INGOs, Neoliberalism, and the Global Movement to Combat Labor Trafficking

Monday, 16 July 2018: 10:50
Oral Presentation
Stephanie LIMONCELLI, Loyola Marymount University, USA
Among scholars and activists who study transnational social problems, INGOs have often been posited as important social actors fighting the ill effects of neoliberalism. In the global movement to combat human trafficking, for example, INGOs are key actors fighting labor exploitation exacerbated by the movement away from governments as regulators of market forces. Despite their best efforts, I argue that INGOs are part and parcel of increasingly market-based approaches to addressing social problems and that they function to reinforce rather than challenge neoliberalism. Drawing from interviews with 20 anti-trafficking INGOs headquartered in European countries and the United States, as well as an analysis of their organizational materials, I find that INGOs are supporting neoliberalism in four major ways: (1) through the construction of trafficking as problem of individualized violence; (2) by promoting awareness and consumption-oriented anti-trafficking strategies more often than changes to standard business and/or migration policies and practice; (3) through the commodification of trafficked persons as marketing objects and workers to create goods to sell; and (4) by embracing (or acquiescing to) corporatization in organizational structures and operations.