How seriously governments around the world are working to combat human trafficking comes into sharp focus Monday when the U.S. State Department issues its 2011 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report.
Published annually since 2001, the TIP Report counts known cases of human trafficking in more than 175 countries, whether for commercial sex, bonded labor, child labor, involuntary domestic servitude or child soldiers.
It also takes note of new legislation enacted, how many prosecutions were initiated and how many traffickers were convicted.
The State Department describes the TIP Report as a "diplomatic tool" that can be used to engage with other countries on the issue of human trafficking.
It is assembled with the help of embassies, non-governmental organizations, aid groups and individuals who have submitted data or their own personal accounts.
As a result, the report has become the world's most comprehensive survey of modern day slavery. It also explores which strategies are succeeding or failing in the fight against human trafficking.
"The TIP Report, for us, is an invaluable source of information," says Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's special representative and coordinator for combating trafficking in human beings.
She added: "In Europe we had a huge phenomenon of trafficking for sexual exploitation but now what is growing is trafficking for labor exploitation and child trafficking."
The global trade in human beings is changing, growing more sophisticated as a criminal enterprise that can boast more profits and fewer risks than the illegal drug trade.
The TIP Report accounts for that changing situation by placing countries into different tiers, which can point to progress made against human trafficking or the lack of effort. For friends and foes of Washington, it's a time of reckoning.
At the top, Tier 1 countries in 2010 like Germany, Sweden, Australia and South Korea are credited with full compliance with the requirements of the "Trafficking Victims Protection Act" re-authorized by the U.S. Congress in 2008. The U.S. is a Tier 1 country, but only began including itself in the survey in 2010.
Tier 1 does not mean a country doesn't have a human trafficking problem but rather that it has admitted the problem and is working to address it.
Tier 2 nations don't fully comply with the TVPA's minimum standards. Countries in this category are often seen as making significant progress. In 2010, countries ranging from Greece and Argentina to Indonesia and Switzerland found themselves on the second level.
There are many countries that may find themselves on the Tier 2 Watch List. These are countries that have fallen short of the legislation's minimum standards but have made "significant efforts."
What complicates the status of these countries is they may have high numbers of victims of severe forms of human trafficking and there's little or no evidence they are pursuing prosecutions of traffickers or reaching out to provide more help to victims.
The Tier 2 Watch may also point to countries that failed to live up to past commitments to improve their records. Thailand, Syria, Singapore and Iraq made the watch list in the 2010 TIP report.
At the bottom of the list are the Tier 3 states that neither meet the TVPA's minimum standards nor appear to be making efforts to do so. North Korea, Zimbabwe, Iran and even Saudi Arabia were among a dozen states shamed by the 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report.
It's not just humiliating. It can be costly, too. The U.S. Congress passed the legislation providing for limited sanctions that could deny non-humanitarian, non-trade-related foreign aid.
Tier 3 governments could also find their diplomats, military and others ineligible for educational or cultural exchange programs.
What many will find is that the 2011 TIP Report goes far beyond just numbers and lists.
It will include current examples and stories of how human trafficking is undermining the dignity of millions of people around world.
Even more interesting for most of us may be the anticipated list of "TIP Report Heroes" who are honored for their commitment to end modern day slavery.