Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 07/2011

Corruption and Human Trafficking

March 2011

Transparency International


Human trafficking affects an estimated 12 million victims around the world, more than half of whom are women and girls. Trafficking is driven by profit and may involve sexual exploitation or forced labour. Globally, trafficked workers generate US$ 32 billion each year. Yet in spite of the large scale of trafficking, most victims are never identified and few offenders — less than 1 in 10 — are ever convicted. Corruption is increasingly cited as a key reason for why trafficking continues and traffickers remain free. Corruption both facilitates trafficking and feeds the flow of people by destabilising democracies, weakening a country’s rule of law and stalling a nation’s development. At the same time, trafficking, which can involve global or regional networks, contributes to a country’s corruption. To function, trafficking relies on pay-offs to police, judges and ministers at all levels. Broader attention needs to be paid to this nexus between corruption and human trafficking. Despite advances, both issues tend to be tackled independently without recognising their inter-linkages. Only by addressing them together will related efforts to stop trafficking be more successful.