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What is the U.S. Government Doing to Combat Human Trafficking?

Posted on July 30, 2019

Human trafficking is a pervasive crisis throughout the world. Millions of women, men, and children—often held against their will in slave-like conditions—have been forced into servitude, forced labor, or the commercial sex trade. It is a multi-billion dollar industry that fuels organized criminal enterprises, finances terrorists, imposes social and public health costs, and inflicts grave damage upon its victims. So what is the U.S. government doing to combat the problem?

Today is the United Nations’ World Day Against Human Trafficking, so we’re taking a look at our latest work on federal efforts to address human trafficking across the globe.

Preventing, protecting, and prosecuting

In 2017, Departments of State and Labor and the U.S. Agency for International Development managed a total of 120 international counter-human-trafficking projects across more than 40 different countries.

The counter-trafficking projects have 3 goals:

  • Prevent human trafficking through public awareness, outreach, education, and advocacy campaigns.
  • Protect and assist victims by providing shelters as well as health, psychological, legal, and vocational services.
  • Prosecute human trafficking by providing training and technical assistance for law enforcement officials, such as police, prosecutors, and judges.

How these projects work

State managed a short-term assistance project aimed at protecting human trafficking victims in emergency situations. The project provided shelter, food, counseling, and medical and legal services.

Labor managed a project with a goal to help bring local and national laws and policies into alignment with international labor standards.

Agencies also addressed human trafficking concerns in projects focused on other issues. For example, USAID included counter-trafficking and counter-child-labor activities in its project to help rebuild Ghana’s fishery industry through responsible practices.

Measuring impact

We found ways for State and USAID to get a better handle on how well their projects are working. Specifically, they were using inconsistent and incomplete information to assess project performance so there’s risk that they can’t fully or accurately understand what projects are, or aren’t, achieving, and how they could improve their efforts.

We made 5 recommendations to State and USAID to address these problems. Check out our report to learn more.

GAO Contacts

Jenny Grover

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