Welcome to the July 2019 issue of the Global Washington newsletter.
IN THIS ISSUE
- Letter from our Executive Director
- Issue Brief: What Will It Take to End Modern Slavery?
- Organization Profile: Could a New Global Treaty End Violence Against Women and Girls?
- Goalmaker: Veronica Fynn Bruey, Affiliated Faculty Member at Seattle University School of Law
- Welcome New Members
- GlobalWA Member Events
- Career Center
Letter from our Executive Director
We all want a better life for our families and for ourselves. I’d go so far as to say the impulse to improve our lot in life is pretty much universal. When people can no longer bear the conditions in which they live, when they can no longer count on being able to take care of the ones they love, they are willing to do whatever it takes to change those circumstances. Human traffickers look for desperate people like these. Promising them work and a better life, they lure them into some of the most horrific working conditions imaginable. According to the UN, the majority of detected trafficking victims globally are women and girls, most of whom are trafficked for sexual exploitation.
Our newsletter this month explores the terrifying reality of human trafficking in developing countries and some of the ways that organizations and individuals are fighting back. Our Goalmaker this month, Veronica Fynn Bruey, an affiliated faculty member at Seattle University School of Law, escaped the civil war in Liberia to become an award-winning scholar in law, public health, science and psychology, as well as an advocate for displaced and trafficked persons globally. Our featured member organization, Every Woman Treaty, is campaigning to establish a global treaty to end violence against women and girls.
Also, I’m excited to announce that registration for our annual conference in Seattle on December 5th is now open. The conference sold out last year, so if you know you plan to be there, take advantage of Early Bird pricing and purchase your tickets today.
What Will It Take to End Modern Slavery?
By Joanne Lu
We often think of slavery as a scourge of the past, something that developed countries, at least, abolished centuries ago. But devastatingly, slavery continues to thrive around the world, in both rich and poor countries – so much so that it is addressed in three of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030. Today, we call it human trafficking.
Although the term often evokes the idea of victims being smuggled across borders, human trafficking is much more than that. It is the exploitation of people – usually girls and women – through force, fraud or coercion for labor, sex, marriage, organ removal, illegal adoption, begging or other purposes.
In January, the UN’s Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said that the number of trafficking victims being reported by countries is increasing. However, it’s difficult for the agency to say if that trend reflects an actual increase in victims or if countries are just doing a better job at detecting and reporting them. Either way, we are far from a complete and accurate picture of the global scale of trafficking, but what we do know is bleak.
The latest UN estimate says that at any given time in 2016, there were 40.3 million victims of human trafficking around the world. In other words, more people than are in the entire state of California are being subjected to modern slavery, including nearly 25 million people in forced labor and 15.4 million in forced marriages.
The UNODC report says that the vast majority of detected trafficking victims – 72 percent – are women and girls, most of whom are being trafficked for sexual exploitation. However, 35 percent of victims who are trafficked for forced labor are also female. That’s why SDG 5, which aims to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls,” includes as Target 2 to “eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.”
Although trafficking is a global problem, the predominant forms of exploitation and profiles of victims vary by region. In East Asia and the Pacific, both women and girls are primary targets for sexual exploitation. In North America, South America, Western and Southern Europe as well as Central and Southeastern Europe, adult women face the highest risk of sexual exploitation, while in Central America, it’s girls.
Women are also primarily targeted for sexual exploitation in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, but there, men are prime targets for forced labor, as well. In the Middle East, East Africa and Southern Africa, men and women are both targeted for forced labor. But in West Africa, children are the main victims of trafficking for forced labor.
Men, women, girls and boys are all at high risk of being trafficked in South Asia. For men, it’s mostly for forced labor, while for women and children it’s for both labor and sexual exploitation. Similarly, in North Africa, adults and children of both genders are targeted by traffickers, but there, it’s primarily for begging, organ removal and other forms of exploitation.
According to the UNODC, most trafficking victims are detected in their home country. However, the highest number of victims detected outside their home region are from East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. On the receiving end, wealthy countries – especially in Western and Southern Europe and the Middle East – have the largest shares of trafficking victims from other regions.
So, what’s driving this global epidemic? In many cases, traffickers capitalize on potential victims’ desire to migrate for better conditions. Increasingly, that desire is driven by conflicts, which have destabilized governments, threatened the physical safety of civilians, eliminated economic opportunities and pushed many families into poverty and hunger. Weak rule of law and depleted resources create ideal environments in which traffickers can prey on desperate people.
But trafficking is also a lucrative operation. In 2014, the International Labour Organization (ILO) reported that forced labor generates $150 billion in illegal profits every year. Two-thirds of that is from commercial sexual exploitation, while the rest is from other forms of economic exploitation. Of those, construction, manufacturing, mining and utilities industries profited the most ($34 billion), followed by agriculture, forestry and fishing ($9 billion) and domestic labor ($8 billion).
Vulcan Productions – a film company founded by Microsoft’s co-founder Paul G. Allen and his sister, Jody Allen – recently brought to audiences the appalling realities of the modern slave industry. Their documentary, “Ghost Fleet,” follows Thai activist, Patima Tungpuchayakul, and her husband, Sompong Srakaew, as they risk their lives to rescue enslaved fishermen in Indonesia. Many were kidnapped from Thailand and Myanmar to “feed the world’s insatiable appetite for seafood,” including fish found in U.S. grocery stores.
Although the fishing and agriculture sectors are certainly responsible for a large share of slavery, the ILO noted in a 2017 report that, apart from sexual exploitation, domestic labor actually accounts for the largest percent (24 percent) of identified forced labor cases in the private economy. That’s because most countries do not protect domestic workers under their labor laws. Many coercive practices also occur in construction, which accounts for 18 percent of identified forced labor exploitation cases.
Perhaps the sector that has received the most attention for forced labor practices is manufacturing, where 15 percent of identified cases occur. In particular, small garment and footwear factories in South Asia have come under public scrutiny, as have electronics brands. But forced labor is also prevalent in many other forms of manufacturing that haven’t received as much attention, such as medical garment factories in Asia that rely on migrant workers or technology companies that use minerals in their products mined from conflict zones.
But most companies don’t even know if slave labor is a part of their products’ supply chains. That’s why organizations like Made in a Free World have decided to catalyze large-scale change with tools to promote transparency. Their software platform, FRDM (pronounced freedom), is a global database that helps companies map their supply chains to make sure they’re in compliance with national and international regulations on human trafficking and child labor.
Certainly, companies and consumers have a responsibility to exercise due diligence, but governments and the international community also play a critical role in tackling this gross human rights problem. That’s why Target 7 of SDG 8, which promotes “decent work for all,” calls on countries to “take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labor, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labor, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labor in all its forms.”
One step toward doing that is captured by SDG 16, which aims to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.” Well-functioning institutions are absolutely necessary for detecting human trafficking victims, reporting cases and convicting perpetrators. Target 2 of the goal calls specifically for an “end [to] abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children.”
According to UNODC, there has been a significant improvement in countries’ capacities to detect and report trafficking cases. Ten years ago, only 26 countries had an institution that systematically collected and shared data on trafficking. By 2018, 65 countries had such an institution. Still, major gaps in data collection and reporting persist.
In many countries, exploitation goes unreported because victims don’t know how to take legal action against their abusers. The World Justice Project launched the SASANE Paralegal Training Program in Nepal, in order to address that issue. The program, led by survivors, trained trafficking survivors to become paralegals, not only to help them gain financial independence, but also to equip them to help other survivors.
Overall, UNODC says that conviction rates have increased as the number of detected and reported victims have increased. This means that criminal justice systems are working. But many countries, particularly in Africa and Asia, still have very low numbers of convictions, as well as fewer detected victims. These figures suggest an environment of impunity that, if left unaddressed, could incentivize more trafficking.
That’s why it’s so important for the entire global community to work toward sustainable development on all fronts. Abolishing modern slavery not only requires tackling the issues that make people vulnerable to exploitation, but also building a world in which trafficking cannot continue.
* * *
The following Global Washington members are working to end human trafficking.
Every Woman Treaty
Every Woman Treaty is a coalition of more than 1,700 women’s rights activists, including 840 organizations, in 128 nations working to advance a global binding norm on the elimination of violence against women and girls. The organization’s working group studied recommendations from the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and scholarly research on how to solve the problem of violence against women and girls, including trafficking and modern slavery, and found that a global treaty is the most powerful step the international community can take to address an issue of this magnitude. Learn more, sign, and support at everywoman.org.
International Rescue Committee – Seattle
The International Rescue Committee’s anti-trafficking programs strive to provide timely, high-quality, comprehensive services to survivors of human trafficking. The IRC also works to improve the community response to survivors of trafficking by providing training to local service providers and allied professionals and working to enhance collaboration and coordination among multi-disciplinary professionals on behalf of survivors of human trafficking. The IRC’s goal is to help survivors build lives for themselves that are free from abuse and exploitation. rescue.org/united-states/seattle-wa
Resonance is an international development consultancy focused on igniting opportunity in emerging markets. The firm works with companies, NGOs, finance institutions, and international donors to develop new business models and innovative partnerships that improve governance and sustainability outcomes. As part of our work across a number of sectors, Resonance has extensive experience creating shared value public-private partnerships to combat trafficking and reduce supply chain vulnerability. We are currently engaged with USAID on Counter Trafficking in Persons (CTIP) projects in Thailand and across Southeast Asia to address forced labor in the seafood, agriculture, construction, and domestic work sectors. Resonance also supports multinational corporations in their promotion of technologies that enable worker voice, enforcement of fair labor practices, and reduction of incentives for trafficking in their supply chains. resonanceglobal.com
World Justice Project
The World Justice Project (WJP) is an independent, multidisciplinary organization working to advance the rule of law worldwide. Effective rule of law reduces corruption, combats poverty and disease, and protects people from injustices large and small. It is the foundation for communities of justice, opportunity, and peace—underpinning development, accountable government, and respect for fundamental rights. In addition to its research and data initiatives, WJP engages its global network to foster and support locally-led programs that strengthen the rule of law. Seed grants from WJP have supported programs like SASANE Paralegal Training for Trafficking Survivors in Nepal, which places certified paralegals in local police stations to provide frontline assistance for trafficking survivors. And in Kyrgyzstan, WJP recently supported a young lawyer working to end the practice of kidnapping girls for forced marriages. worldjusticeproject.org
Could a New Global Treaty End Violence Against Women and Girls?
By Joanne Lu
What would happen if every country in the world were legally bound by a comprehensive international treaty against all forms of violence against women and girls? The Every Woman Treaty intends to find out.
The project was launched in 2013 under the name “Everywoman Everywhere” by a global group of women’s rights activists, who determined that there is a large gap in international law regarding the protection of women and girls.
Certainly, the United Nations’ (UN) 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, 1993 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women and 2000 Convention against Transnational Organized Crime have all pushed the conversation forward in important and significant ways. But amid the limitations of those existing declarations and conventions, the group saw the urgent need for a legally binding global treaty that holds countries accountable for all forms of violence against women.
Since its launch, the effort has blossomed in a very grassroots fashion into a coalition of more than 1,700 women’s rights advocates and experts, including 840 organizations, in 128 countries.
“I was sold straight away,” says Laurie Tannous, who joined Every Woman Treaty’s Global Working Group in 2016 and serves on their special expert committee on human trafficking. At the time, Tannous – an international business and Canadian immigration attorney – was attending conferences and giving speeches on trafficking, when a new friend introduced her to the Treaty.
“A treaty is a call to action – a collective one,” says Tannous. “And if you have this collective international voice being driven by one document, it keeps things very efficient and powerful.”
Tannous says that when she first got involved, trafficking and modern slavery weren’t yet a major part of the Treaty. Although she is, of course, opposed to violence against women and girls, her work centers on preventing women, children and even men from being smuggled across borders and enslaved.
The group responded to her concerns with what she now recognizes as their emblematic commitment to inclusivity: “Let’s include that, too.”
Today, the group has drafted a “zero draft” or core platform—the framework nations will use to draft the official treaty. The draft has been sent to 2,000 experts for peer-review, and it addresses all types of violence against women, including domestic violence, non-state torture, state-sponsored violence, and workplace violence, as well as trafficking and slavery. It also considers four groups of vulnerable women and girls, three life stages (girls and students, older women and widows of all ages) and specific actionable recommendations for preventing, suppressing and punishing violence against women and girls, including trafficking in persons.
For example, some countries still punish survivors and victims of trafficking and slavery (like sex slaves who are punished for prostitution). This discourages victims from reporting incidents of trafficking, which is absolutely necessary data if countries and municipalities are to work toward eradicating it. The group is aiming for a treaty that prohibits the punishment of survivors and victims, with the hope that in doing so, they would feel safer telling their schools, neighbors, police officers or nurses about the crimes that had been committed against them. Increasing this first level of reporting is a critical first step in tackling the problem.
But in addition to laying out enforceable protocols, Tannous says the goal is also to increase awareness, outreach, and education of the issues and promote effective strategies for eradicating them. For example, the special expert committee on human trafficking identified a huge gap in countries’ understanding of the definition of trafficking. A “lack of clarity in definitions leads to problems in prosecuting violations,” they wrote in their policy memo. In this way, Tannous says, the Treaty is meant to enhance existing UN conventions.
“We can create law all day long, but if it’s not enforced, if it’s not adopted, if it’s not supported, if it’s not talked about – it’s as good as the paper it’s written on, and nothing more,” says Tannous.
At the moment, the Treaty is still in development, as experts review the draft and leaders of the group meet with potential “lead nations,” who will commit to signing the Treaty and serve as its ambassadors. These lead nations will be the ones who bring the Treaty to the UN for adoption by all member states.
The challenge moving forward, according to Tannous, is getting countries to understand that a global treaty to prevent violence against women and girls is not redundant, but rather is a necessary step to closing loopholes in existing international laws and instruments. But once that is clear, she believes the grassroots commitment that launched this effort to begin with will be the same force that keeps the momentum going.
“Just look at the sheer number of women who have taken their own time to contribute to this effort,” she says. “None of us get paid for this, but we’re so personally vested in it that I think everyone intends to see it through – that OK’s mean action.”
If countries translate their commitments into action, then the Treaty could become the catalyst for a historical change in global norms, the group says. Consider the Tobacco Treaty, which ended smoking on airplanes and in many public spaces. Indeed, with enough action, a treaty to end violence against women and girls could end not only the trafficking of women, but all forms of violence against women and girls. Now, wouldn’t that be a treaty for every woman everywhere.
Veronica Fynn Bruey, Affiliated Faculty Member at Seattle University School of Law
By Amber Cortes
“Freedom,” Jean-Paul Satre once wrote, “is what we do with what is done to us.” Professor, lecturer, and award-winning scholar, Veronica Fynn Bruey, has faced some of the most challenging hardships one can imagine: poverty, war, displacement, racism, and violence. Through it all, she found the strength—through her mother, her own personal motivation, her community, and her work, to not only achieve success for herself, but also to help others—specifically victims of human trafficking—find the freedom and protection they deserve.
An Early Life of War and Displacement
Veronica Fynn Bruey was born in Liberia. When she was just 14, the civil war broke out there, and her family became displaced in their own country, and subject to violence and uncertainty. In July 1992, the family decided to flee to Ghana for safety.
“So yeah, that’s how we made it to Ghana. And on a deck of the Ghanaian peacekeeping vessel, three days, in the sunshine and in the rain. No food, no water until we arrived,” she explains.
While in Ghana, the family stayed in a refugee camp. However, things didn’t quite work out as planned, and in 1993, Fynn Bruey’s mother, who was sick, decided to bring the family back to Liberia, despite the ongoing conflict there. But Fynn Bruey, in what she describes as a “life-changing decision,” stayed in Ghana to pursue her education, “because my mom always said: education was the equalizer. And if we needed to make that change and escape the chain of poverty that we constantly had in our family, then I must listen to her and stay back.”
Six Degrees of Affirmation
Veronica Fynn Bruey’s hunger for education turned out to be insatiable, and it led her on her life’s path to earn not one…not two…not three…not four…not even five, but SIX academic degrees.
“People are always fascinated by how I’ve been able to acquire six university degrees given the fact that I came from a war zone,” she says, “and I lost three years of my life that I wasn’t in school, and another two years working, doing my national service in Ghana.”
She’s certainly made up for lost time. Starting in Ghana, with dreams of becoming a medical doctor, Fynn Bruey pursued an undergrad in zoology and biochemistry. But when she wasn’t accepted into the highly competitive medical school there, she didn’t fret. “I wasn’t going to waste my time and be like, without medical school, I’m doomed.”
Instead, Fynn Bruey headed to Canada to continue her education as a refugee-sponsored student, where she earned a BA from the University of British Columbia. She chose to study psychology.
“I came to Canada with a lot of trauma of abuse, I mean, both physical and sexual abuse, from my childhood, and it had haunted me a lot. So, I didn’t do psychology to help anybody else—just myself!” Fynn Bruey explains.
Soon afterwards, Bruey decided to go to England to get her Master’s in Public Health. She liked the more holistic approach of working with populations, and saw it as a better fit for her than medicine. The focus of her dissertation was on refugee mental health. “Of course, you can see where all this is going,” she says with a laugh.
Throughout her life, Fynn Bruey’s studies have been inexorably intertwined with her lived experience as a displaced person and refugee survivor of abuse who grew up with a single mother. But it wasn’t until 2003, when she was introduced by a mentor to a groundbreaking new book at the time: The Natashas: Inside the Global Sex Trade by Victor Malarek, that she encountered the term ‘human trafficking.’ It struck a chord.
“And so, I read it, and I was like, ‘Oh, this is not very much different from my experience of violence. You know, it’s not necessarily… in my case, nobody bought me or took me by force, it was some sort of coercion.” The book, she says, had a profound effect. “So, I was like, this is it for me—I’m going to explore this area, I’m going to give my all into it, because this violence has to stop!”
Fynn Bruey got shortlisted by a Government of Canada program to go to Geneva in 2006. There, she researched health and human trafficking at the International Organization for Migration, and started hanging out at the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, with hopes of using her own experience as a refugee to jump start a career working with displaced people and combating human trafficking.
“I was constantly told I needed a law degree to work there. And I just couldn’t understand! I have three university degrees, and the lived experience of being a refugee, is that not good enough? Yeah… I still needed a law degree.” So Fynn Bruey got her Master’s in Law at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, focusing her dissertation on the legal discrepancies between protecting refugees and internally displaced persons. Prior to her Master’s in Law, she served as a research analyst for the Government of British Columbia’s Office to Combat Trafficking in Persons.
While in the program, Fynn Bruey was encouraged to get her PhD in law as well. “My supervisor said to me, you know, you are not married, you don’t have children. This is a good opportunity to do a PhD!” Eventually, she ended up at the Australia National University (ANU). But when she started applying for teaching positions, she was told she needed yet another degree… a bachelor’s in law.
“Actually, I did it concurrently with the University of London and ANU. It nearly killed me,” she says, laughing. “But I’m somebody who you can never tell that something is impossible to do. Because I will prove to you, with this incessant and daring personality, that I can do it. Even if it costs my own death, I will do it!”
Connecting the Dots of a Clandestine Industry
Fynn Bruey’s wealth of knowledge that comes from studying over half a dozen fields around the globe deeply informs her work in human trafficking. It’s because, she says, these fields—feminism and reproductive rights, public health, migration and displacement, indigenous and race studies, systemic violence, and international law—are all linked.
A cross-disciplinary approach, Fynn Bruey says, addresses the need to see human trafficking as a complex issue. “You need to bring in the feminism aspect, you need to bring the racism aspect, you need to bring a public health aspect into it. You need to bring in patriarchy and power and control, economics and finance.”
For example, understanding psychology, systemic violence, and international law comes in handy when dealing with one aspect of human trafficking—coercion. The United Nations defines human trafficking as recruitment or harboring of people “by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion.” When people are coerced, Fynn Bruey says, they “consent” because they have no other alternative. Another part of what makes human trafficking such a difficult issue to address is its clandestine nature.
“It operates in secret. People who are vulnerable to these situations will never see the light of day; they’re locked up somewhere. Nobody knows whether they exist, or what is happening to them.”
This lack of data makes it hard to actually convict and prosecute traffickers. According to the latest 2019 Trafficking in Persons report, globally the number of new legislation passed to address human trafficking has reduced over the years, and prosecutions and convictions remain startlingly low in proportion to the number of victims reported.
Fynn Bruey says she’d rather spend years developing lasting solutions to combat human trafficking, than to simply adopt a unilateral response to the issue, which is “to limit a holistic or comprehensive approach that could be more lasting, that would be durable, and more sustainable.”
To that end, Fynn Bruey and her husband have started a non-profit called Tuki-Tumarankeh, which is a Wolof expression meaning, “It is the traveler who faces the most difficulty.” The non-profit is dedicated to advancing the welfare of displaced people through research, advocacy, and information, and publishes the world’s only academic journal devoted to raising the profile of displaced persons, the Journal of Internal Displacement (JID).
“That’s How Much It Is Part of My Core”
Throughout her remarkable life, Fynn Bruey’s stayed close to her roots—as a Liberian, a child of war, and a refugee from a very humble beginning. Drawing on her own experiences of trauma and abuse, Bruey is now committed to making sure that vulnerable people—women and children especially—can stay safe and protected, because, she says, “that’s what honestly keeps me grounded. And keeps me remembering that I can never forget where I came from, so that I can continue with that spirit of giving back to society, giving back to community, because a lot of people sacrificed for me to be where I am today.”
Fynn Bruey’s comprehensive education is a powerful tool she’s developed for fighting human trafficking. That, and her steadfast determination and indefatigable spirit to keep working, no matter what.
“Nothing anybody can do or say would deter me from continuing this journey,” Fynn Bruey says. “Because that’s how much it is part of my core.”
Welcome New Members
Please welcome our newest Global Washington members. Take a moment to familiarize yourself with their work and consider opportunities for support and collaboration!
Einstein Rising empowers Africa’s social entrepreneurs through its SME business development curriculum and provides access to startup capital. These wealth creators develop for-profit companies that tackle entrenched social and environmental issues without sacrificing the financial bottom line. einsteinrising.org
The Foundation for International Understanding Through Students (FIUTS) advances international understanding through cross-cultural experiences, student leadership, and community connections. Founded at the University of Washington in 1948, FIUTS programs connect international students, U.S. students, children and K-12 schools, and members of the community through programs that inspire dialogue and cultural exchange. fiuts.org
Gorman Consulting is a firm that provides specialized measurement and evaluation services, primarily in the health sector. gormanconsulting.org
July 12: West African Vocational Schools // Banquet
August 1: Upaya // 2019 Breakfast Briefing
Program Coordinator, Amplio
Associate, Community Engagement, UNICEF USA
DV Services Program Manager II, YWCA of Seattle-King-Snohomish County
Check out the GlobalWA Job Board for the latest openings.