Two economic powerhouses were downgraded today in the U.S. State Department’s country-by-country annual review of global efforts to reduce trafficking and modern-day slavery.
Russia and China – as well as Uzbekistan — were given “Tier 3” status in the 2013 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, meaning those countries do “not fully comply” with U.S. anti-trafficking benchmarks and “are not making significant efforts to do so.” (Read the 2013 TIP Report here.)
Tier 3 status is the worst ranking a nation can receive, and it subjects these countries to possible sanctions that can include the withholding of some forms of assistance from the U.S., World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
“This report pulls no punches. It’s not because the United States is better than anybody else or because the United States thinks it has an automatic right to make this judgment, or because we want to point our finger at another country,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said while presenting the TIP report to a packed auditorium at the State Dept. “It hopefully initiates a more productive dialogue,” he added. “Countries are twice as likely to take some kind of action to respond to this crime once they are listed in this report on Tier 3” or in the report’s Tier 2 Watch List, he said.
The TIP Report ranks a country’s anti-trafficking efforts on a three-tier scale. Tier 1 is best, Tier 3 is worst. A Tier 2 Watch List puts countries on notice that they will move to Tier 3 if they don’t improve.
There was concern by abolitionists, and some members of Congress, that several nations lingering on the Watch List, including Russia and China, might be upgraded without merit, to avoid diplomatic friction. (Read the congressional letter to Kerry here.) That so-called “automatic upgrade” did not happen.
“We all have an interest in stopping this crime,” Kerry said. “That’s why President Obama is so focused on this issue. And that’s why as secretary of state, I will continue to make the fight against modern-day slavery a priority for this department and for the country,” he said. “American leadership is required,” Kerry added.
The 2013 TIP report was Kerry’s first as Secretary of State, and it’s the first of the Obama administration’s second term.
“The TIP Report is only as good as it is honest, and we commend the State Department for using fact-based analysis – not concern for sensitive geopolitical relationships – when it assigned Tier 3 rankings to Russia, Uzbekistan and China,” said David Abramowitz, director of The Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST), a coalition of 12 U.S.-based human rights organizations, including Free the Slaves. “China, Russia, Uzbekistan and other countries that have largely turned a blind eye to modern slavery deserve the condemnation of the United States and the international community. We hope that all nations Secretary Kerry has found to have serious problems will take this assessment seriously and begin immediately to develop and implement effective strategies to combat and prevent human trafficking within and across their borders.” (Read the full ATEST news release here.)
An ATEST analysis reveals that roughly 16% of the 187 countries ranked in the 2013 TIP report have been given Tier 1 status (including the U.S.), 49% are in Tier 2; 24% are on the Tier 2 Watch List; and 11% are ranked as Tier 3.
“While Russia and China were in the TIP spotlight today, it’s important to remember that more than 150 countries are ranked as Tier 2, Tier 2 Watch List or Tier 3,” says Free the Slaves Director of Programs Karen Stauss. “It will be vital to press for improvements in all countries, big or small.”