January 11, 2017 is a special day. Not because of the numeric coincidence of 1-11-17. But because of the large number of human beings who remain victims of human trafficking, one of the most degrading, harmful and illegal injustices known on earth, and we have to be reminded of it.
In 2007, the U.S. Senate designated January 11 as the National Human Trafficking Awareness Day -- making it the 10th year the world has virtually ignored it. If we knew the real costs of this global injustice we would not need to be reminded. This crime is not just costly. It has deadly and potentially catastrophic consequences for us all.
The Senate marked this day not just to generate awareness, but to generate action. Now they need to take it. Remind them with a phone call, email, tweet, hand written letter, or personal visit. Why? Because the only thing that remains missing is the political will to end it. The political will to create a global structure and system with the means to dismantle trafficking networks and assist survivors in rebuilding their lives, and sometimes their nation.
There are three fundamental ‘self-evident truths’ that will persist in our new ‘post-truth’ era when dealing with nearly any global problem.
- A comprehensive approach is required - no nation alone can effectively address the underlying conditions of global poverty, war, injustice, discrimination, and ignorance that drive most problems.
- A new source of adequate funding is required.
- Sufficient ‘political will’ to do both of these requires more than compassionate motivation. It will require our knowledge that protecting our own national security and fundamental freedoms requires global justice.
Why? Because international human trafficking is often linked to ‘networks’ trafficking in drugs (growing globally), arms (think WMD proliferation and terrorism), and money laundering (involving kleptocrats, banks, offshore accounts and protected entities even within the US). Some gangs are involved in all of these. Some specialize and avoid expanding into the specialty of other criminal groups or institutions. A few violently compete with or eliminate them. Innocent lives are rarely protected.
Basically, there are three sources of people being trafficked globally today. The first is refugees fleeing armed conflicts. The second is “economic refugees” (people migrating from often lethal economic conditions, ethnic/racial tensions, and/or gender-based discrimination within their home country. A third category – or a subcategory of economic migration – is the sex trade. Usually women, but also innocent children.
With ever-tighter immigration policies in many countries, would-be migrants seek “passers” - individuals or groups that offer services’ into other countries, facilitating cross border travel by assisting migrants in avoiding both legal and physical barriers. These passers are rarely nice people like those assisting black American slaves using the underground rail road crossing state border lines in the 1860s.
Modern human trafficking is lucrative and will continue to grow without strong globally enforced counter measures instituted everywhere. Non-governmental organizations can help many but are virtually powerless to stop the flow, without joining with all of us in creating the political will here and abroad for concrete action.
There is another important need -- psychological healing. Too often women and children who have been trafficked into the sex trade have a disrupted or violent family life. And often have a poor image of their self-worth. This is where non-governmental, non-profit institutions can best serve those in need.
But aside from human suffering there is another vital reason to shut down this transmission belt of migrants, drugs, weapons and illicit money. Our national security. Walls won’t stop the damaging and potentially lethal consequences of illegal drugs, infectious diseases, or the proliferation of WMD taking the same pathways as trafficked people.
This takes us back to ‘self-evident truths’. U.S. citizens must advocate for sufficient economic investment in prevention of the conditions that fuel migration. That means funding and achieving the globally agreed upon 17 Sustainable Development Goals for the year 2030. Together, these goals represent the most comprehensive means of preventing most the problems we face.
The single greatest barrier to overcome is funding. More accurately, the ‘political will’ needed to find the financial resources and then most effectively apply them. Most governments are in dire debt and unlikely to cut their own domestic programs to fund improvements in desperate global living standards. Those of us who advocate for global justice need to get creative. We don’t have to look far.
The very problems driving migration often generate trillions of dollars for a powerful few. The powerful few who aquire their ill-gotten gains and bank them in off shore accounts and/or shaded investments in more protected nations, including the United States. Researchers at the Hudson Institute’s Kleptocracy Initiative, Natalie Duffy and Nate Sibley, quote the International Monetary Fund which calculates “as much as 5 percent of the world’s gross domestic product is laundered money, and only 1 percent of it is ever spotted.” These moneys could be preventing the unjust factors that drive migration and human trafficking across borders. Instead they fuel “Illicit cross-border financial flows estimated at $1 trillion to $1.6 trillion per year. A 2012 study put the total private wealth held offshore at up to $32 trillion and suggested that, since the 1970s, elites from 139 low-to-middle-income countries had parked as much as $9.3 trillion in offshore accounts.” The Hudson Institute researchers claim “Some of the money is hidden right here.” That the US has been a “driving force behind global economic reform for the past three decades” but has also “played an important role in the rise of the globalized kleptocrat” and “become one of the leading secrecy jurisdictions.” They state that “Delaware, South Dakota, Wyoming and other states do not require disclosure of corporate ownership, meaning that kleptocrats aren’t parking their assets just in exotic locations like the Cayman Islands or the British Virgin Islands anymore.”
Our own government’s resistance to effectively addressing these global problems urgently and comprehensively is a serious threat to nearly every aspect of our nation’s security. Waiting for problems to reach our cities, or trying to stop them at the border is reactionary and expensive - ultimately depleting finite and precious tax dollars away from vital domestic needs like health care, critical infrastructure, and our national economic solvency (all vital to US national security).
We urge U.S. citizens to use the crime of human trafficking to understand how our whole world is irreversibly interconnected and dependent on the ‘self-evident truths’ referenced in our Declaration of Independence. To fully grasp that the fundamental human right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is universal, and, that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights acknowledges this ‘self-evident truth’ by detailing the essential precursors to stability and sustainability. Our nation is not going to outright institutionalize global justice putting human rights above states’ rights -- as we agreed to do after the Civil War within our own nation. So, for now, the least we can do to prevent most threats to our national security is achieve the Sustainable Development Goals before 2030.
And time is NOT on our side. The acceleration of change, largely driven by unprecedented and barely imaginable advancements in powerful dual-use technologies (cyber, bio, nano, robotics…), These ubiquitous and affordable technologies capable of advancing grandiose objectives or monstrously horrific destruction, is NOT being matched by changes in national or global institutions or effective systems governance.
Whenever systems and structures are not designed using fundamental principles -- expect catastrophic consequences. Before 2010 Haitians built most of their structures using cement without re bar. That fundamental flaw costs more lives in 15 minutes than the both bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. Those who built the US Constitution failed to incorporate the fundamental principle of ‘inalienable human rights’ into that foundation document. That costs more US lives than both World War I and II combined.
‘We the people’ of the US, and the world cannot, cannot continue making this same fatal error. 11117 (Jan.11, 2017) is our ZIP code for speeding the global delivery of ‘life, liberty and justice for all’. It’s that, or prepare for the lethal, expensive, and sometimes catastrophic consequences of failing to incorporate this self evident truth.
Finally. Remember that most of our global problems from the threat of infectious diseases, war, genocide, climate change, species extinction… can be prevented, or more quickly responded to if we globally apply these fundamental principles. They won’t change. We must.
A grand Thank You! to Rene Wadlow, a Global Justice Corps participant, who alerted our ‘435 Campaign’ to this important issue and offered a first draft for inspiration.