The TIP report ranks governments, including the United States, on their efforts to combat and prevent human trafficking. While Tier 1 is the highest ranking, it does not mean that a country has no human trafficking problem.
The TIP report ranks countries into one of three tiers based on their level of compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking as outlined in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA).
This year for the first time, the State Department was required by statute to move six countries off the Tier 2 Watch List; Azerbaijan, Congo-Brazzaville and Iraq were moved to Tier 2, while China, Russia and Uzbekistan were downgraded to Tier 3 and now face possible sanctions.
“The TIP Report is only as good as it is honest, and we commend the State Department for using fact-based analysis -- not concern for sensitive geopolitical relationships -- when it assigned Tier 3 rankings to Russia, Uzbekistan and China,” said David Abramowitz, director of The Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking, a coalition of 12 U.S.-based human rights organizations.
Other sensitive countries, including Thailand -- where the fishing industry is filled with trafficked workers who are routinely murdered -- remained on the Tier 2 Watch List and face automatic downgrade next year if they do not demonstrate appreciable progress.
"In the last year, roughly 46,000 victims of trafficking were brought to light worldwide -- compared to 27 million who are enslaved," Kerry said.
Today, 83 percent of countries have legislation to combat human trafficking, compared to only 60 percent in 2009. Still, of 46,570 identified victims in 2012, just 16 percent of cases were prosecuted, with convictions in only 4,746 cases -- about 10 percent.
So far, 154 states are party to the Trafficking in Persons Protocol, and 16 percent have never recorded a single conviction for human trafficking.
"When we help countries prosecute traffickers, we’re strengthening the rule of law," Kerry said.
The U.S. was added to the TIP report three years ago with a Tier 1 ranking. President Obama has announced several new initiatives to combat modern slavery and proposed increased anti-trafficking funding in his 2014 budget.
Notable deaths of 2014 [PHOTOS]