Fighting Modern Day Slavery One Step at a Time

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

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 estimated worth billions.

One of the key documents used to evaluate trafficking globally is the US Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. This report is important as it evaluates annually how countries are doing. But it isn't enough.

Over Thanksgiving, I traveled to Amsterdam and London to attend meetings on how to ramp up efforts by business, government and academia to fight trafficking. In London, Luis CdeBaca, the U.S. Ambassador-At-Large to Monitor and Combat Human Trafficking, and Baroness Mary Goudie, member of the House of Lords, met with British 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.

Lastly, one key component of fighting trafficking is understanding the impact of our own consumer choices. There are lots of numbers and scores floating around -- like how many twitter followers you have, your Klout score -- and the list goes on. But the Slavery Footprint app/website calculates a number that reflects approximately how many slaves make the products we each use in our daily lives. It's quite sobering. The site asks you a series of 11 questions -- from where you live to what you eat to how many electronics you own -- and calculates a score between 1 and 100. I took the survey, and needless to say, I was surprised by my score. It made me evaluate some of the choices I make every day about what products I use and who makes those products.

It's uncomfortable to think of ourselves as employing slaves, but according to the Slavery Footprint, almost all of us do. As we start 2012, the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, it's a good way to educate ourselves and then take action to end slavery once and for all.

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