Change of heart toward money called crucial in trafficking fight

Credit: Petr Kratochvil (CC0 1.0).

At a Vatican conference held Tuesday to mark the World Day against Trafficking, a U.S. diplomat emphasized that the scourge will not be ended until the economic attitudes that lead to human trafficking are changed.

“One cannot simply protect the victims, and bring the victims into a place of safety, if one doesn’t do anything to change the underlying cultural assumptions that help create and foster this slavery, this exploitation, if one does not change the underlying economic assumptions that treat people as commodities,” Luis CdeBaca, the U.S. ambassador at large for trafficking in persons, said July 29 via videolink.

CdeBaca lamented that “governments will always try to reclassify things so they are not defined as human trafficking to protect their fishing industry, to protect their palm oil industry, to protect their charcoal industry, to protect their ability to bring in nannies or people to come and build their stadiums for upcoming sporting events.”

He was speaking to a conference hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, the U.S. embassy to the Holy See, and the Global Freedom Network, about the U.S. state department's 2014 trafficking in persons report.

The event, which has an interrreligious basis – the Global Freedom Network being an alliance of Catholic, Anglican, and Muslim leaders – marked the first World Day against Trafficking, observed July 30.

Joining CdeBaca in the discussion were Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences, and Ken Hackett, U.S. ambassador to the Holy See.

The academy has become in the last year a key player in the fight against human trafficking, at the direction of Pope Francis.

“After a meeting we had with the members of the academy, I sent a letter to Pope Francis in which I asked him if he had suggestions for issues to be developed,” Bishop Sanchez told CNA.

“He responded with a personal letter, saying that he deemed it important that the pontifical academy should focus on human trafficking.”

The U.S. state department issued the human trafficking report June 20; it details the state of this blight in 188 nations. It is focused on “3Ps”, CdeBaca said: prevention, protection, and prosecution.

He emphasized that “one can’t prevent trafficking or protect its victims without holding traffickers responsible for the acts they have committed,” and added that while progress has been made in anti-trafficking laws, the political will to eradicate the trafficking of persons is often still lacking.

“My biggest concern is that as a global community we tend to chase the last tragedy … so last year we were suddenly all concerned about fire safety in Bangladeshi garment factories,” he noted.

“Instead of dealing with the labour recruiters that are feeding people into these factories, or the retailers, asking why they let this slavery happen … we’re concerned about getting fire extinguishers in the factories … so a little bit of change happens, but not enough systemic change to bring us closer to our goal.”

Bishop Sanchez noted that while 44,000 survivors of human trafficking were identified in the past year, “more than 20 million victims of trafficking were not.”

He added that organized crime's annual profits are estimated at $150 billion, and that 80 percent of this sum is from prostitution.

“Some observers speculate that, within ten years, human trafficking will surpass drugs and weapons trafficking to become the most profitable activity in the world,” Bishop Sanchez maintained.

Hackett lamented that human trafficking is “an issue that transcends cultures, nationalities, societies, and economical or political structures … touching virtually every part of our global community.”

“It leaves no corner of our world unaffected.”


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