NOTE: This blog post was written by Jillian Lope. She is a senior in the School of Diplomacy and is majoring International Relations, with minors in Spanish and Latin American Studies. She has just returned from studying abroad in Granada, Spain, where she focused on Spanish, economics, and politics. She is the Senior Editor of Seton Hall University’s Her Campus chapter, a top ranking online magazine written by collegiate women. Jillian is also a staff member of 89.5 FM WSOU and a News Reporter for the Global Current, a specialty show run by the School of Diplomacy on 89.5 FM WSOU.
On April 7, 2016, I had the opportunity to attend the symposium, “Ending Human Trafficking by 2030: Global Partnerships in Eradicating Modern Slavery,” hosted by the Holy See Mission to the United Nations and the Santa Marta Group. This high-level event featured five panels: the keynote panel, the scope of the problem, what is being done to address the problem, insights from member states, and reactions from the floor.
Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN, began the panel discussion by reading a letter from Pope Francis to all of the participants of the conference. In his letter, Pope Francis wanted everyone to recognize that modern day slavery and human trafficking continues to scourge the world today. The Pope ended by affirming that he hopes everyone will keep before them “the dignity of every person, and recognize in all of your endeavors a true service to the poorest and most marginalized of society, who too often are forgotten and have no voice.”
The President of the 70th Session of the General Assembly, H.E. Mogens Lykketoft, took the floor and urged that this meeting be used to create alliances, to make human trafficking a priority of the international community, and to promote the use of more press resources in drawing attention to this issue.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and a representative of the Santa Marta Group, discussed how modern day slavery strips a person of their fundamental dignity and makes them a commodity. He described how slavery is present in western countries as well, and recounted instances of women trafficked from England into slavery in Italy. Cardinal Vincent Nichols mentioned that the Santa Marta Group aims to create partnerships between the Catholic Church and state law enforcement in order to combat human trafficking. The main goals of these partnerships are to cater to the well-being of victims, to break up criminal networks by implementing arrests and justice, and to strengthen legal systems regarding this.
Commissioner Kevin Hyland, the United Kingdom’s first Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, stressed that we must act upon the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 8.7, which calls for immediate measures to end forced labor, modern slavery, and human trafficking. It also strives for the prohibition of child labor. While human trafficking makes $150 billion in illegal profit per year, $0 was spent on anti-slavery strategies. The international community needs to realize that as we focus on stopping terrorist groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram, human trafficking is their trade of choice for income. Human trafficking is put on the backburner too often, and we need to be more strategic with our resources. Commissioner Kevin Hyland urged states to work closely with the private sector and identify at-risk communities. From there, states can work locally with them. Human trafficking is a serious and organized crime; people will just be replaced in a never-ending cycle.
The most touching part of the panel discussion was when a human trafficking survivor from the United States spoke about her heart-wrenching experience. This put human trafficking on a much more personal level than a political one. She received a standing ovation after recounting her past. This was my favorite part of the entire panel because it made slavery seem so close, rather than some distant concept to the UN delegates.
The “Ending Human Trafficking by 2030” symposium gave the opportunities for states, non-governmental organizations, survivors, and the catholic church a chance to make the eradication of slavery a top priority. But discussing it in a panel can go so far. Everyone should give this issue attention and urge the international community to have stricter legislation and enforcement against such globalized crime.