WPS 2014-09: Strategic Compliance in the Shadow of Transnational Anti-Trafficking Law

Daphna Hacker

The enactment of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) in 2000 marked the beginning of the ongoing systematic attempt by the United States of America to combat human trafficking transnationally. Through this Act, the United States employs a regime of positive and negative incentives, aimed at pressuring other countries to comply with its minimum anti-trafficking standards. Very little is known about the action taking place within the countries thus pressurized and in the transnational shadow of the TVPA. Especially neglected is the aspect relating to the protection of victims of trafficking, including their rehabilitation. In an attempt to address this lacuna, this paper reports a first-of-its-kind study of the approach to victims of trafficking in a destination country pressured by the TVPA. By interviewing officials, activists, professionals and survivors of human trafficking in Israel, and by analyzing policy and legal documents and reports, the study highlights the effectiveness of the United States’ transnational pressure in motivating the Israeli authorities to assist victims of human trafficking. Notwithstanding, the study also reveals the ability of a pressured country to develop compliance strategies that allow it to satisfy the U.S. demands while preserving its sovereignty over its borders. Moreover, the study points to the often-ignored power of the victims of trafficking to mobilize both the domestic legal system and the global human rights discourse to their advantage and highlights their definitions of successful protective measures, which differ from the definitions employed by the U.S. and Israel. Hence, on the theoretical level, the study yielded an innovative typology of compliance strategies, and it illuminates the importance of differentiating between “compliance” and “success,” often confused within the literature on global governance in general and on the TVPA in particular, and the need to develop a model that treats superpower states, weaker states — and the victims of human rights violations themselves — as significant players in the global field of norm-making.

Daphna Hacker WPS 9-14