Experts: Cooperation, not cash, key to ending modern slavery by 2030

Visitors attend the ‘Invisible People’ exhibition in South London January 5, 2018. — Thomson Reuters Foundation pic
Visitors attend the ‘Invisible People’ exhibition in South London January 5, 2018. — Thomson Reuters Foundation pic

NEW YORK, Oct 3 — Simply pumping money into anti-trafficking efforts will not achieve a global goal of ending modern slavery by 2030, experts said yesterday, urging greater cooperation between governments, companies and charities to raise awareness and take more action.

Countries should not solely focus on funding but strive to better share information on slavery to boost law enforcement, improve data and strengthen laws, activists, lawyers and government officials said at a conference at the United Nations.

“The world needs to better gather more data on anti-slavery interventions to attract more interest and new partners,” said Amir Dossal, head of Global Partnerships Forum, a non-profit aiming to build partnerships around the 2015 UN global goals.

“It is not just about funding, it’s about intellectual resources and partnerships,” he said at an event on modern slavery held a week after the UN annual world leaders’ summit.

With slavery increasingly regarded as a major global issue, there is growing scrutiny on initiatives to meet a UN goal to end by 2030 a trade estimated to enslave about 40 million people and raise annual illicit gains of US$150 billion (RM621 billion) for traffickers.

To achieve that target, about 9,000 people per day must be saved from or stopped from falling into slavery, and pledging more money alone will not suffice, according to several experts at the annual Global Sustainability Network (GSN) conference.

Scarce data, inconsistent global coordination, and varying views on what constitutes modern slavery and how to end it are hindering the effectiveness of anti-slavery cash, experts said.

“We need to change attitudes (around slavery)... it is not just about money,” said entrepreneur Raza Jafar, founder of the GSN event. “There is a lot of such money wasted by non-profits.”

Hungary’s UN representative, Katalin Bogyay, called for a “free flow” of information between nations to end slavery while Vladimir Bozovic, a state advisor for Serbia, said it was not a “fight of individuals, but a fight for all levels of society.”

“The reality is that the traffickers are winning... we are losing,” said Peter Talibart, a London-based labour lawyer.

“All of the legal frameworks of the UN have failed to contain the crime, it is getting bigger, not smaller,” he added, urging more nations to adopt tough new anti-slavery laws and follow the example set by Britain’s landmark 2015 legislation.

Several conference delegates — from filmmakers to non-profit founders — pointed to the potential of younger generations to effect change through their ethical concerns, purchasing power and capability to put pressure on businesses and governments.

For Karla Jacinto, a Mexican sex trafficking survivor and activist, changing public perceptions around slavery is vital.

“It’s not the acts of bad people that hurt me the most,” she told the conference. “It’s the indifference of the public.” — Thomson Reuters Foundation

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