Strengthening the Evidence Base on Trafficking in Persons

Photo: IOM/Hiyas Bagabaldo

  • Phineas Jasi | Data Management and Research Specialist, IOM Protection Division

Geneva – Between 2002 and 2021, more than 150,000 people have been identified as victims of trafficking across 189 countries according to the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) Counter-Trafficking Data Collaborative (CTDC). 

There have been efforts and measures put in place by states and other stakeholders to combating the crime. However, one of the challenges of developing targeted counter-trafficking responses and measuring their impact has been the lack of reliable, high-quality information. This has partly been because of the sensitivity around data on human trafficking, which raises a range of privacy and human rights concerns where the risk of identifying data subjects can be high and the consequences severe. 

Through collaboration and contributions from a range of organizations, including technology companies, NGOs, and academia, innovative technological approaches including the Human Trafficking Case Data Standard (HTCDS) have been developed to address these challenges and assist in the fight against human trafficking. As with other open data standards, the HTCDS is a voluntary standard whose success will depend upon a community developing and implementing the standard so that it remains relevant and useful. 

The launch of the HTCDS and accompanying toolkit, guidance and an eLearning course for frontline organizations providing protection and assistance to victims of trafficking will help strengthen information and communications technology systems to support the safe and ethical collection, management, and use of victim data, leading to improved protection outcomes, in line with international best practices.   

HTCDS will help address capacity challenges and will reduce the costs associated with developing victim case management systems, as well as introducing basic standards to improve data management.  It will be used by technologists and frontline agencies alike to help improve case management processes and service delivery. By supporting digitalization, standardization of data, and safe data sharing, these tools aim to increase the availability of data and evidence on human trafficking.  

Through the Victim Case Management System project IOM has engaged technologists, civil society, and academics in the HTCDS development process. Through consultations, organizations with experience in providing protection and assistance to victims of trafficking, including those running hotlines, referral systems, face-to-face protection work with victims, and providing ICT support, conveyed their challenges and provided suggestions on the setup and maintenance of data management systems.  

Through frontline organizations’ daily, critical support to victims of trafficking, they are in a unique position to shine a light on an otherwise hidden and devastating crime. It is important to recognize the resource constraints that these organizations face and their needs to digitalize their data processes, rather than creating additional burdens for them.  

The HTCDS, as well as the accompanying toolkit and guidance have been developed iteratively using open-source software. They are published on GitHub; a technology platform for managing software development. The platform fosters a community of practice around trafficking in persons data. HTCDS is based on the principles of open data standards and the field standards, guidance and tools are currently made available in English and will be available in other main languages going forward.   

IOM has carried out pilot trainings using HTCDS as part of a programme of capacity-building activities to help frontline organizations to implement the system and improve their data collection, management and use.  These trainings included 28 participants from frontline organizations around the world. The trainings encouraged participants to engage in the online community of practice around HTCDS, providing critical input and exchange of ideas for future updates to the standards, guidance and toolkit.   

To further facilitate the implementation of HTCDS and to support the widespread use of the tools and guidance to frontline organizations, IOM has developed a self-paced e-learning course with the support of the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery (GFEMS) and in collaboration with Recollectiv and Freedom Collaborative. The e-learning is made freely available on the IOM ECampus.  

Human Trafficking Case Data Standard (HTCDS) is available online here. 

The earlier versions of the HTCDS and accompanying toolkit were made possible by the Tech Against Trafficking 2019 Accelerator Program, in which IOM worked with Microsoft, Amazon, BT, Salesforce, and the broader community to advance the data and technology foundations of the CTDC platform. 

The Victim Case Management System project is supported by the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery, through a grant from the US Department of State. 


For more information, please contact Phineas Jasi, Data Management and Research Specialist, IOM Protection Division, Tel:  +33 679 836 040, Email:

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