I have had a wonderful summer working with Winrock International. I would especially like to thank Susan Stamper for the opportunity to undertake such important work, Professor Warren for organizing the internship program, and John and Brenda Scanelli for their support of counter-trafficking work.

As mentioned in previous blog entries, Winrock International operates its counter-trafficking program through four categories: Prevention, Protection, Partnership, and Prosecution. 

Prevention focuses on providing resources to those vulnerable persons who may be tempted to engage in risky migration or otherwise fall victim to human traffickers. Winrock’s prevention-focused activities include assisting small, community-based savings groups. With an easily-accessible source of credit, community members are able to start and sustain businesses that provide a stream of income that can be the difference between self-reliance and desperation. 

Protection involves ensuring trafficking victims are properly identified as victims rather than as criminals and providing those victims with the support they need to reenter society. In many countries, a desire to penalize sex work manifests as the persecution and punishment of the victims of forced prostitution. Protection-focused activities include training police to see a victim rather than a criminal.

Winrock’s partnerships involve assessing the resources of NGOs, governments, and businesses to ensure those collective resources are used efficiently. If a local NGO already provides shelter for the female victims of sex trafficking, but the child victims of sex trafficking are relegated to an orphanage, Winrock is able to step in to provide safe accommodation for those children.

While these activities allow Winrock to successfully combat human trafficking and mean the difference between life and death for many individuals, Winrock’s work on prosecution is better suited to enable systemic change. A police force capable of investigating human trafficking syndicates, prosecutors capable of producing evidence in a trial, and an impartial judiciary capable of administering the law are all required to ensure that the legal system of a country can protect the victims of trafficking on a national scale. Unhappily, corruption often eats away at each component of the legal system in countries with the worst trafficking abuses.

Winrock helps design interventions in a country’s legal system that better facilitate the successful prosecution of human trafficking offenses. Typically, the laws are not themselves lacking. In a wide array of countries in South and Southeast Asia, governments have enacted legislation to criminalize human trafficking and other related offenses. Problems arise in the application of the law. 

Where a country’s police force is disinclined to prevent trafficking, specially trained police units, dedicated solely to human trafficking, may better ensure the effective enforcement of trafficking laws. Where the judiciary throughout the country is poorly trained and under funded, a centralized anti-trafficking tribunal may be better equipped to administer anti-trafficking laws. Determining what interventions are best suited to a given country can better ensure the success of those interventions. 

It was a privilege to contribute to such vital work.