Contemporary Abolitionist of the Month: Marcelo Colombo

By Solveig Haugen

The fight to end slavery is rooted in history and extends until today. Each month we profile some of the brave men and women, both contemporary and historical, who have fought to eradicate slavery. Our contemporary abolitionist of the month is Marcelo Colombo.

Marcelo Colombo is an Argentinian prosecutor and the head of the Specialized Office for Investigation of Kidnapping and Trafficking in Persons’ cases. Colombo has been monumental in the movement to combat human trafficking in Argentina. He gained influence in 2009 when he won the first human trafficking conviction in Argentina. This victory went against the odds of corruption and proved that there would be no impunity for human trafficking. He then developed and implemented better procedures for human trafficking investigations, awareness campaigns, and training by bettering data collection and accessibility. Adaptations of Colombo’s efforts to collect and share trafficking data could increase effectiveness of U.S. anti-trafficking programs.

Currently the United States does not have a central database where trafficking data can be collected and shared with all actors. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) has made strides to provide criminal data to a wide audience, ranging from law enforcement to media, but it only began collecting and publishing data on human trafficking in 2013. While the UCR system is a start, it is very limited in terms of the data that’s inputted and who can access the information.

Colombo saw the limits of Argentina’s trafficking database and proceeded to implement changes. He directed the creation of a new database that exponentially improved data collection and distribution by creating a central platform where all trafficking data, like court cases, are easily accessible. This new data system better connected separate entities, empowering and enhancing anti-trafficking initiatives. Through this central data system and other partnerships, there have been over fifty human trafficking convictions from 2009 to 2012.

Colombo’s growing success in Argentina provides evidence that it is imperative to develop better data collection and availability programs that will lead to more anti-trafficking partnerships. Congress should increase funding for Enhanced Collaborative Model Task Forces that will collect and provide more data on best practices for anti-trafficking efforts. These task forces will take a progressive and full role in trafficking investigations that will link different partners from local, state, tribal, and federal levels. Shared information will develop stronger partnerships and greatly enhance the United States’ ability to effectively combat human trafficking.

For more information on how to improve data collection, partnerships, and strengthen anti-trafficking efforts, see our blueprint.

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Published on July 16, 2015

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