LexisNexis Program Spotlights ‘Immense Problem’ Of Human Trafficking

LexisNexis Program Spotlights ‘Immense Problem’ Of Human Trafficking

DAYTON, Ohio - It is conservatively estimated that one in every 555 people in the world is a victim of human trafficking, LexisNexis' senior advisor on Corporate Responsibility said June 30 at a webinar for employees at the LexisNexis campus here.

Dr. Mark P. Lagon is the former head of the State Department office and federal government interagency team devoted to fighting human trafficking, which exploits people for coerced labor and commercial sex in the world. He spoke on "Why Human Trafficking Matters to Rule of Law and LexisNexis."

In introducing Dr. Lagon, Dawn Conway, senior vice president, Corporate Responsibility for LexisNexis, said human trafficking is all about Rule of Law.

"Absence of Rule of Law . . . provides a breeding ground for many types of human rights atrocities, including human trafficking," Conway said.

"Human trafficking is forcing or manipulating a person, against their will, into either sexual exploitation or forced labor," Dr. Lagon said.  "It's a kind of slavery."

Dr. Lagon said types of human trafficking include forced labor, sexual trafficking, child labor, bonded labor, debt bondage among migrant laborers, involuntary domestic servitude and child soldiers. The drivers of human trafficking, he said, are supply and demand, poverty and migration.

Dr. Lagon provided an overview of the U.S. State Department's 10th edition of the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, which outlines the continuing challenges across the globe, country by country, including highlighting trafficking in the United States for the first time since the report's publication in 1999. 

"Human trafficking is an immense problem," Dr. Lagon said, citing estimates that there are anywhere from 12.3 million to 27 million people in the world enslaved in human trafficking. Using the more conservative 12.3 million figure from the TIP report, Dr. Lagon said that means that one in every 555 people in the world is a victim.

Dr. Lagon said the United States enacted the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act in 2000 to protect victims and prosecute their traffickers. He said that many other countries have passed laws to combat human trafficking at the United States' urging since then, but enforcement is often poor. He cited a report that said that internationally, the risk of being prosecuted for human trafficking is less than the risk of drug trafficking. According to an Ogilvy survey LexisNexis recently commissioned, more than $30 billion in profits are made on human trafficking, second only to drug trafficking as a form of organized crime.

Dr. Lagon said there is a "direct correlation" between how countries are doing regarding human trafficking and the Rule of Law.

Human trafficking "does not require crossing borders," he emphasized, noting that many people are enslaved in their own country. He said it is estimated that 100,000 minors, some of them runaways, are prostituted every year in the United States.

"When children are found who are sexually prostituted, too often they're treated as criminals," he said.  "So, although we need to be concerned about Rule of Law internationally, the American experiment is not quite perfect."

Dr. Lagon said the "demand is skyrocketing" on Internet sites that offer prostitution services.  In one study in Georgia, 47 percent of the 2,500 men who responded to ads selling females for sex still wanted to go through the transaction after being warned three times that the female was a minor, he said.

When human trafficking is found, Dr. Lagon said the offender needs to be prosecuted and the victim needs to be protected.

"It's not enough to rescue a victim; you have to help them on the road to rehabilitation," Dr. Lagon said.  "They have been traumatized."

Dr. Lagon said government and civil society organizations are fighting human trafficking and that LexisNexis is working to get a missing component, business, involved by bringing companies together in the fight against human trafficking.

"Businesses can help make [human trafficking] less profitable," Dr. Lagon said, by ensuring that its contractors and suppliers aren't engaged in child labor or forced labor.

The Risk Solutions team at LexisNexis has helped a leading non-profit organization fighting human trafficking, the Polaris Project, by building a searchable database that allows the Polaris Project's national hotline for tips on potential cases to be much more effective, Dr. Lagon said. Until February, Dr. Lagon was executive director and CEO of the Polaris Project.

LexisNexis has also trained law enforcement and supported the Somaly Mam Foundation, an organization founded by a former victim of human trafficking that is helping trafficking victims in Southeast Asia through its shelters, and priorityfilms, which has released movies such as "Holly" and "REDLIGHT" that shine light on the problem. LexisNexis also sponsors Agir Pour les Femmes en Situation Précaire (AFESIP) and special events for raising public awareness of global human trafficking.

In August 2010, Dr.  Lagon will become Visiting Professor and Concentration Chair in International Relations and Security in the Master of Science in Foreign Service Program at Georgetown University, and Adjunct Senior Fellow in Human Rights at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Dr. Lagon was Ambassador-at-Large and Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP) until January 2009.

From 2004 to 2007, Dr. Lagon served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs. In this capacity, he had lead responsibility for United Nations-related human rights and humanitarian issues, UN reform and outreach.

Dr. Lagon previously served as a member of Secretary of State Colin Powell's Policy Planning Staff, where he focused on UN, democracy and human rights (2002-2004).

From 1999 to 2002, he was a senior staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Previous positions include: Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow, specializing in China (1998-1999); and Deputy Staff Director of the House Republican Policy Committee (1997-1998). Earlier, Dr. Lagon was the principal aide to the Director of Foreign Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

He is the author of The Reagan Doctrine: Sources of American Conduct in the Cold War's Last Chapter (Praeger, 1994).

Dr. Lagon has a Ph.D. from Georgetown University and a B.A. magna cum laude from Harvard University.