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Comparing and Contrasting Approaches to Human Trafficking

By Hope Johnston-Holm, IJPC Intern

As a Sociology major, I spend half my time writing papers at the University of Cincinnati. But when I was designing a project at IJPC to fulfill my International Human Rights certificate guidelines, I was flummoxed. All I knew was that I wanted to create a product that explored how human trafficking is talked about in places other than the U.S. 

Domestically, organizations are subject to a lot of pitfalls with the words that they use that can disempower survivors of human trafficking. Human Trafficking is a local, regional, and global challenge to address. I wondered, do international organizations make the same harmful mistakes when bringing awareness to this huge issue?

I worked through several iterations of this project analyzing how imagery and language is done differently between domestic and international organizations. Would I evaluate one organization based in the U.S., the other based in another country? One organization, an NGO, the other government-sponsored? One organization addressing labor trafficking, the other addressing sex trafficking? There were many options before me.

Samantha helped me look at what we wanted the end result to be: an easy to understand comparison of international practices of language and imagery. From there, I developed my guide to profile three United Nations organizations that lead the effort against human trafficking worldwide: the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Do the UNODC, UNHCR, and OHCHR face similar pitfalls in language and imagery that domestic organizations face?

To find out, I searched each organization’s name plus the phrase “human trafficking” to see the website most internet users would find first. From there, I examined their trafficking in persons webpage to analyze the language they used and the photos they chose. The result is a chart comparing each organization’s approach to language and imagery, mirroring the pitfalls domestic organizations face.

How to read this tool: the three organizations are in a compare/contrast chart before being profiled individually. In the chart, red signifies harmful messaging, black signifies neutral or adequate messaging, and green signifies good messaging.

  • You can read it online through Issuu here or click the image below.
  • You can download it for printing here.