Seton Hall’s School of Diplomacy hosted the Forum on Modern Slavery: 21st Century Solutions on Friday, September 27. There were several panels of discussion throughout the day which addressed specific aspects of modern slavery with a focus on potential solutions.
The visual media and modern slavery panel included Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker Anisa Mehdi, award-winning journalist Leif Coorlim, and human rights activist Peggy Callahan. Mehdi is also the executive director of the non-profit organization Abraham Path Initiative, which promotes socio-economic development and sustainable tourism in the Middle East. She moderated the discussion on modern slavery and expounded on the role television media had to play in it.
Leif Coorlim, the executive director of the CNN Freedom Project, is a journalist whose reporting focuses mainly on human trafficking and slavery. Coorlim described the CNN Freedom Project as an initiative which aims to expose modern slavery and advocates for change on a global scale, stating “The genesis of the project is to free the captivity of young girls through advocacy and exposing the reality of modern slavery.”
Coorlim’s Freedom Project has been very successful in telling the stories of survivors of human trafficking. “We expose the story and tell it in a humanizing way, and what ends up happening is that it becomes a global pressure not only nationally, but in the international community as well.” Coorlim also talked about how we can all act to end modern slavery. The Freedom Project will hold its ‘My Freedom Day’ on March 11, 2020, as an initiative to highlight local anti-trafficking organizations and help bring together individuals and organizations to speak against slavery. Coorlim encouraged everyone to stand up in the fight of freedom by beginning with their surroundings.
Peggy Callahan, co-founder of two international anti-slavery organizations –Free the Slaves and Voices 4 Freedom– is an expert in campaigning as a television journalist. When asked about the impact of social media on the ability to campaign and take action, Callahan explained that social media’s impact is bottom-up.
“It makes a lot of difference when people around the world go online and complain. This does catch the attention of a lot of people who are on the ground and who can galvanize and help this cause.”
Callahan’s organization, Voices 4 Freedom, helped set up 30 schools in northern India, where 477 children are now able to obtain an education and access basic needs. The schools have been running for three years now and continually receive the support of several local organizations and individuals who assist on the ground. With unanimous agreement from the other panelists, Callahan reminded us all of the first step against this huge social iniquity: “Education is the best vaccination against slavery.”
Another panel focused on the discussion of modern slavery and armed conflict. Raymond Brown, a legal attorney who specializes in international human rights and internal investigations, was the moderator as well as one of the panelists. Brown focused on the historical elements relating to slavery. He talked about the laws that have been set up against the international slave trade, such as the London Charter and the Nuremberg Charter, and how these laws were able to convict people complicit in the slave trade. He maintains that today laws exist to prosecute individuals convicted of slavery, noting that “Both, crimes against humanity and the war crimes section of the Charter, prohibit enslavement, slavery, and sexual slavery.”
Brown ended his speech by addressing how intertwined armed conflict and slavery are: “Armed conflict has a complex relationship with slavery. It is something that has grown out of slavery and has led to enforcement of laws against slavery, but at the same time has shown the reality of slavery and sexual exploitation.”
It is noteworthy that most panels ended with a message of how we should all come together to find solutions to modern slavery. Combating such a large issue usually starts with the smallest steps, such as raising awareness on the matter and acting against it in any capacity, large or small.