UN Calls for Implementation of Anti-human Trafficking Treaties
At the UN General Assembly meeting Monday, UN Officials urged those in attendance to continue to work towards “full implementation” of major anti-human trafficking treaties. The treaties are central in the fight against the US$32 billion global human trafficking industry.  Global estimates of those in forced labor, sexual prostitution, and military labor range from 2.4 million to 27 million. Regardless of the numbers, the industry will continue to grow without support and implementation from UN member countries.

Vuk Jeremic, General Assembly president, opened the two day UN conference aimed at improving coordination among nations in the fight against human trafficking.  When talking about stopping the crime of human trafficking and helping victims rebuild their lives, he said “no effort must be spared.”  We must increase our attention to the matter and collaborate to fight against human trafficking.  Increased sensitivity and awareness training for law enforcement, border control, embassy officials, and peacekeepers is one such area where coordination must be improved.

The two-day meeting will also serve to provide an update on the UN Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons.  The plan was adopted in 2010 and includes measures for integrating the fight against human trafficking into broader programs within the UN as well as increasing development and security globally.  Discussions throughout the meeting built upon the plan and addressed preventing human trafficking, prosecuting offenders, protecting victims, and forming partnerships to fight human trafficking. The Plan also set up the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons. Jeremic requested member countries to provide greater support for the fund.

With almost a third of victims worldwide identified as children, the need for greater collaboration is great. Awareness on the part of government officials, humanitarian organizations, and citizens is necessary to continue in the fight against human trafficking. The UN conference is a huge step in this direction.

– Amanda Kloeppel
 Source: National News Agency of Malaysia
Photo: UN

Chairman Royce on Human Trafficking
 “Trafficking in persons is a grievous offense against human dignity that impacts every country on earth, and disproportionately victimizes girls and children.” – Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA)

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Ed Royce opened a hearing on human trafficking on May 7th, 2013. The hearing will discuss local and private sector initiatives to combat human trafficking.  Modern-day slavery, human trafficking is a growing global crime.

One of the things society must wrestle with is how the vulnerable are treated and protected as well as what their responsibility is in coming to the aid of the exploited. Human trafficking exists in every nation worldwide and targets women and children in disproportionate amounts.  Numbers indicate over 20 million victims of forced labor and forced sex work worldwide. However, bigger than the numbers are the faces and stories of the victims, largely children, who have been stripped of their hope, innocence, and youth.

Chairman Royce’s Chief of Staff, Amy Porter, spent time in India and Cambodia serving victims of human trafficking. She recounts girls as young as 3 years old in awful, disgusting situations. Closer to home, it is estimated that 100,000 children in the US are victims of human trafficking.  The Foreign Affairs Committee has worked tirelessly to get human trafficking on the minds of Congress and will continue to work hard to make the issue an urgent and pressing one in the coming weeks and years.

The hearing will look at some of the promising private sector and community partnerships going on worldwide and the implications of those innovative partnerships in eradicating human trafficking. The tools that are being developed and the relationships established on the local, community level may just be the answer to fighting human trafficking worldwide.

Videos of the Question and Answer session as well as the opening statement can be found here.

– Amanda Kloeppel

Source: House Foreign Affairs Committee
Photo: Jewish Journal

Google Donates $3 Million to Fight Modern Slavery
Google announced a $3 million grant that will fight modern slavery by giving anti-human trafficking organizations the ability to pool hotlines, data, and resources.  The $3 million dollar grant will go to support the Global Human Trafficking Hotline Network. This network, running between organizations in the USA, Southeast Asia, and Europe, will be the largest data-sharing effort aimed towards the fight against modern-day slavery. Google has given more than $14.5 million to anti-trafficking efforts and is committed as a company to the fight against slavery.

With an estimated 27 million human-trafficked slaves worldwide, Google’s grant brings further awareness and resources to the fight. Human trafficking is defined by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act as the recruitment, transportation, or harboring of people by means of force, deception or coercion. Many of these individuals are trapped in extreme poverty and feel left with little choice. Currently, many nations are working hard to address the issue, but are often working in isolation. The trends and data from Southeast Asia rarely make it back to the US where data can be combined and studied further. The Global hotline will allow countries to standardize data, identify trends, and combine statistics in order to gather a comprehensive picture and develop better tactics to fight the growing issue.

The Polaris Project, Liberty Asia, and La Strada International were jointly awarded the $3 million dollar grant from Google. In a statement from Jacquelline Fuller, director of Google Giving she says, “The bad guys have been using technology in a much more savvy way…We want to enable the good guys to use technology in highly leveraged ways, so they can innovate faster than the opposition.” The grant will go towards supporting travel expenses, building the platforms needed to share data, identifying more hotlines, and data collection.  Organization officials hope to be able to leverage the technology and use it to create additional hotlines in other parts of the world.

Bradley Myles, CEO of the Polaris Project, has seen the success with the National Human Trafficking Hotline they run in the United States. He says, “Hotlines work. Anywhere a victim is, there (should be a) hotline that covers that area.”  By creating a Global Human Trafficking Hotline, the Google grant is another step towards providing help and hope to victims worldwide.

– Amanda Kloeppel

Source: USA Today

Fair Trade Chocolate
Chocolate, called “xocoatl” by the Aztecs hundreds of years ago, has historically been a staple in life to many millions of people.

Cacao concoctions were drunk by Mayan royalty, lauded as a gift from the gods, and was even used as currency by the Aztecs as early as the 1500s.

Today’s chocolate is also worth a lot of money. Recent estimates of chocolate consumption patterns around the week of Valentine’s Day say that “consumers will buy more than 58 million pounds of chocolate candy, raking in $345 million in sales and accounting for 5.1 percent of total annual sales” in the United States alone, reports Sylvia Camaj of PolicyMic.

The history of chocolate has also always included a dark side, however.

Scholars know that Mayan and Aztec rituals regarded cacao beans as an essential element in some capacity; whether the ritual was religious, concerned life or death, did or did not involve the sacrifice of human life – cacao was seen as a representation of divinity.

Today’s dark side of chocolate stems primarily from the statistic that 40 percent of the world’s cocoa, produced for major companies such as Hershey, Nestle, Mars, Kraft and Dove, comes from plantations in Africa’s Ivory Coast and Ghana, and is responsible for the trafficking of an estimated 109,000 children, says the State Department. The children suffer terrible abuse for their work, beating beaten and forced to work long hours while being exposed to dangerous and stunting pesticides and equipment.

However, smart and dedicated consumers are demanding change from these multi-national companies, and the companies are responding. When Cadbury was bought by Kraft in 2010, Kraft promised “to honor Cadbury’s commitment to Fair Trade cocoa sourcing. Nestle has also committed to buying chocolate that meets international labor rights standards.” Hershey has made similar commitments, although the company still has much work to do regarding their Fair Trade labor practices.

Consumers pressuring companies into morally correct business practices is a healthy, growing global trend that must receive continued attention and support from the international community. A commitment to Fair Trade products helps companies achieve a better moral standing with consumers. They can then be seen as more credible producers.

An example of a global company adopting Fair Trade production is Starbucks, a global giant in coffee that has committed to streamlining several of their beans purely from Fair Trade sources.

Learn more about Fair Trade from Oxfam International.

– Nina Narang

Sources: PolicyMic, Smithsonian
Photo: Urban Earthworm

FreedomProject
It was in 2010 when Emmy-award winning TV producer Kimba Langas partnered up with pastor and social entrepreneur Dave Terpstra to make a difference.

Dave had moved to Mozambique with his family to help rehabilitate women who were survivors of sex trafficking. He wanted to help the women find jobs in order to ensure themselves a sustainable income, thereby lessening their vulnerability. Trafficking is all about vulnerability, he explains; people who are desperate to work and make money are taken advantage of.

“He found his answer in the bustling used clothing markets of Mozambique,” writes CNN producer Lisa Cohen.

Selling bras seems like a unique, new and interesting idea, but it wasn’t based on a random decision. Dave noticed that these women could make a profit that was higher than the minimum wage by selling second-hand clothing, and bras are well-demanded. He went on to team up with Kimba Langas to address this idea, and they created the Free the Girls charity, which collected bra donations from all over the U.S.

Langas created a Facebook page to publicize the start-up fundraiser, and the bras started pouring in. She explains that a majority of women have a large collection of bras that don’t fit well anymore or bras that are not being used anymore. However, after a few months, Langas ran into a new issue concerning the 20,000+ bras she had been sent – the shipping alone would have cost her $6,500, well outside her budget for the project.

“That’s when the story was featured on CNN, and everything changed.”

Paul Jarzombek, Director of Operations at LR International, reached out to Langas since he has a shipping company in Chicago. A domino effect of kindness then occurred as a truck driver, Rick Youngquist, offered to deliver the bras from Denver to Chicago.

Rick had recently joined an organization called Truckers Against Trafficking where truck drivers learn about how to spot and respond to signs of human trafficking on the road. Although it took three months, the bras did eventually reach Maputo, the capital of Mozambique.

According to Lisa Cohen, the success of this bra charity led the Free the Girls organization to target other places within Africa and beyond. For now, women survivors in Mozambique express their gratitude. One survivor has said, “I just want to tell the people in America, they’ve given us the strength we needed. Thank you very much.”

And that is how bras helped human trafficking survivors; anything is possible.

– Leen Abdallah

Source: CNN Freedom Project

Super Bowl Sex Trafficking_opt
Human trafficking is one of the most prevalent, discerning issues of our time. The fact of the matter, which has been professed by organization after organization for years now, is that there are more slaves now than there have ever been in the history of mankind. In the US alone, The Huffington Post has estimated that the industry brings in over $9.5 billion annually.

While this truth is distressing, there is a silver lining. At no point in mankind has there ever been so much support against human trafficking, nor the technology or infrastructural support to combat it, as there is now.

Human trafficking generally implies either forced labor or sex trafficking, the latter occurring in higher frequency around large gatherings of people, where there may be a larger pool of potential clients. An example of such a situation was the Super Bowl XLVII, which passed on February 3rd.

Fionna Agomuoh of The International Business Times writes that there was an “estimated 10,000 women and minors that were trafficked in the Miami area during the 2009 Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla., according to the Florida Commission Against Human Trafficking.” One can only assume that the issue of trafficking around this annual event has only increased in the four years since then.

In anticipation for sex trafficking at Super Bowl XLVII, local businesses, advocacy groups, and law enforcement agencies joined together in a public campaign to support victims and make themselves available to individuals looking to escape the sex work industry by raising awareness in the form of “handing out pamphlets to local clubs and bars detailing how to spot and what to do if sex trafficking is suspected, as well as distributing bars of soap to hotels with hotline numbers etched on them to aid victims looking to escape.”

USA Today also posted a full-page ad against human trafficking prior to the Super Bowl and the “A 21 Campaign, established in 2008, released several Super Bowl-related info-graphics about human trafficking this year.”

Awareness will breed more advocacy on the issue, of course, so while sex trafficking is one of the largest understated issues of American life, much like poverty, arming ourselves and our communities with knowledge and facts about the issue is definitely a step in the right direction.

– Nina Narang

Source: International Business Times
Photo: ChicagoNow

An Anti-Slavery Campaign Called "The Backstory"An anti-slavery campaign called The Backstory has been launched by MTV. Inspired by the winning entry of mtvU’s “Against Our Will” project, the campaign will feature an interactive website with dance videos showing how women and immigrants are trafficked into prostitution and forced labor. The project is focused on demonstrating how trafficking is an issue that can strike anyone and what can be done to counter it.

Collaborating with the anti-slavery campaign are rapper Talib Kweli and dancers from Ailey II. “Ailey II is honored to provide the visual embodiment of these powerful backstories of human labor and sex trafficking,” said Troy Powell, Ailey II’s artistic director. “This is the first time we have participated in an effort such as this one, and it is rewarding to be able to bring awareness to such a worthy cause.”

The winning entry of mtvU’s “Against Our Will” project came from four students at James Madison University. The goal of the project was to find an innovative way to utilize the internet to bring awareness to modern-day slavery. Anti-human trafficking organizations working alongside the “Against Our Will” anti-slavery campaign include the Polaris Project, Free the Slaves, and Girls Educational and Mentoring Services.

“We hope to move viewers to take action and share what they have learned with their friends and networks,” added Powell.

Rafael Panlilio

Source: CNNMTV