A bipartisan group of Senators, led by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN), introduced legislation today that would marshal unprecedented U.S. resources to combat modern day slavery globally. Global human rights organization International Justice Mission (IJM), the largest anti-slavery organization in the world, praised the Senators’ leadership, and urged Congress to pass the critical legislation without delay.
The End Modern Slavery Initiative Act of 2015 aims to reduce the prevalence of slavery by 50% in target populations within partner countries by distributing funds through a new non-profit corporation, the End Modern Slavery Initiative Foundation. The Foundation seeks to raise $1.5 billion USD over seven years from public and private sources. The new legislation authorizes $250 million in US contributions to the Foundation, while stipulating that US assistance will not exceed 1/3 of overall contributions.
“This legislation, and the critical funding that comes with it, set a new bar for US leadership to combat slavery,” said Holly Burkhalter, Vice President of Government Relations for IJM. “With traffickers hauling in $150 billion in profits every year, and the US government—the largest donor in the anti-slavery field—spending just a minute fraction of the foreign aid budget on efforts to curtail human trafficking, we have not been engaging in a fair fight. That is about to change.”
The legislation acknowledges that positive US government efforts to address the crime of slavery do exist, but that there is an urgent need to measurably reduce prevalence by holding the perpetrators of human trafficking accountable. This new emphasis on building partnerships between government and civil society to promote rule of law represents a shift in focus for global anti-slavery initiatives, which have traditionally favored prevention programs that aim to educate and insulate vulnerable populations from exploitation.
“Education, health and income generation programs are valuable in their own right,” said IJM President and CEO Gary Haugen, testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this month. “But these funds have not had a measurable impact on slavery. Why? Because they do not affect the behavior of the central player in every situation of enslavement and exploitation: the perpetrator. Perpetrators of trafficking, slavery, and debt bondage, whether they are unscrupulous labor recruiters in Qatar, brothel owners in Southeast Asia, or pimps in the U.S. have one thing in common. They are making money from the subjugation of others. If they are not at risk for going to jail for their crime, they will go to whatever village, slum, city or state in the world to find the poor and the vulnerable. But they will stop even trying to enslave the poor if they are afraid of going to jail.”
Through anti-slavery casework, IJM has documented substantial reductions in the prevalence of human trafficking after modest investments in law enforcement. In Cebu, the Philippines, independent auditors documented a 79% reduction in the availability of minor girls in the commercial sex industry after four years of IJM partnership with local law enforcement, which included the apprehension of 77 perpetrators. IJM documented dramatic reduction in the prevalence of child sex trafficking in Cambodia, where, over the course of a decade, professional policing by a dedicated anti-trafficking unit has transformed the sex industry in this poor country. A prevalence study by IJM in late 2012 revealed very few children under fifteen being sold for sex and very few minors age 16-17 in commercial sex venues, just ten years after scores of young children were easily available for sexual exploitation on the streets of Phnom Penh.
IJM urged lawmakers to protect other critical anti-slavery and development programs in seeking the new resources to fund the EMSI Act of 2015. IJM’s Burkhalter stated: “We don’t want to see the USG robbing Peter to pay Paul. The U.S. Government has seeded extraordinarily important anti-slavery work around the world through the State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and USAID. Those initiatives should continue.”