The World Affairs Council of St. Louis recently had the pleasure of hosting a global delegation through the Department of State’s International Visitors Leadership Program. Delegates arrived from all around the world, including Cyprus, Denmark, Hong Kong, Jordan, Sri Lanka, and Zambia. The program, titled Combating Trafficking in Persons I – A Multi-Regional Project, explored effective methods to combat both forced labor and sex trafficking. It included examining U.S. laws, visa regulations, and enforcement against traffickers, as well as initiatives for victim identification, protection, and support services. The focus also extended to media awareness campaigns and collaborative efforts at local, national, and international levels. Discussions involved strategies to end trafficking, engaging government agencies at all levels. While in St. Louis, the group primarily focused on local investigation and prosecution of trafficking in persons and community-based services to prevent trafficking.

The group arrived on Wednesday, February 14th, eager to delve into a series of engagements aimed at advancing their understanding of critical issues. On February 15th, they commenced insightful meetings held at the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri and with representatives of the FBI. These discussions provided invaluable insights into the multifaceted efforts to combat human trafficking. Additionally, the day included a thought-provoking session with the Washington University Human Trafficking Collaborative Network, where they exchanged ideas and strategies for addressing this pressing global challenge. Furthermore, the group had the privilege of attending a networking reception hosted by the Quebec Government Office in Chicago, fostering connections and dialogue across international borders.

Continuing their exploration on February 16th, the participants engaged in a productive meeting with the Missouri Coalition Against Trafficking and Exploitation, deepening their understanding of local initiatives and grassroots efforts in the fight against human trafficking. As the visit progressed, February 17th provided a heartfelt experience of home hospitality, graciously extended by Mrs. Marie and Mr. George Fero, as well as by Ms. Shelley Welsch, Bill Chilton, and Annie Aeschbacher. These warm interactions offered a glimpse into the rich tapestry of St. Louis culture and hospitality, leaving a lasting impression on the visitors.

Amidst the busy schedule of engagements, the participants also embraced opportunities for cultural enrichment, including visits to iconic landmarks such as the St. Louis Arch. Additionally, they indulged in the vibrant arts scene of the city, delighting in a captivating presentation of the hit Broadway show, Mamma Mia!, at the renowned Fox Theater. These cultural experiences served to deepen their appreciation for the rich heritage and artistic diversity of St. Louis, complementing their substantive discussions on combating human trafficking with a broader understanding of the local community and its vibrant cultural offerings. One participant even exclaimed that St. Louis was her favorite stop on her trip to the United States!

Lila Singley, Spring 2024 Intern