Although not as star-studded as the 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report roll out, the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons' 4th Annual Intern Roundtable on July 25 had fanfare all its own. The event's esteemed speakers included Luis CdeBaca, the Department's Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons; Shawn MacDonald, Director of Programs and Research at Verite; and Annick Febrey, Legislative Affairs Manager at International Justice Mission.
The largest of the office's intern roundtables to date, this year's boasted an estimated 350 young professionals from the Department, other government agencies, and D.C.-area NGOs who turned up to learn more about modern day slavery and network with other interns interested in the issue. With a focus on the topics of supply chain transparency and procurement, this year's event addressed how slavery taints the commodities consumers purchase on a daily basis. This theme resonated with the interns and fostered great audience participation. After the presentations, these curious and engaged men and women formed lines twenty deep to expand the conversation and discuss the details that mattered to them.
While discussing his career as a prosecutor, Ambassador CdeBaca talked about a case involving a group of young immigrants, all of them deaf, who were forced to peddle key chains and trinkets on New York subways during the mid-1990s. The Ambassador recounted how, for years, no one riding the subways with the victims had taken notice of their situation or offered help. There is a tendency to assume that if a person does not harbor slaves or frequent brothels, slavery has not touched them. In fact, for years slavery was staring millions of New Yorkers in the face, and they simply did not recognize it. This is generally true for all of us, as we consume commodities on a daily basis that have been touched by slave labor: the coffee we drink, the clothes we wear, the technology we rely on.
Shawn MacDonald spoke about trends within the business world that are contributing to the transparency of supply chains and mitigation of the unethical recruitment and forced labor tainting goods and services in the market today. These included persistent activism and landmark legislation, such as the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act. Annick Febrey adopted a personal approach in her speech, showing pictures first of a small room housing a 6-person family affected by forced labor and then of her beloved horse's stall, the same size as the room. These moving visuals provided a tangible connection to the realities of modern day slavery. Seeing the images of what that family endured, the inhumanity they were made to suffer, showed us all the very human face of this crime. Ms. Febrey also mentioned transparency in government contracting, citing a recent report put out by the American Civil Liberties Union and Yale Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic regarding the trafficking and abuse of migrant workers on military bases.
The demand for information and opportunities to engage on the issue is high. This roundtable showed the enthusiasm among young professionals to understand and pragmatically take on newly-developing dimensions of human trafficking. This is something in which we all have the opportunity to participate and make a difference, as we become more conscious of our interactions with slavery.
To find out how many slaves work for you, check out Slavery Footprint, an electronic survey that calculates the number of slaves you effectively employ based upon products and services used.