Being Thankful & Fighting Human Trafficking

A BLOG POST BY STEPHENIE FOSTERHuman Trafficking Instead of spending Thanksgiving weekend watching the Macy’s Parade, eating turkey and shopping (my usual Thanksgiving activities), I was in Amsterdam and London for meetings on fighting human trafficking.   Human trafficking, or modern day slavery, is an enormous global criminal and human rights problem.  It’s worth setting out the basics. “Human trafficking” is an umbrella term for the issues of forced labor, sex trafficking, bonded labor, debt bondage among migrant laborers, involuntary domestic servitude, forced child labor, child soldiers, and child sex trafficking.  Human trafficking can happen anywhere, including the US.  Estimates of how many people are trafficked each year vary from 2.4 million to 25 million, and it’s a business worth more than $50 billion a year.

Efforts to combat trafficking are diverse and growing.  Businesses, NGOs, academics, politicians, governments and individuals all have a role to play.

One of the key documents used to evaluate trafficking globally is the US Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, which I’ve written about before.  This report is important as it evaluates annually how countries are doing.  But it isn’t enough.

My trip focused on how governments, academics and businesses can and must take further action.  In London, Luis CdeBaca, our Ambassador-At-Large to Monitor and Combat Human Trafficking, and Baroness Mary Goudie, member of the House of Lords, met with Brtiish politicians, business leaders and NGO leaders to discuss how to move forward.  Most interesting to me was the work being done to evaluate company supply chains to expose which goods are made with trafficked/slave labor.

I moderated a panel at the House of Lords with Amb. Cdebaca and Baroness Goudie, and there was a tremendous amount of interest in the supply chain issue.  In addition, there was tremendous interest in ensuring that government policies are put in place and implemented that don’t treat trafficking victims as criminals, and instead focus on the true criminals behind trafficking.

In Amsterdam, we all participated in a conference of academics who are working to ensure that trafficking becomes part of academic curricula across Europe.  The conference was organized by The Protection Project (TPP) at Johns Hopkins and led by Dr. Mohamed Mattar, executive director of TPP.  As someone who teaches at American University, and has created several courses there, it was interesting to learn about the differences between the European model of curriculum development and ours.  It’s much harder to get new classes approved in those systems, and so this conference helped professors exchange ideas and learn from each other.

Lastly, one key component of fighting trafficking is understanding the impact of our own consumer choices.  I’ll blog more about this later this week, but one tool to use in understanding who makes the goods we use is the Slavery Footprint.  This app allows you to take a survey and see “how many slaves are working for you.”   It’s sobering.

Burma:Parliamentary Question at the House of Lords and Chatham House Awards to Aung Suu Kyi

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities, 3rd December 2011