2020 In Review

In March 2020, the world stopped for a moment… or did it? Economically speaking, the private sector went from boom to bust.  Human trafficking went from boom to boost. This boost is directly related to a flourishing online business. We know that the COVID-19 pandemic has made thousands of people, especially children, more vulnerable to sex and labor trafficking. But vulnerability does not mean visibility. A recent UNDOC publication raises concerns that although lockdown measures may help the spread of virus, they also increase the difficulty of victim identification and reduce the ability of responders to provide aid and support.

How to Bust the Boost?

For law enforcement, 2020 created a new reliance on technology for online investigations in criminal detection. But is that enough? What if technology can transform investigation goals? Imagine a transition from single arrests to an integrated view of the entire trafficking chain that can deflate the boost. It means closer cooperation with Prosecution in gathering digital evidence admissible in court. It requires closer association between human trafficking legislation and legal comprehension. Although convictions are a good measure of human rights progress, we can never forget the victims. Critical success factors moving forward are how digital transformation can ensure security, anonymity, and reintegration for survivors and usher in a new collaborative work environment for care providers.

Empower Technology

With meetings and conferences cancelled for the year, Sustainable Rescue focused on expanding our technology learning network. With the work effort being done by Tech Against Trafficking to document technology tools, we can see the rising role of technology.With more and more tools being developed, the abundance of dependent data becomes a barrier. Without a common language, a sustainable model of integrated data intelligence for widespread and continuous disruption of traffickers is difficult to attain. For us, the interesting question is how to empower existing technology?

In January we joined the Data Sharing Coalition to gain a better understanding of  data sharing methodologies in the European Union.. This enabled us to think beyond software to Trust Networks. It enabled us to think beyond data sharing to data visiting (GO-FAIR).  We learned about artificial intelligence (NL AI Coalition) and Federated Learning. We gained practical insights into how to apply Big Data analysis techniques and Privacy Enhancing Technologies in proactive policing. In our role as advisors to a National Dutch Police Field Lab, we gained insight into the potential of proactive policing.

Our own Advisors brought us both challenges and connectivity within the trafficking landscape. As a result, we see the art of the possible in applying existing digital technology in the fight against human trafficking. Our learning curve gradually developed into an innovation wave for an Human Trafficking Ecosystem

Our lessons learned in 2020 have made us stronger in our commitment to help organizations build resilience against human trafficking. We joined several NGO work teams to put our learning into the field on a variety of projects. (Network Partners). In 2021, we are eager to develop use cases and perform research. This is the year, despite the pandemic that we can work together to use technology to crush the trafficking boost.