement can also have negative impacts in some cases. De Shalit, Heynen, and van der Meulen (2014) argue that NGOs have a tendency to focus on particular types of trafficking, particularly sex trafficking, thus potentially obscuring proper and holistic understandings of the crime. The competition for funding that often drives the policies, practice and organization of NGOs can also undermine the efficacy of their anti-trafficking efforts (see, for example, Foerster 2009).


The media

The media can have substantial effects on how the public perceives and understands trafficking in persons (Houston-Kolnik, Soibatian, and Shattell 2017, p. 5). Media coverage of trafficking generally reflects governmental and law enforcement views on the crime (Gulati 2011). The media can play a valuable role (as mentioned in   Modules 4, 5 and 7 of the University Module Series on Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants as well as in Module 10 on Media Integrity and Ethics of the University Module Series on Integrity and Ethics), including in:

  • Raising awareness of the existence, nature and extent of trafficking in persons.
  • Holding the international community to account for their responsibilities to establish and fund a coordinated and comprehensive response to trafficking in persons.
  • Creating public intolerance to the crime and educating the public as to the part they can play in resisting it.
  • Exposing failures by governments to discharge their international obligations to respond to trafficking and thereby creating public pressure to improve their performance.
  • Exposing corruption by police and public officials who are themselves engaged in trafficking or complicit in the activities of traffickers.
  • Affirming strong performances and achievements by governments and civil society through positive press releases.
  • Reporting arrests, prosecutions and convictions of traffickers and corrupt officials to assist in creating criminal deterrence.

However, this must be done in an informed and responsible manner. For example:

  • Disclosing personal details of victims may jeopardize their safety, cause them embarrassment and inhibit their prospects of reintegrating into their communities. This not only violates their rights as victims, but in many jurisdictions is a criminal offence.
  • Irresponsible media identification of suspects may prejudice their right to a fair trial. It may also endanger the life and safety of suspects.
  • Publishing exaggerated claims of trafficking activities or progress being made by governments and NGOs is counterproductive. Too often, editorial pieces on trafficking are poorly researched and claims are unverified. Too often, they represent marketing campaigns for the benefit of the named individuals and organizations, rather than informed journalism. This can damage the reputation and undermine the professionalism of the sector.

A number of studies have found that media representations of trafficking and victims of trafficking can have deleterious consequences, failing to acknowledge the "complexities of human trafficking or the multiple forms of trafficking, shaping uneducated responses to trafficking or contribute to disempowering views of survivors as victims" (Houston-Kolnik, Soibatian, and Shattell 2017, p. 5). A study of the media in Slovenia by Pajnik (2010), for example, found that media representations overwhelmingly presented trafficking as solely concerned with prostitution and sexual exploitation.

If the media has the opportunity to directly interact with trafficked persons, it must do so in a sensitive manner that does not cause secondary victimization (see, for example, the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines on interviewing trafficked women). Their informed consent must be obtained, preferably in writing. For child victims, consent must be obtained from parents or guardians. To this end, training is essential. The State must take the appropriate measures to guarantee the rights and protection of victims, while respecting freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Consequently, journalists, publications and media channels who do not comply with the requisite standards must be accountable.

As shown in Figure 2, the following guidelines published by UNODC are applicable:

Figure 2: Media guidelines 

Source: UNODC, Toolkit to Combat Trafficking in Persons , Chapter 9: Prevention of Trafficking in Persons (2008)
Box 8

Awareness-raising in the Upper Mekong sub-region - UNESCO

UNESCO has developed the following methodology for producing radio programmes in minority languages to educate target audiences on issues of HIV/AIDS, drugs and human trafficking.

  • The program takes the shape of a dramatic soap opera, with a local heroine facing a wide range of experiences. Soap operas are generally well known and liked by the audience. This form of communication tends to be better accepted by teenagers and youths who would reject traditional pedagogic methods.
  • The content of the program is based on actual experience. Real-life stories are collected through participatory group discussion (focus groups) at the village level and integrated into the script so that the listeners can identify with the soap opera characters.
  • The script is composed directly in the selected minority language by local minority writers to ensure it is culturally as well as linguistically acceptable to the audience.
  • The script is translated into English and into the national language to check its scientific accuracy.
  • Local musicians compose traditional local music and songs in the minority language which underline the themes of the story.
  • The program is tested in order to verify that an appropriate and efficient message is conveyed.
  • The program is broadcast.
  • Selective follow-up audience research is conducted in villages to evaluate how appropriate the broadcasting timing is, as well as the understanding of the program and the impact of the message.
  • The script, tapes and related output of the programs are packaged and distributed for further pedagogical and educational use and future rebroadcasting.
  • The program is proposed to radio stations in other countries of the region where the minority is present. The script and format may be adapted to suit the needs of the radio station or local community.

An example of the awareness-raising work of UNESCO using this methodology is the drama "Life of tragedies", written in the Jingpo language, which won first prize at the fifth Provincial Literary and Artistic Creation Awards held in Yunnan, China. This radio drama was written by a renowned Jingpo author, Yue Jian. Financial support for this program was provided to UNESCO by the Asian Development Bank. "Life of tragedies" was both broadcast on radio and distributed on cassette and CD. Another radio drama "The sight of the snow mountain", in the Naxi language, addresses the issues of HIV/AIDS and human trafficking. In conjunction with its radio program work, UNESCO (in cooperation with the New Life Centre Foundation in Chiang Mai, Thailand) has also produced an album of popular Lahu songs addressing issues of HIV/AIDS and human trafficking, sung by Lahu singers popular in Thailand and Myanmar.

UNODC, Toolkit to Combat Trafficking in Persons , Chapter 9: Prevention of Trafficking in Persons (2008)
Box 9

A campaign on Facebook to increase awareness about unfair recruitment - Slovak Republic

In order to warn potential migrant workers about recruitment under false pretences for work that was too good to be true, the Slovak Republic ran a campaign on Facebook. The campaign consisted of several phases. The first phase included the launch of a fake page of a fake recruitment agency offering a great job abroad and a good salary ( The campaign on Facebook targeted young people from areas of Slovakia affected by unemployment and a higher rate of victims of trafficking in persons. The fake page showed several significant signs of a fake page. After logging in on the fake page, the person concerned was asked to fill out a registration form to get a great job. One of the requirements was to include their own email address and an email address of a close person or relative. After a few days an email was delivered to the addresses provided in the registration form saying that the person might have become a victim of trafficking in persons. The email also contained a link to the educational webpage ( - available only in Slovak) where all useful information on trafficking and job search could be found in a very understandable form.

The video with English subtitles can be accessed here

Partners involved in the cooperation and their roles:  The Ministry of the Interior of the Slovak Republic and Civil Society Organisation "Brániť sa oplatí" cooperated in the preparation of the fake page and the educational website. The cooperation with Facebook was performed by the NGO.

What makes this practice successful:  The advertisement for the offer of the fake page was massively displayed: 700,000 people saw the advertisement and 40,000 people saw the campaign. 2,300 people used the form to register and 7,000 people visited the information webpage during the campaign.

Government of The Netherlands, Manual for experts on multidisciplinary cooperation against trafficking in human beings for labour exploitation, (18 January 2016)

Academic and research institutions

Academic and research institutions play a role in educating society, disseminating knowledge, critically analysing current anti-trafficking initiatives and driving debate and research. This is recognized in the Doha Declaration as well as in other instruments, as listed below. Importantly, most academic institutions are independent of governments, meaning that research produced is more likely to be free of political biases or concerns.

The Council of Europe Convention provides as follows:

Box 10

Council of Europe Convention

Article 5(2): "Each Party shall establish and/or strengthen effective policies and programmes to prevent trafficking in human beings, by such means as: research, information, awareness raising and education campaigns, social and economic initiatives and training programmes, in particular for persons vulnerable to trafficking and for professionals concerned with trafficking in human beings".

Article 6: "To discourage the demand that fosters all forms of exploitation of persons, especially women and children, that leads to trafficking, each Party shall adopt or strengthen legislative, administrative, educational, social, cultural or other measures including: (a) research on best practices, methods and strategies".

Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (2005)

Furthermore, article 18(2) of the Directive 2011/36/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 April 2011 on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Human Beings and Protecting its Victims states:

"Member States shall take appropriate action, including through the Internet, such as information and awareness- raising campaigns, research and education programs, where appropriate in cooperation with relevant civil society organizations and other stakeholders, aimed at raising awareness and reducing the risk of people, especially children, becoming victims of trafficking in human beings".

Similarly, the Brussels Declaration on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, which was adopted in November 2002, states:

"Closer links should be developed with educators and Ministries of Education with a view to elaborating and including relevant and realistic teaching modules in school and college curricula and to informing pupils and students of human rights and gender issues.

These subjects should specifically be linked to teaching young people about the dangers presented by trafficking crimes, the opportunities for legal migration and foreign employment and of the grave risks involved in irregular migration."

By way of a domestic example - emphasizing the importance of research - in 2003, the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act was amended through the addition of section 112A, which refers to the importance of "carry[ing] out research, which (…) provides data to address the problems identified … Such research initiatives shall, to the maximum extent practicable, include:

  • The economic causes and consequences of trafficking in persons,
  • The effectiveness of programs and initiatives funded or administered by Federal agencies to prevent trafficking in persons and to protect and assist victims of trafficking,
  • The interrelationship between trafficking in persons and global health."

In 2005, Section 112A was expanded to include references to:

  • The interrelationship between trafficking in persons and terrorism, including the use of profits from human trafficking to finance terrorism.
  • A good mechanism to detect the number of victims of trafficking on the national and international levels.
  • The abduction and enslavement of children for use as soldiers, including steps taken to eliminate this practice and recommendations for such further steps as may be necessary to rapidly bring it to an end.

In 2008, this Section was again amended to read as follows:

"An effective mechanism for quantifying the number of victims of trafficking on a national, regional, and international basis, which shall include, not later than 2 years after the date of the enactment of the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, the establishment and maintenance of an integrated database within the Human Smuggling and Trafficking Centre."

The study of trafficking in persons should not be limited to law courses at universities. Rather, it is pertinent to many other disciplines and should be integrated into applicable courses or learning, including, where appropriate, anthropology, criminal justice, education, history, international relations, political sciences, psychology, public health, social work, sociology, women and gender studies.


Religious institutions

Religious institutions may have an important role in supporting comprehensive strategies to combat trafficking in persons. The extent and importance of their contribution will depend on the prominence and role of religion in a particular society. First and foremost, a substantial number of NGOs operating in the anti-trafficking sector are faith-based.

In some countries in the Middle East, the practice of the so-called "sponsorship rule" can render the sponsored worker vulnerable to exploitation and situations of trafficking. Sheikh Youssef el Qaradawi, an eminent Islamic scholar, issued a fatwa (an Islamic legal opinion) in March 2008 that the sponsorship rule that prevails in some countries is inconsistent with the teachings of Islam and should be abolished: "[t]he sponsorship system nowadays produced a visa market, leaving tens of workers living in sub-human conditions as a large number of labourers are accommodated in small areas. It is really a shame and also it is against the Islamic principles which call for respecting human rights" (John Hopkins, School of Advanced International Studies and others, 2013).

Box 11

Religion and human trafficking - Freedom for the captives

How faith-based groups can work together with secular ones to combat human trafficking

How happily can groups motivated by faith co-operate with secular ones to achieve a common goal or defeat a common enemy? On the face of things, this should work best when the foe (be it a disease or a social problem) is so manifestly bad that everybody wants to thwart it. One such enemy, you might think, is human trafficking, especially of minors. But Richard Flory, research director at the University of Southern California's Centre for Religion and Civic Culture, told me that global religious bodies, operating in poor countries, sometimes get the problem of trafficking wrong. By concentrating on rescuing individuals, they fail, in his view, to grasp the social and economic forces that drive people into prostitution.

On the other hand, successful examples of secular-religious co-operation certainly exist. I asked Sara Pomeroy what prompted her to start a small NGO that campaigns against human trafficking in the American state of Virginia, and she cited the Book of Isaiah, especially chapter 61 in which the prophet proclaims that he was sent by the Lord to "bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness the prisoners..."

But the daily work of her organisation, the Richmond Justice Initiative, is thoroughly hard-headed and practical. It includes warning youngsters about the risk posed by sex-traders who prey on the dreams and frustrations of vulnerable teenagers, often using social media. It also involves a relentless struggle, in coalition with other NGOs, to tighten up the state's laws. Despite some hard-fought legislative changes in 2011, Virginia is still rated poorly by national NGOs which monitor the performance of states in the fight against trafficking. Performance, in this case, means having laws that punish traffickers ruthlessly and treat people who are trafficked, especially minors, as victims rather than wrongdoers. Only a few weeks ago the law in Virginia changed to make it easier to investigate trafficking rings operating in more than one county.

Calling herself a non-denominational Christian, Ms Pomeroy told me she collaborates happily in this cause with Roman Catholics, Baptists, Methodists and Pentecostalists, as well as with purely secular NGOs. But in her own NGO, it is a principle that "we don't do anything without prayer, because we are fighting against something which is very evil."

At the micro-level where her group functions, co-operation between all the parties that sincerely want to stop trafficking (secular and faith-based campaigners and government authorities) seems to work quite well. Voluntary groups, whatever their inspiration, are able to engage with the human realities of trafficking in a way that government agencies, often hamstrung by bad laws, cannot easily do. That can lead to some helpful synergy. 

But when government authorities and religious bodies try to pool their efforts at a much higher level, the results seem rather modest. Last week the President's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighbourhood Partnerships (FBNP) delivered some recommendations on how to combat "modern-day slavery"-which has become a catch-all term for sex-trafficking (whether or not it involves moving people) and all forms of bonded or indentured labour. The council's members include some of America's most senior religious figures, mostly of a liberal stripe. One of its jobs is to provide input for the Office of FBNP, a standing body that as I posted recently has just acquired a high-powered new boss. Council members include Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of America's Episcopal Church which is at odds with conservative parts of the Anglican Communion, and Sister Marlene Weisenbeck, a past president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious which has a long-running dispute with the Vatican. (This week the habit-less American nuns received a formal rebuke for "radical feminism" mingled with appreciation of their humanitarian work.)

Despite the intellectual armoury at its disposal, the council's policy document seems rather vague. It proposes upgrading the federal agencies that deal with trafficking, including the State Department office that tracks the problem, and it urges the administration to avoid abetting "slave labour" in its own procurement of goods and services. Perhaps the toughest statements in the document are that "survivors of modern-day slavery should never be treated as criminals" and that the law should be changed to ensure that "victims are not imprisoned or otherwise penalised for the crimes committed by their traffickers."

There is little sign in the document of any particular moral or metaphysical sensibilities that faith-based bodies might bring to the issue of trafficking. Perhaps that is inevitable given the context: reporting to an administration which sees huge downsides and not much upside in anything that tinkers with the relationship between church and state. In an e-mail exchange, I asked Sister Weisenbeck about the division of labour between faith-based and secular groups in the fight against trafficking. Her answer implies that some tasks in this common struggle, against a foe whose ghastliness was universally recognised, are best left to secular brethren.

Faith-based organisations will become advocates, educators, and justice seekers specifically because of the moral convictions of their faith concerning the dignity of persons. Many NGOs are faith-based...[but] those that are not may be especially helpful when the tenets of separation of church and state could be problematic in the exercise of certain activities. Assuming that secular NGOs function on humanitarian values, I doubt if there is anything in [our] report that any NGO with a well-formed conscience would not have written. Human slavery in any form is heinously reprehensible.

The Economist, Freedom from the Captives (19 April 2013)

Businesses and corporate liability

The business community also has a part to play in the struggle against trafficking in persons, although only certain corporations are currently engaged with the issue (see Module 7 on Prevention of Trafficking in Persons). They can do so by adopting preventative policies eliminating goods and services produced using trafficked labour. Governments have a role in encouraging the business community to act responsibly and make a greater contribution.

International initiatives

On 16 June 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Council endorsed the " Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations 'Protect, Respect and Remedy' Framework", which were developed by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises. These Guiding Principles are grounded in recognition of:

  • States' existing obligations to respect, protect and fulfil human rights and fundamental freedoms;
  • The role of business enterprises as specialized organs of society performing specialized functions, required to comply with all applicable laws and to respect human rights; and
  • The need for rights and obligations to be matched to appropriate and effective remedies when breached.

Principles 11 to 24 of the Guiding Principles relate to the responsibility of corporations to protect human rights.

In addition, the United Nations Human Rights Council established the United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights to serve as a global platform for stakeholders to "discuss trends and challenges in the implementation of the Guiding Principles and promote dialogue and cooperation on issues linked to business and human rights, including challenges faced in particular sectors, operational environments or in relation to specific rights or groups, as well as identifying good practices". It is guided and chaired by the Working Group on Business and Human Rights. It is "open to all relevant stakeholder groups, including States, the wider United Nations system, intergovernmental and regional organizations, businesses, labour unions, national human rights institutions, non-governmental organizations, and affected stakeholders, among others". The Forum is the "world's largest annual gathering on business and human rights with more than 2,000 participants from government, business, community groups and civil society, law firms, investor organizations, UN bodies, national human rights institutions, trade unions, academia and the media".

The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre provides on its website resources for businesses seeking to improve their performance in respecting and protecting human rights in their business operations. The Centre undertakes the following activities:

  • It employs 18 regional researchers located around the world who travel to local communities to understand the impacts of businesses and talk with business people and government officials.
  • It releases briefings and analysis, synthesising the work of hundreds of advocates across the world and making recommendations for companies, governments, regions and sectors.
  • It tracks the performance of over 8,000 companies with regard to their respect and protection of human rights.
  • It is the global hub for resources and guidance for action by business to protect human rights.

The United Nations has also issued the Global Compact on Human Rights, in which it identifies ten principles of corporate social responsibility for companies to follow in their business policies (see Box 12). The principles are based on four pillars: (i) human rights; (ii) labour rights; (iii) environmental standards; and (iv) combating corruption. The United Nations Global Compact was proposed by then United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in an address to the World Economic Forum on 31 January 1999. Its mandate was renewed in December 2015 by United Nations General Assembly resolution 70/224: "Towards global partnerships: A principle-based approach to enhanced cooperation between the United Nations and all relevant partners".

Box 12 

Ten Principles on corporate social responsibility

Human Rights

  • Principle 1: Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights; and
  • Principle 2: make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses.


  • Principle 3: Businesses should uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining;
  • Principle 4: the elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labour;
  • Principle 5: the effective abolition of child labour; and
  • Principle 6: the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.


  • Principle 7: Businesses should support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges;
  • Principle 8: undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility; and
  • Principle 9: encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies.


  • Principle 10: Businesses should work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery.
United Nations Global Compact, The power of principles. The Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact

National initiatives

At federal level in the United States, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act establishes an interagency task force to monitor and combat trafficking. The law further regulates various business activities and practices, including those of retail sellers and manufacturers of products (see also Ezell 2016, who analyses corporate responsibility for trafficking in the supply chain under the US Act).

In the United States, at the State level, the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010, which came into force in January 2012, requires large retailers and manufacturers (those with an annual global turnover of US$100 million) to disclose their efforts to eradicate slavery and human trafficking from their direct supply chains for tangible goods offered for sale in the State. The United Kingdom has enacted similar legislation through the Modern Slavery Act 2015. Each of these pieces of legislation are analysed and compared in an article by Planitzer (2016), who argues that, broadly speaking, "States should enact and implement legislation that obliges corporations to be more transparent in their global business operations. This should also include measures to prevent [trafficking in persons]" (p. 336-337).

Box 13

The Risk of Human Trafficking in the Supply Chain

"Today, the U.S. State Department released its  2015 Trafficking in Persons Report . This report ranks countries based on efforts to comply with the standards in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000.

When many people think about human trafficking, they recall news reports about the kidnapping and sale of women and children by terrorists in the Middle East and Nigeria; the sex trafficking of girls lured from their homes in Central Europe; or wealthy families that have hired Nannies or maids, confiscated their passports and turned these "employees" into slaves.

But human trafficking is also a supply chain issue. One section of the report is called "The Risk of Human Trafficking in the Supply Chain". Here are some excerpts from that section:

Traffickers can target vulnerable workers anywhere to fill labour shortages everywhere along a supply chain. In the electronics sector, for example, human trafficking may exist in the extractive stages (mining for raw material), in the component manufacturing stage (where separate pieces are produced or combined), and in the production stage (where a good is assembled and packaged in a factory).

Many supply chains start on a farm:

The sheets in a hotel may be made with cotton harvested by forced labour … The international community must both understand the supply chains of the products used to provide a service (hotel sheets, airplane parts, medical equipment) and also examine the risks to those workers who provide them (house cleaners, caregivers, dishwashers).

Although human trafficking is found in many trades, the risk is more pronounced in industries that rely upon low-skilled or unskilled labour. This includes jobs that are dirty, dangerous, and difficult - those that are typically low-paying and undervalued by society and are often filled by socially marginalized groups including migrants, people with disabilities, or minorities.

Risks may also be higher in industries of a seasonal nature or where the turn-around time for production is extremely short. In these industries, the demand for labour increases drastically at the time of harvest or when a new product - be it a smartphone or a roadway - must be manufactured within a strict timeframe. For example, East and South Asian migrant workers in the garment sector are vulnerable to forced labour and labour exploitation, including long working hours and forced overtime, especially during periods of high consumer demand.

The urgency to hire employees can also result in a dependence on labour recruiters and their agents, which in turn creates layers of separation between the employer and the worker. This disconnect means that employers can be unaware of bad practices related to hiring within their operations, leaving workers exposed to exploitation.

Finally, in industries where fierce competition leads to constant downward pressure on prices, some employers respond by taking cost-cutting measures to survive commercially, from reducing wages or ignoring safety protocols, to holding workers in compelled service through debt bondage or the retention of identity documents.

The report rightly notes that while governments need to do more to stop trafficking, they need the support of business as well:

There are many measures businesses can take to mitigate the risks of human trafficking throughout their operations. For starters, business leaders can create anti-trafficking policies that address the common risks in their operations and supply chains…

Many companies have responded. According to the Governance and Accountability Institute, 72% of the companies included in the S&P 500 Index® publish corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports reflect the philosophy that corporations have a variety of stakeholders - investors, employees, sup-pliers, customers, and the broader society - and that to attempt to meet the needs of some stakeholders at the expense of others can be both irresponsible and financially short sighted.

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) offers a widely followed reporting format that makes it possible for readers to more easily compare how different companies are doing in CSR. The  latest version of the GRI report , the G4 version, looks at a companies' economic, environmental, and societal impacts. The societal impacts include labour and human rights practices, which most definitely includes avoidance of human trafficking. Further, the report takes an extended supply chain view toward human rights. Companies should not just be fair employers, they need to be insuring that their suppliers have fair labour practices.

The G4 version is the newest GRI reporting standard. Most companies are not yet reporting on fair labour practices across an extended supply chain. But leading companies are.

The State Department report can help companies that want to work with responsible suppliers. It identifies "Tier 2 Watch List" and "Tier 3" nations where human trafficking is most common. In some cases, the country analysis indicates problem industries. For example, it says of China: "… Chinese men, women, and children (are) subjected to forced labour in brick kilns, coal mines, and factories, some of which operate illegally and take advantage of lax government supervision. Private companies sourcing from such nations really should be doing extra due diligence."

Forbes , 27 July 2015

The following six criteria are commonly cited when assessing the merits of corporate social responsibility programmes:

Box 14
  • Time: The CSR initiative has been running for at least three years.
  • Coherence: The internal practices of the company are coherent with the CSR initiative.
  • Awareness: The CSR initiative raises awareness on issues that have the potential to positively affect society as a whole and not only a single community.
  • Relevance: The CSR initiative addresses the needs of the local community.
  • Beyond Compliance: The CSR initiative goes beyond what is required by law.
  • Transparency: The company regularly reports on its CSR activities and has an internal mechanism to evaluate the impact of the initiative.
The Protection Project, 100 Best Practices in Corporate Social Responsibility (2015)

The following case is an example of a social responsibility framework directed at trafficking in persons.

Box 15

Marriott Hotels - Training Employees to Prevent Human Trafficking Worldwide

"Marriott International and anti-child trafficking policy organization ECPAT-USA are entering into a new partnership to prevent human trafficking and exploitation. The decision comes at the tail end of Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and includes Marriott's agreement to sign ECPAT-USA's Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct, otherwise known as The Code.

The Code is an industry-driven tourism initiative designed to expand awareness about human trafficking and sexual exploitation, and the program also provides tools and support within the hospitality industry to prevent the sexual exploitation of children.

"Everyone has a role in fighting human trafficking and preventing child sexual exploitation," David Rodriguez, EVP and global chief human resources officer at Marriott International, said in a statement. "At Marriott International, we are training all of our associates on how to identify the indicators of human trafficking and partnering with ECPAT-USA and the broader industry to stop this crime from landing at our front doors and in our communities."

"We are honoured to partner with Marriott International to fight child sex trafficking and exploitation in all forms," Carol Smolenski, executive director of ECPAT-USA, said in a statement. "With ECPAT-USA's policies and training in place, Marriott's associates will be able to identify and report potential cases of trafficking and bring protection to victims. As an iconic brand, Marriott International's deep commitment to human rights and social responsibility will generate public awareness and support for the growing movement to end child sex trafficking."

ECPAT-USA's partnership with Marriott is the most recent collaboration between the two organizations, which in 2011 co-developed training tools to recognize the indicators of human trafficking. ECPAT-USA also recently partnered with the American Hotel & Lodging Association to provide human trafficking training throughout the industry.

As a member of The Code and its efforts to end child sex trafficking, Marriott International will implement the following criteria:

  • Establish a corporate policy and procedures against sexual exploitation of children
  • Train employees in children's rights, the prevention of sexual exploitation and how to report suspected cases
  • Include a clause in further partner contracts stating a common repudiation and zero tolerance policy of sexual exploitation of children
  • Provide information to travellers on children's rights, the prevention of sexual exploitation of children and how to report suspected cases
  • Support, collaborate and engage stakeholders in the prevention of sexual exploitation of children
  • Report annually on the company's implementation of Code-related activities

Apart from Marriott International, current members of The Code include Hilton, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, AccorHotels, Real Hospitality Group, Sonesta International Hotels Group and Wyndham Worldwide.

In 2017, Marriott adopted a mandatory human trafficking training requirement for its on-property workforce across more than 6,500 properties in 127 countries and territories. The company has so far trained more than 225,000 employees.

Hotel Management recently spoke with Michelle Guelbart, director of private sector engagement at ECPAT-USA, about the greatest misconceptions surrounding human trafficking in hospitality, as well as tips for fighting back against the practice."

Elliott Mest, Marriott, ECPAT-USA partner to counter human trafficking in hotels, Hotel Management Magazine (30 January 2018)
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