Each year, the U.S. Department of State honors individuals around the world who have devoted their lives to the fight against human trafficking and made exceptional contributions in their home countries to combat the crime and assist trafficking victims. These individuals include NGO workers, lawmakers, government officials, survivors of human trafficking, and concerned citizens who have demonstrated tireless efforts – despite resistance, opposition, and threats to their lives – to protect victims, punish offenders, and educate stakeholders about human trafficking trends in their countries and abroad. The Secretary of State recognizes these heroes at the Department’s launch of the annual Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report), the Department’s comprehensive assessment of the efforts by the U.S. and foreign governments to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons.
Trafficking in persons, human trafficking, and modern slavery are interchangeable umbrella terms that describe the exploitation of someone for the purposes of compelled labor or a commercial sex act through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. Where a person younger than 18 is used in the commercial sex industry, it is a crime regardless of whether there is any force, fraud, or coercion.
As part of the 2019 TIP Report’s release on June 20, 2019, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump, and Ambassador John Cotton Richmond honored eight TIP Report Heroes. One of the recipients, Agnes De Coll, is a leading voice in Hungary who serves as senior expert and head of the trafficking in persons unit at Hungarian Baptist Aid (HBA), an organization that serves 30,000 people on a daily basis through programs including humanitarian aid, rapid response rescue, and rehabilitation. Inspired by her mother, a human rights lawyer, Agnes began raising awareness and changing attitudes on human trafficking in 2010. Under Agnes’ leadership, HBA has opened shelters and crisis intervention centers that provide critical assistance and programs to support human trafficking victims and their ability to transition successfully to a new life in Hungary. Despite many years of expertise, Agnes believes she has room to grow and is interested in learning about the legal processes of prosecuting traffickers in the United States and how organizations provide support for their staff who work with survivors of human trafficking on a day-to-day basis.
During the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) that followed the TIP Report release ceremony, all eight Heroes had the opportunity to visit fellow experts on trafficking in persons in Washington, D.C.; Denver, Colorado; and Minneapolis, Minnesota. Agnes was especially inspired by Polaris, the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Task Force on Human Trafficking, and Carlson Companies; each of which plays a unique role in combating human trafficking. Polaris is a leading non-profit organization that operates the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Agnes admired its ability to prevent staff burnout due to the emotionally exhausting nature of their work. In partnership with Polaris, the ABA has created a network of pro bono attorneys to provide survivors of human trafficking with legal services. At their final city stop, Agnes was impressed with Carlson Companies, the first major hospitality corporation in North America to take a public stand against sexual exploitation and human trafficking. Carlson is a founding member of the Business Coalition Against Trafficking (BCAT) and established a training program in 2010 for all hotel employees to identify and report human trafficking.
Using the information she acquired during the IVLP, Agnes plans to implement projects and ideas from each of these organizations and companies back home in Hungary. Her efforts will have a long-term impact and inspire fellow heroes who fight to end trafficking in persons.