The McCain Institute’s Combatting Human Trafficking program educates, raises awareness and implements action-based solutions to end modern slavery. Through collaborative partnerships, critical research and direct engagement with innovative programs, the Institute develops and deploys strategies to combat all forms of human trafficking at local, state, national and international levels.

“The work of the McCain Institute is extraordinary, and it is having a direct impact in the fight to end human trafficking in the United States. As a member of the Human Trafficking Advisory Council, I am honored to contribute to help combat human trafficking on behalf of victims in the United States and worldwide.”
– Ernie Allen, Advisory Council Member and former President and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children


Direct Impact Programs

The McCain Institute supports a variety of innovative programs that fill the gaps in the fight against human trafficking.

In partnership with the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, the Institute launched the Buffett-McCain Institute Initiative to Combat Modern Slavery as a three-year pilot program in Texas in 2017. The Initiative is a multi-disciplinary effort that addresses forced labor in the agricultural sector by: supporting a justice system capable of effectively, fairly and efficiently handling labor trafficking cases; protecting labor trafficking victims; and, addressing the root causes of labor exploitation.

With the goal of increasing the number of investigations, prosecutions, and convictions, while ensuring due compensation for victims, the McCain Institute embarked on a one-year, nationwide assessment of the justice sector’s gaps, needs and possible innovative solutions to address human trafficking. Key findings of the 2018 assessment include the need for increased training, dedicated personnel to address human trafficking, a stronger network of practitioners and advanced data analytics. These needs will be addressed by a multifaceted solution which will build capacity at the community and national level to address all forms of human trafficking. Actionable next steps will be launched as part of a comprehensive justice sector initiative in 2019.

The Student Alliance Against Trafficking unites and empowers an international network of student leaders to combat human trafficking. The program raises awareness and inspires the next generation of leaders to take action to end trafficking. In 2018, the Student Alliance partnered with 26 campuses across the U.S. and in the U.K to host more than 70 awareness activities for students. The Institute built upon this solid foundation to partner with Willow International and Pollicy to expand the Student Alliance to Uganda in August of 2018. Through this effort, the Student Alliance supported the development of new student-led anti-trafficking organizations at Kyambogo University and Ndejje University and have since informed more than 500 Ugandan students with human trafficking awareness events. To learn more or apply to join the Alliance, visit

To address the significant vulnerability of children and youth in transition to exploitation and human trafficking, the McCain Institute joined forces with the National Network for Youth to develop a professional development Certificate on Human Trafficking program for runaway and homeless youth providers. This best available practices training will help service providers build their capacity to recognize the signs of exploitation, know how to report trafficking, and provide services to youth victims of human trafficking.


Collaborative Partnerships

The McCain Institute connects and convenes stakeholders to discuss emerging topics and elevate best practices.

To protect children from exploitation and trafficking, the Institute is leading efforts to safeguard children through prevention education. The Institute networks and fosters collaboration among federal, state and non-profit stakeholders addressing trafficking through school and community-based prevention education programs. The long term goal of the initiative is to empower a generation of young people with the knowledge and skills they need to avoid and resist exploitation, with a short term outcome of equipping educators with the information they need to identify and respond to potential cases of child trafficking.

The McCain Institute continues to provide substantial staff support to the Arizona Human Trafficking Council, in addition to Mrs. McCain’s leadership as co-chair. The statewide Council, established by the Governor, addresses all aspects of human trafficking across Arizona and provides leadership, training and coordination throughout the state. Through robust partnerships with ASU’s Office of Sex Trafficking Research (STIR), Amber Alert, the Arizona Prosecuting Attorney’s Advisory Council, Arizona hospitals, and others, the McCain Institute provides human trafficking awareness and prevention training statewide.  The McCain Institute supported the development of the online STARFISH prevention education program and works with STIR to provide training to school staff, students and parents on trafficking prevention in middle and high schools.

The McCain Institute’s annual Symposium brings together key leaders across government, civil society and private sectors for a series of panel discussions and breakout sessions designed to press for actionable solutions to advance the fight against sex trafficking and forced labor. Past event recaps can be found here: Inaugural Human Trafficking Symposium, 2nd Annual Human Trafficking Symposium.


Critical Research

The McCain Institute is committed to supporting rigorous research to inform national and international stakeholders and to developing solutions to combat trafficking.

Recognizing the shortfall of reliable data on human trafficking, the McCain Institute supports innovative research to better understand the crime and support practitioners.

Original research from the Buffett-McCain Institute Initiative to Combat Modern Slavery has demonstrated that 9-13% of Texas farmworkers report at least one key “red flag” indicator of human trafficking including the withholding of documents to secure payment of a debt and threats of physical violence.

The Institute also partners with the Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research (STIR) in Arizona State University’s School of Social Work to produce research and analysis to assess the scale and scope of human trafficking. Completed research has explored the vulnerability of runaway and homeless youth to trafficking, the impact of the Super Bowl on trafficking activity and a six-year analysis of human trafficking in Las Vegas.

The program is also supported by a high-level Human Trafficking Advisory Council, which provides strategic direction and advice to inform the Institute’s anti-human trafficking efforts. The Combatting Human Trafficking Program also receives advice from the Dismantling the Business of Trafficking Campaign Ambassadors, a group of more than 30 of the nation’s most prominent business, government, military, law enforcement and civil rights leaders who share the Institute’s commitment to ending modern slavery.