Christian humanitarian organization World Vision had some harsh words against the Obama administration soon after it released its latest report on the human trafficking epidemic Monday.
World Vision and other organizations had previously expressed concern about the risks of improperly implementing an automatic downgrade provision that would demote countries which have not made progress in combating human trafficking. Congress introduced the automatic downgrade provision when it reauthorized the Trafficking Victims Protection Act in 2008.
The concerns over the provision were expressed in a letter sent to the White House administration in March. Other than acknowledging the receipt of the letter, the concerns were ignored, say World Vision officials.
"The Obama administration is playing politics with the lives of children around the world,” said Robert Zachritz, World Vision’s director for advocacy and government relations. “Now, those of us in the anti-trafficking community are gnashing our teeth because we realize what we hoped for, simply has not happened."
However, there are some positive aspects to the government’s latest efforts in combating human trafficking and child slavery, Zachritz told The Christian Post. “The legislation is making a difference, and as the Secretary of State said yesterday, we are bringing the issue to the governments of other countries attention,” he said. “Having the law is the first step. The second step is implementation and accountability.”
The U.S. State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report included an update on Uzbekistan. The country remains on the Tier 2 Watch List due to failure to eliminate the state-sponsored practice of forced child labor in the cotton industry. “Trafficking" as defined in the report includes any form of coerced labor.
The automatic downgrade to a Tier 3 level did not occur with Uzbekistan, even though the country was on the Tier 2 Watch List for more than two consecutive years and did not improve its practices. The State Department defended its decision to not downgrade Uzbekistan by stating in its report that the country “has a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is devoting sufficient resources to implement that plan.”
Zachritz said the U.S. government’s decision to give Uzbekistan a waiver and not a downgrade is just one of many examples of misuse of the tax payers' money.
“It's easier for them to issue useless waivers that they'll never enforce than to actually confront global leaders on this critical issue,” he said. “There comes a time when you should not use the waiver. Sometimes you need to get the government (of other countries) attention and hold people accountable.”
The report cited nearly two dozen countries for not meeting basic standards to stop human trafficking. Among the worst offenders were the Republic of Congo, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Iran. It also listed countries that are known to have child soldiers in its militaries. This list includes four countries that received presidential waivers in 2010. The fact that the same countries are listed that also received waivers last year shows the administration has failed to engage these countries in a meaningful way to end their use of child soldiers, World Vision stated.
The State Department report also included an evaluation of the United States’ own efforts to fight trafficking, which World Vision commends.