Soon, the United States Department of State will issue the 2015 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. The TIP Report is the United States government’s principal diplomatic tool to engage foreign governments on human trafficking.  While there are other international trafficking and forced labor reports issued by ILO and UNODC, the TIP Report remains the world’s most noted trafficking report. The US Government uses the TIP Report to engage foreign governments in dialogues to advance anti-trafficking reforms and to target resources on prevention, protection and prosecution.

Annually, the TIP Report “ranks” each country’s efforts to comply with the “minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking” found in Section 108 of the TVPA. The Tier system falls into 3 Tiers, Tiers 1, 2, 3 and a Tier 2 Watch list. Tier 1 is the highest ranking, indicating that a government has acknowledged the existence of human trafficking, made efforts to address the problem, and complies with the TVPA’s minimum standards.  Tier 2 ranking reflects countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance.  Like Tier 2, the Tier 2 Watch List ranking is given to countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards and are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance but includes specific conditions different from Tier 2. Those conditions include that the government at issue: (1)is seeing increases or large numbers of trafficking victims, (2) demonstrates a lack of evidence of significant efforts to improve its human trafficking record, and (3) commits to taking future steps to improve. Lastly, Tier 3 is given to countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.

For countries ranked on Tier 3, there is more than just international shame that is associated with such a ranking, as a Tier 3 ranking can carry serious economic consequences. Countries listed on Tier 3 may face financial penalties, namely certain restrictions on non-humanitarian non-trade related foreign assistance. Tier 3 countries may also face possible US opposition to similar assistance from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

The economic consequences and international bad press of a negative TIP Report ranking has lead countries to adopt anti-trafficking measures and publically demonstrate their commitment to combatting human trafficking. Last year, Thailand was placed on Tier 3 after confirmed reports of Thai government involvement in selling Rohingya refugees from Myanmar to trafficking rings and incidents of labor trafficking aboard Thai fishing boats.  This year, there are calls for Thailand to remain on Tier 3 as well as documented efforts by the Thai government to augment its anti-trafficking enforcement efforts. While it is uncertain how the United States Department of State will rank Thailand in the 2015 TIP Report, it is clear that the TIP Report has generated important public discussion about human trafficking and has encouraged major changes in anti-trafficking policy by foreign governments. Such efforts demonstrate the importance of the TIP Report as a diplomatic tool in the global fight against human trafficking and illustrate the United States commitment to eradicating human trafficking.

Ashley Feasley is a Migration Policy Advisor at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.