Over 20.9 million people are currently being trafficked around the globe. To truly reduce this horrific statistic, the world will have to work together, across borders and industries.
That was the theme of the Alumni Discussion Series event we co-hosted with The McCain Institute for International Leadership, on Tuesday, March 29, on “A Crisis on a Global Scale: How Cooperation Fosters Local Solutions to Human Trafficking.”
This discussion featured three of our alumni currently working in the field to stop human trafficking. Mr. Hafiz Rehmatullah is an alumnus of the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) and is currently a Next Generation Leader at The McCain Institute. Our other panelist, Dr. Danielle Johnson, is a regional manager at the Polaris, which is well known for their trafficking hotline. Our moderator, Mr. Andrew Bogrand, is a communications and outreach officer at Democracy International: a nonprofit committed to human rights.
“We know human trafficking affects every demographic, every industry, and every country,” said Dr. Johnson at the event which was live-streamed from Cultural Vistas’ Washington, D.C. office. She emphasized that its continued existence is a result of the industry still being “low risk, high profit” for most individuals involved.
The panel continued to discuss the global gravity of the situation, and the need for global cooperation. Unfortunately, there are instant barriers to such alliances, such as agreeing on an international definition of trafficking. While the UN Office on Drugs and Crime has an official definition of trafficking in persons, local legislation varies widely. “Trafficking is an undefined issue among our law enforcement [in Pakistan]. We need a comprehensive law,” said Mr. Rehmatullah. Are those forced into labor during war considered trafficked persons? Opinions on this differ domestically as well as internationally.
But cooperation between nations is paramount. “The traffickers are coordinating across borders. We need to coordinate across borders as well,” said Alumni Relations Officer Richard Bobo.
Beyond collaboration between countries, many industries can work together to help prevent trafficking through educational programs. Dr. Johnson said the hospitality industry is an essential partner in thwarting the spread of modern slavery by simply knowing the signs of victims.
The panel also discussed how the airline industry can inform its staff of warnings of potentially trafficked persons. After building awareness, these companies can work together to make trafficking hotlines visible and accessible to guests, customers, and staff, should it be needed.
This industry-wide effort also extends to those within the larger exchange community. As a State Department-designated sponsor of J-1 intern, teacher, and trainee exchange programs, Cultural Vistas makes many measures to ensure the health, safety, and well being of its visitors, and takes its responsibilities for scrutinizing applications and hosts very seriously. We know we all have an important role to play in putting a stop to trafficking.
Professional exchange programs like the ones Dr. Johnson, Mr. Bogrand, and Mr. Rehmatullah participated in are an excellent example of the kind of international cooperation that is possible.
Mr. Rehmatullah said his IVLP experience directly contributed to his work at The McCain Institute, building upon skills and providing international perspectives, and vice versa, he has been able to share insight into the trafficking situation in Pakistan. Dr. Johnson and Mr. Bogrand also spoke about how their experiences in Russia gave them the insight and language skills to do their current work.
— Cultural Vistas (@CulturalVistas) March 29, 2016
Within human rights and beyond, we will continue to bring our alumni experts into our offices to discuss these important international issues.
To gain more insight into the discussion, watch the full video of the discussion here:
If you took part in an exchange program managed by Cultural Vistas and are interested in sharing your expertise at a future event or connecting with former colleagues, we encourage you to leave a comment here and to join our growing community on LinkedIn.