The International Bureau for the Suppression of Traffic in Persons (1899-1971) was established at a time when the widespread campaign against the Contagious Diseases Acts had had the effect of focussing attention on the issue of prostitution. This had the result of encouraging the growth of groups like the National Vigilance Association whose aim was to work against the trade and its causes. In 1898, following the precedent of the International Abolitionist Federation, the National Vigilance Association agreed to address concerns about the international aspect of prostitution and began laying the foundations of an international federation of bodies working towards the abolition of the trade which would be known as the International Bureau for Suppression of Traffic in Persons. An international congress was held in London in Jun 1899 attended by ten delegations from European countries and one from the United States of America, as well as representatives of forty-eight local and national societies for the UK. The first meeting of the International Bureau was held in 1900, and throughout its existence the National Vigilance Association provided the premises, secretariat and the major part of the funding for international work, although the International Bureau for the Suppression of Traffic in Persons was always a separate organisation. Its constitution guaranteed that there should be a national committee in each of the partner countries. Each of these would send two representatives to sit on the international committee. The assembled representatives would, along with three other members elected by the National Vigilance Association, form the Bureau of the Congress or the central governing body. The NVA evidently saw the Bureau as the machinery for its international work, which would later lead to some tension with the partners. International work ceased during World War I after 1915 when it was decided that each national committee should continue working in its own way. The first official post-war meeting was held in 1920, but it was not until 1923 that national committees of former enemy countries felt able to re-establish international links. The first post-war Congress was held in Graz, Austria in 1924. The International Bureau for the Suppression of Traffic in Persons became closely involved with the agencies of the newly formed League of Nations which had responsibility for the work towards the suppression of traffic in persons. On the outbreak of World War II in 1939, work was again halted, only fully to resume in 1949 when constituent national committees became particularly active in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, Indonesia and the United States of America. Unfortunately, this resumption coincided with a financial crisis within the National Vigilance Association, which was obliged to close down its Travellers' aid work in 1951 and re-assess its role.
After the revision of that organisation's Constitution in 1952-1953 and reappearance as the British Vigilance Association, the International Bureau's work changed. It concentrated on encouraging nation states to ratify the United Nations convention for the suppression of the traffic in persons and of the exploitation of the prostitution of others (2 Dec 1949).
The International Bureau also reported on international travellers' aid work in association with the International Catholic Association of Young Women's Services (ACISJF) and the World Young Women's Christian Association /Amies de la Jeune Fille. In addition, there was particular emphasis on the status of young women working as au pairs. Constituent national committees were particularly active in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, Indonesia and the United States of America.
During the latter years of the IBS the organisation was struggling to survive under severe financial restraints and a main preoccupation was retaining its status as a non-governmental organisation with consultative status at the United Nations. The aims of the IBS seemed no longer in tune with the times, and the organisation did not long survive Richard Russell's retirement from ill-health in 1971.