Business and Child Sex Trafficking, Where to Next?
ECPAT-USA’s Comments on the U.S. National Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct
By: Dr. Camelia Tepelus and Michelle Guelbart
On December 2016, as the country was initiating a transition between administrations, Keith Avila, an Uber driver in California saved a 16 year old teen runaway from becoming a victim of sex trafficking. Rescues like these are made possible because of growing awareness around the issue coupled with increased employee and contractor training to identify the signs of human trafficking by companies. Keith was trained, empowered and supported by Uber management to alert the appropriate authorities. Uber, Delta Air Lines, and many other American-based global companies are members of the internationally recognized Tourism Child Protection Code of Conduct (TheCode.org), an initiative managed in the United States by ECPAT-USA, joining advocates and businesses committed to prevent and actively combat trafficking and sexual exploitation of children.
With over twenty years experience advocating for responsible business and child rights, we at ECPAT-USA know that businesses are in a critical strategic position to ensure that child rights are respected and protected. When the US government announced that it would develop the first U.S. National Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct (NAP) we were eager to provide input to the federal government in early 2016 on how the strategy could address grave violations of child rights including sexual exploitation and trafficking. The strategy was released among the final initiatives of the Obama administration in December 2016 and describes governmental expectations and federal policies regarding the conduct of US corporations. The NAP aimed to be consistent with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and is the outcome of a year-long multi-agency and multi-stakeholder national consultation.
Drawing from decades of partnership with businesses to prevent child sex trafficking, ECPAT-USA provided input into the NAP process from a business and child rights perspective. Our main recommendations for the NAP were – first, to make an explicit priority of protecting child rights in all business operations, both domestic and abroad; second — to continue soliciting business input in the process; third – to recognize and award good practices; and finally, to continue to evaluate and monitor progress of the NAP itself. Dr. Tepelus and Ms. Guelbart compared the NAP to their earlier recommendations and provided input and feedback on where the US government can go from where we are today.