Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Example of one company making a difference to prevent human trafficking

Montara Circle Update - Headwaters Natural Products from Not For Sale Campaign on Vimeo.

The concept for Headwaters Natural Products was sparked in February 2011 at Not For Sale’s Montara Circle, a think tank of business, political and cultural leaders that stimulate social innovation. Participants were challenged to come up with a plan that would positively impact a 55-square mile region of the Peruvian Amazon that has been a target of human trafficking and forced labor. The idea? Form a beverage company that would use signature ingredients from the area, creating several avenues of economic benefit.
By August 2011, Headwaters Natural Products was the result, formed as a separate for-profit business. That separation enables NFS and Headwaters to partner in a common cause while being free to focus on the activities each does best.
A viable business with social mission at its heart 
While Headwaters runs like any other for-profit business, our social mission is deeply woven into our business model in three ways:
  1. We operate under Not For Sale’s Business Code of Conduct. It requires that sourcing, production and marketing all meet NFS protocols that ensure there is no forced labor involved.
  2. Part of our revenue stream will go directly back to NFS to support their work.
  3. Our first source for ingredients will always start with NFS certified supply chains. Where they don’t exist yet, we hope to help create demand for them.
From beginning to end, we’re committed to balancing the larger universe of human concerns with the demands of creating a profitable business.

You can learn more about Headwaters Natural Products at their website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.   

U.S. Ambassador-at-Large Luis CdeBaca testifies about human trafficking before Senate

On September 14, 2011, Luis CdeBaca, Ambassador-at-Large of the State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (GTIP), testifies before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

It's a short 6 minute video that provides insight into the U.S. government efforts to combat modern slavery, and how money is appropriated. It's interesting to learn how many NGO's and foreign governments rely on GTIP funding and support to combat human trafficking. I did not realize the overwhelming requests GTIP receives for assistance.

Here are some quotes from the video.  Click to read the whole transcript.

"In the last two years, the Office received 998 applications requesting a total of $547 million."

"Our final foreign assistance appropriation for this fiscal year was $16.2 million. While we put every penny of that sum to good use, that total stands in stark contrast to a crime exploiting as many as 27 million victims worldwide."

"The sad reality is that without the modest funding G/TIP is able to provide, many of the projects we support would have to close their doors. That would mean more than just the end of a victim identification initiative or the shuttering of a shelter for survivors. In many instances, it would mean the end of all such services in that country. That must not be the mark of our foreign policy."

"But fighting slavery is more than good foreign policy. It’s part of who we are as a nation. We cannot walk away from that responsibility here at home or in our conduct around the world."

There was also a great interview on NPR "Talk of the Nation" with Ambassador-at-Large Luis CdeBaca that I suggest listening to and I also suggest taking a look at the 2011 TIP (Trafficking in Persons) report

Monday, September 26, 2011

Not For Sale: End Human Trafficking and Slavery

This is a creative and wonderfully made video for an all to common and sad story.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Post Earthquake Child Trafficking in Haiti

News clip on child trafficking in Haiti since the earthquake.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Facts of Modern Slavery

What are the real facts regarding slavery in our world today? How many slaves are there? How many are in the United States? How much is the slave trade worth today? Who is being trafficked?

These are questions one needs to understand in order to fully comprehend the impact of slavery in the world.

First off, let's define slavery.  The following is the definition found on CNN's Freedom Project.

“Slavery occurs when one person completely controls another person, using violence or the threat of violence to maintain that control, exploits them economically, pays them nothing and they cannot walk away.”

This includes, but is not limited to...
  • Debt Bondage
  • Bonded Labor
  • Attached Labor
  • Restavec
  • Forced Labor
  • Forced Prostitution
  • Indentured Servitude
The following is a list of facts gathered from the U.S. State Department, United Nations, university studies and NGO's Free the Slaves and the International Labour Organization.  You can see a visual of these facts in the slideshow below.
  1. According to the United Nations, modern slavery is estimated to generate over $32 billion dollars per year. It comprises the 3rd largest illegal activity behind drug and arms trafficking. To give you an idea of how much money that is, that's more than the combined annual profits of Google and Nike.
  2. Using statistical analysis similar to that used to number endangered species, the International Labor Organization and Free the Slaves estimate that there are 10-30 million slaves worldwide today. 
  3. In a 2005 report, the U.S. State Department estimated that between 14,500 - 17,000 people are trafficked into the United States each year.
  4. According to the U.S. State Department, between 600,000 - 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year. 70% of these are female and 50% are children.
  5. In 1809, the adjusted price of a slave for our day would be $40,000. Today the average price of a slave is just $90. This creates an economic factor not seen in the African slave trade.
  6. In the United States, a runaway will be contacted by a trafficker within 48 hours of running away.
  7. 2010 study of Chicago area pimps found that 48% of pimps in the Chicago area ran away as a child to avoid abuse. 88% of the pimps were abused as children and 76% were sexually assaulted as children. 


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11

On September 11, 2001, I was young 19 year-old living in Dallas, TX. In 2 months I would be leaving to serve a church mission. At the time I was working for a pool cleaning company saving up money to go on this mission. I was driving my work truck in Plano, TX when the news started coming over the radio. As I pulled up to a stop light, I felt like someone had punched me in the gut as the wind was knocked out of me. I looked out my side windows as the other drivers did the same. We had a moment of understanding as we all stared back at each other.

I pulled my vehicle over to the side of the road and I prayed. There was not much else I could do other than pour my heart out to God. I prayed for those in harm's way. I prayed for those who had died and for their families. I prayed for hope. I prayed for my family. I prayed for our country. Then, I went back to work.

I went through the day as if in a trance. Some of the customers invited me into their home to watch the news for a short while when I came to clean their pool. We talked as if we were close friends. We truly became united as a people that day. Trivial differences and insecurities didn't matter.

This blog is about freedom and justice. Writing this blog and reflecting on 9/11 is humbling. I am thankful to live in the United States of America. Compared to much of the world we enjoy so much freedom, safety and justice. We can live and enjoy the pursuit of happiness. We are blessed. This day I will say another prayer. It will be similar to that prayer I offered 10 years ago, except I will give more thanks. This is a truly great nation and there is much to be thankful for. May we find peace and humility this day. May we never forget the tragedy of 9/11, those who passed, and how we were united. May the Lord comfort those that stand in need of comfort and may his love replace hate. This is my prayer.

Stories of the great boat lift on 9/11. The largest sea evacuation in history with over 500,000 rescued by boat.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Two Child Soldiers Released in Burma

Burmese military officials free two young men to their families following international intervention.

The Burmese military, notorious for recruiting under-aged fighters, has released two child soldiers to their families following pressure from a global labor rights watchdog.


Phyo Sithu with his mother following his release from prison, Sept. 2, 2011.

Zaw Wai Lin, 16, and Nay Ye Lin, 15, who were conscripted into different military units, were both allowed to leave their barracks on Friday after each had spent nearly a year in forced service.

Both children had been the subject of RFA coverage after their parents reported the boys missing and local rights group Human Rights Defenders and Promoters (HRDP) filed cases on their behalf with the International Labor Organization (ILO).

Zaw Wai Lin, of Rangoon division’s Hlaing Tharyar township, told RFA that he was released from the Mandalay 111 Directorate of Signal in front of local authorities and his parents.

"A group of army officers, one local authority, and my parents were present when they released me. They didn’t say anything when I was set free,” he said.

“I will be going back to school next year. For now, I will help my mom with farming."

Zaw Wai Lin said he was forced to join the army in September last year at the age of 15... (READ FULL STORY)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Attorney General Biden Renews Call for Backpage.com to Remove Adult Service Ads

NEWS RELEASE: Biden Renews Call on Web Site to Remove Adult Services Ads

Wilmington – Deleware Attorney General Beau Biden today renewed his call on Backpage.com, an online advertising Web site, to eliminate its section of adult-themed classified ads that have been found to solicit child prostitution. In a letter (see attached) sent jointly with 45 other Attorneys General, Biden also called on the site to verify and document specific steps it is taking to prevent illegal activity on its site.

“Backpage.com is simply not doing the right thing by continuing to profit from ads that exploit women and children,” Biden said. “The only way for them to stop this illegal activity and protect kids is to remove its adult services ads and take aggressive action to ensure that these posts don’t appear elsewhere on its site.”

In September, 2010, Biden and 20 Attorneys General wrote Backpage.com requesting that its adult services section be closed. Backpage.com claims it has strict policies to prevent illegal postings. However, Attorneys General have found hundreds of ads on Backpage.com’s regional sites that are clearly for illegal services. Moreover, they point to more than 50 cases in 22 states over three years that involve the trafficking or attempted trafficking of children through Backpage.com.

Attorney General Biden was among Attorneys General who successfully persuaded the online advertising site Craigslist.org to remove its adult classifieds because the postings were being used to solicit child prostitution and other forms of human trafficking. In 2008, Attorneys General in reached an agreement with Craigslist to crack down on illegal listings in an effort to reduce crimes like human trafficking. Craigslist ultimately removed its “erotic services” section altogether in May, 2009.

Backpage.com is owned by Village Voice Media, LLC, which owns 13 weekly newspapers in the United States and is the top provider of “adult services” advertisements. Industry analysts estimate that Village Voice generates more than $22 million in annual revenue from these ads.

In today’s letter the Attorneys General ask the company to substantiate the claim that it enforces policies to prevent illegal activity. Specifically, the attorneys general ask Backpage.com to provide those policies and to describe in detail its understanding of what constitutes “illegal activity” and whether advertisements for prostitution fall into that category. The Attorneys General also seek how many adult services advertisements have been submitted to the site over the past year, how many were individually screened, how many were rejected prior to publication and how many were removed after being discovered to be for illegal services.