Countering Trafficking in Persons

A child beggar in front of Banteay Srey Temple, Cambodia.
A child beggar in front of Banteay Srey Temple, Cambodia. Parents with economic difficulty often need their children to help them with their work, for instance doing farming in the field, instead of going to school.
Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam) /Makara Ouch

“It ought to concern every person, because it’s a debasement of our common humanity. It ought to concern every community, because it tears at the social fabric. It ought to concern every business, because it distorts markets. It ought to concern every nation, because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime. I’m talking about the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name — modern slavery.” President Barack Obama, 2012

Trafficking in Persons (TIP) is a global human rights challenge that preys upon the vulnerable, breaks down rule of law, and corrupts global commerce. It involves the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purposes of exploitation in forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation. According to the International Labor Organization, there are an estimated 20.9 forced labor/human trafficking victims globally.

Since 2001, USAID has programmed over $200 million to counter human trafficking globally. In 2012, USAID launched a Counter-Trafficking in Persons (C-TIP) Policy [PDF, 344K] to reinvigorate and further focus the agency’s C-TIP efforts. The policy emphasizes the importance of new technologies and innovative approaches to fight trafficking, and focuses on five key objectives:

  • Integration of C-TIP activities into broader development programs
  • Rigorous research on C-TIP programming through surveys and impact evaluations
  • Institutional accountability within USAID to combat trafficking
  • Investments in critical trafficking challenge countries
  • Increase C-TIP activities in conflict and crisis-affected areas

We’re also holding ourselves accountable. In 2012, USAID adopted a C-TIP Code of Conduct [PDF, 141K] that prohibits all employees from engaging in trafficking in persons or any behaviors that may facilitate trafficking, such as commercial sex. In addition, all Agency employees are required to take counter-trafficking training. USAID also developed a set of standard operating procedures to prevent and respond to human trafficking abuses by USAID contractors, sub-contractors, assistance recipients, and sub-recipients. In 2013, USAID published a C-TIP Field Guide [PDF, 1.2MB] to educate Mission personnel and partners about human trafficking, and provide technical assistance to integrate, design, implement, and monitor effective programs.

Trafficking is widespread in the fishing industry, particularly in Southeast Asia.
Trafficking is widespread in the fishing industry, particularly in Southeast Asia. Often lured by unscrupulous recruiters promising lucrative jobs, workers are held captive on boats, where they are forced to work for little or no pay.

Human trafficking is a fundamental obstacle to our mission as a development agency and undermines the development objectives we hope to accomplish through our programming. Human trafficking impedes health, economic growth, rule of law, women’s empowerment, and lifetime prospects for youth. Working in over 20 countries to counter trafficking, USAID uses a “4P” approach: Prevention of trafficking; Protection of survivors; Prosecution of perpetrators; and investment in strong Partnerships with stakeholders across sectors to end trafficking.

Prevention of Trafficking

  • USAID’s pioneering Supply Unchained initiative seeks to leverage new technologies and partnerships to safely leverage the voices of vulnerable workers in global supply chains, and provide needed data to private sector partners and other stakeholders to address the risks of human trafficking in supply chains and business operations. By using this new model of development, USAID is helping to better identify human trafficking risks in order to prevent new cases.
  • In Burma, in partnership with MTV EXIT, USAID supported the country’s first ever open air concert in 2012 to raise awareness about human trafficking. Headlined by Grammy Award-winning artist Jason Mraz, the concert was attended by 70,000 people. The concert showed C-TIP videos, publicized Burma’s TIP hotline, and featured numerous Burmese and regional popular music bands, as well as live messages from Burmese government officials, the United Nations, the U.S. Embassy, and others. The concert was broadcast on Burma’s Channel 7 and has been aired internationally multiple times, reaching over 300 million people.

Protection of Victims

  • In June, 2013, USAID, together with Microsoft and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) launched, the first crowdfunding portal that enables the public to directly support the voluntary return and sustainable reintegration of individual victims of human trafficking. The program highlights the role that technology plays in inspiring new approaches to preventing trafficking in persons, protecting survivors, and prosecuting the perpetrators.
  • In Jordan, USAID provided reintegration assistance to more than 1,600 trafficking survivors. Close to 90 percent of survivors who completed their reintegration programs obtained employment or returned to school, a significant indicator of successful reintegration. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, USAID supported the release, rehabilitation, and reintegration of 3,257 children associated with armed groups, of which 202 were girls.

Prosecution of Perpetrators

  • In Nepal, we’re building the capacity of law enforcement to effectively prosecute traffickers by training officials on investigation, forensics, and reporting. The victim centered approach enables increased protection and effective justice delivery. The CTIP program also trains judicial officials to enforce the Human Trafficking and Transportation Control Act (TIP Act) which established a comprehensive legal framework to counter TIP. To date, the project has trained almost 900 criminal justice system personnel, and assisted over 500 trafficking victims with psychosocial services and legal counselling.
  • In Cambodia, we’re working with our partner Winrock to promote effective prosecution by improving law enforcement’s capacity to identify and prosecute traffickers through the standard operating procedures of the Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department. USAID supports anti-human trafficking training programs for police at both the national and sub-national levels.


  • USAID has supported various innovative approaches and tools to advance C-TIP efforts, such as the C-TIP Campus Challenge, which engaged students and scholars in dialogue about strategies to combat trafficking. The online community united 2,200 participants from Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria, Mexico, Chad, Bosnia, the Philippines, Kenya, Bolivia, Argentina, Georgia, Ecuador, and Morocco. USAID also provided support to Labor Link, mobile technology that gives businesses real-time data from their supply chains and provides workers a voice to report on conditions in their workplaces.
  • In Bangladesh, through the enabling of partnerships to counter human trafficking, USAID assistance improved community awareness of the risks of human trafficking throughout the country. Local government officials, teachers, parents, students, and community leaders learned how to prevent human trafficking and support the needs of survivors. USAID also helped prospective migrant workers protect themselves from deception and abuse through awareness campaigns and trainings on the overseas recruitment process, worker registration, and other risks they may face when migrating for employment. USAID continues to train media professionals, NGOs and independent journalists on investigative reporting, TIP story development, and human rights with a focus on migrant worker rights.


Counter-Trafficking in Persons Policy [PDF, 344K]

Fact Sheet Summarizing the C-TIP Policy [PDF, 234K]

Executive Order on Strengthening Protections Against TIP in Federal Contracts

State Department's Trafficking in Persons Report 2015

Promising Practices: A Review of U.S. Government-funded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Programs [PDF, 322K]

Video: Counter-Trafficking in Persons app and hotline

Video: The Giant Ocean Case: Challenges in Securing Justice for Exploited Fishermen

Blog: Looking Down Supply Chains to Counter Human Trafficking

Blog: A Spotlight on the World’s Invisible Workers

Last updated: August 26, 2015

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