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Smarter Funding for Anti-Trafficking Work

This post is by Rebecca Napier-Moore and Mike Dottridge, who have just edited the September 2014 issue of the Anti-Trafficking Review published by the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women. The issue is themed Following the Money: Spending on anti-trafficking. Six authors contributed research to the volume and five others wrote opinion pieces on how to best spend 10 million dollars in anti-trafficking work. Rebecca and Mike also trawled through mountains of data on anti-trafficking funding to compile a Global Funding Information Sheet and wrote an article (Do We Know Where the Money for Anti-Trafficking is Going?) for discussion at a workshop last year. No research had been done previously on money trails in anti-trafficking work.

Rebecca Napier-Moore is Editor of the Anti-Trafficking Review. She is also a consultant, working most recently for the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development and UNWomen and has published on women’s empowerment, migrants’ rights, and accountability in anti-trafficking.

Mike Dottridge was guest editor of the September 2014 issue of the Anti-Trafficking Review and is a consultant on human rights issues, based in the United Kingdom. He has previously worked for Amnesty International and for Anti-Slavery International, where he was Director. He is a trustee for the United Nations Voluntary Fund on contemporary forms of slavery, a fund that gives grants worth about USD 0.5 million a year, with about half going to assist people who have been trafficked.

Lots of people talk about money in anti-trafficking work. The ILO has tried to estimate the profits related to forced labour, with a figure of USD 150 billion a year gaining traction. Others have tried to estimate the ‘cost of a slave,’ though we are not sure what this kind of estimate is supposed to achieve apart from fundraising and PR. Governments and businesses are starting to try to ensure ‘trafficking free’ investments and supply chains.

Very rarely does anyone talk about the money that governments and philanthropists give to end trafficking. Doing so involves critiquing a sector that most people see as doing unqualifiedly good work. Critiquing the way money is spent or how much of it is spent involves ‘biting the hand that feeds’ and funds the work. No development/aid sector is perfect, however, and frank conversations about financial transparency are vital to accountability – accountability not only to funders, but also to the people who are supposed to benefit from anti-trafficking funding.

The authors have unearthed and compiled as much financial data as we could find, but we do not dare to add it up or say that we have found a grand total of how much money is spent on anti-trafficking initiatives for fear that numbers would be taken out of context and removed from caveats about methodology and missing data. There are many problems that make the data hard to add up: 1) we cannot find all the numbers because both funders and funded organisations are not transparent; 2) we do not know whether allocated money is actually spent because there is little publicly available reporting; and 3) everyone defines anti-trafficking work differently – does anti-trafficking work cover broader gender equality or safe migration programmes, or does it also involve programmes concerned with other forms of exploitation (such as child soldiers)? Or should programmes focus specifically on issues related to human trafficking (such as legal aid for trafficked persons) to qualify as ‘anti-trafficking’?

In any case, knowing the total amount of money spent on anti-trafficking work does not tell us very much without more details. In particular, details about how money is used are required to differentiate between money that is spent (directly and indirectly) on assisting trafficked persons and that which is spent on what is generally referred to as ‘capacity building’ (which usually involves providing training or equipment to government employees) or on administrative costs.

Nonetheless, here are some big numbers we can share. In 2011, the European Commission (EC) gave USD 15 million (EUR 11 million) to projects with purported anti-trafficking aims. That same year a multitude of US government agencies gave USD 51 million to international projects to counter trafficking and another USD 20 million for domestic ones. Since then, we do not know what the full spending figures are for the US or the EU. The US has published data from the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (Department of State), but not equivalent data for spending by the Department of Defense or other agencies (we do know this information for 2011). Similarly, the labyrinth required to find the EC data is a dark and windy one. (We look forward to the launch of the delayed report looking at these figures and the impact that EC spending has had on trafficking. The report is mandated in the EU Strategy towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings 2012-2016). The only other large donor that currently spends more than USD 10 million a year internationally is Norway, which spent USD 12.4 million in 2011. Martina Ucnikova from the Walk Free Foundation details additional top government anti-slavery donors giving international aid for a ten-year period between 2003-2012. These government and inter-government spenders have recently been joined by a non-governmental organisation, hoping to spend at their levels. The Freedom Fund aims to raise USD 100 million by 2020 to combat ‘modern slavery’ (a category in which they place trafficking, forced labour, forced marriage, etc).

What we noticed in looking at these and other numbers is that we do not know how much it costs to run the US, EC, Norwegian or Freedom Fund anti-trafficking offices themselves. This is not a judgment on those costs (because how can we judge without knowing the facts?), but merely a statement that organizational spending is not transparent. How much does it cost the US Department of State to compile and publish the annual US Trafficking in Persons Report? How much does it cost to administer the highly complicated grant-making procedures at the European Commission, which Suzanne Hoff writes about in the recent Anti-Trafficking Review issue?

We also noticed a few other things:

  • A large proportion of money aimed at anti-trafficking initiatives goes to large international organisations. We question whether this is the most efficient way to allocate funds, as all of these organisations are very top heavy. In both 2012 and 2013, 44% of US State Department international grants went to international organisations, primarily UN organisations, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) receiving more than 25% of all US international funding for 2013.
  • Very little global anti-trafficking funding actually reaches trafficked persons, particularly in terms of assistance payments for re-integration or compensation. Nisha Varia has observed lack of money for compensation through her years of work on this issue with Human Rights Watch. Victoria Nwogu’s article notes that during 2013 the Nigerian government dispersed only USD 425 each to 47 victims, out of the 777 victims identified for assistance payments. Moreover, victim services are not allocated adequate, sustainable funding. Only one-fifth of the entire Nigerian anti-trafficking agency budget was allocated for service provision in 2012. The government has not indicated where the other four-fifths was spent, but one-fifth is a small amount to spend on services that trafficked persons need for recovery. Long-term services such as re/integration are particularly ignored by funders. Rebecca Surtees and Fabrice de Kerchove detail donors’ lack of interest in re/integration and some of the risks of failed re/integration for trafficked persons in the Balkans.
  • Spending by governments varies according to how they view immigration. In a study by Kiril Sharapov, we see that the authorities in Ukraine view the violation of migrants’ human rights as one of the root causes of trafficking. Political crises prevent them from spending money or political attention on making the systemic changes needed to protect migrants’ rights, so at the moment money is spent on basic awareness raising of what human trafficking is. This contrasts with the UK where human trafficking is seen as a threat from international organised crime and irregular migration, and money is spent on crime and immigration control.
  • Sometimes anti-trafficking spending covers up or justifies other aims, such as stopping migration, and particularly women’s migration. A government official in Southeast Asia, for instance, told us that anti-trafficking is the ‘garnish’ on the country’s anti-smuggling In other places, women have been stopped from migrating for work in the name of anti-trafficking.

The above is what we noticed about where funding is allocated. But what about how it is dispersed?

  • Accessing funding is quite hard for the following groups particularly:
    • Sex workers support groups that often do not meet funding criteria or have conflicts of interest with funders that may support raids on sex workers’ workplaces
    • Any organisations that disagree with the US government’s ‘Anti-Prostitution Pledge’ which groups have to sign saying that no activities will encourage or condone prostitution
    • Organisations that want to do routine but long-term work such as re/integration service provision
    • Small to medium sized NGOs that do not have the resources to have a dedicated fundraiser or the capital to co-fund or provide upfront funding required by EU grants, for instance.
  • Trafficked persons have no say in determining money flows. We do not know of any donors or anti-trafficking organisations (besides a handful of groups organised and run by survivors) that directly consult ‘beneficiaries’ on spending, though some evaluations (and publicly-available evaluations are rare) ask trafficked persons what was good and bad about programming, purportedly with the results going into redesign of support programmes. There are many ethical considerations in doing this, however, and cautions are necessary to ensure trafficked persons do not suffer further harm, that they actually want to participate, that they are given the chance to do so on more than a tokenistic level, and that they are not overburdened or undercompensated.
  • Sometimes NGOs and other recipients of funds have little say in determining spending priorities. Nwogu and Hoff report on donors setting firm and sometimes misguided agendas in Nigeria and the EU. NGOs nonetheless often do their best to find small amounts of money from businesses or by setting up social enterprises for what they see as the most urgent and ignored needs, as Surtees and de Kerchove report from a project in the Balkans.
  • Anti-trafficking funding, like most aid/development funding, has short time scales. Core funding is rare. And in some places, like Russia, most foreign funding to NGOs is not allowed. Regarding short time scales, in a recent letter to billionaire donor Andrew Forrest regarding the new Global Freedom Network, a blogger wrote ‘Proposing to eradicate slavery in just six years does not allow time to develop and implement a system of training community stakeholders from law enforcement to health care workers to teachers.’

What is needed? For a start, donors and anti-trafficking organisations alike must be willing to be more transparent. The call for this is strong when related to public money that should have accountability to tax payers, but transparency is also very much needed with relation to grantees and beneficiaries. Why can’t we trust trafficked persons to have valid opinions about how to stop trafficking and how to respond when it is identified? The next thing needed is for donors to talk to each other (and one of the authors confirmed in 2013 that they do not). An article by Randy Newcomb, himself representing a major new funder (Humanity United) notes that ‘Public and private donors are seemingly guided more by internal priorities and criteria rather than by how they can collectively strengthen and sustain the most effective solutions.’ Could it be that aid allocations are guided by foreign policy considerations, which government-based donors do not want to admit to publicly, yet discuss with other donors? Further, it is important to ensure that anti-trafficking money does not contribute to human rights violations, such as preventing women’s migration. Human rights tools to assess the human rights impact of anti-trafficking measures exist and should be used. Finally, we should keep pushing for donors to provide more long-term funding as well as funding that goes to sustainable, human rights-based work.

The recent Anti-Trafficking Review probably says as much as it is currently possible to say about the state of funding for anti-trafficking work. It also reveals that a great deal more attention deserves to be given to the issue, not only to ensure transparency and accountability, but also to influence donors’ priorities and the causes related to anti-trafficking that they chose to finance.

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