Every year during their annual Trust Conference, Thomson Reuters Foundation brings together NGOs, activists, human rights defenders, lawyers, heads of corporations, and philanthropists from around the world to discuss solutions to fight modern slavery, empower women, and advance human rights. The 2018 event took place in London and provided a fantastic opportunity to learn and update our knowledge on local and global efforts and the international conversation about these issues. The TC 2018 highlights include:
- The selection of Veronica Flores, AGAPE’s Founder & GD as a Scholar. Monique Villa, CEO of the Thompson Reuters Foundation made a public recognition including these words: “More than 600 people attended the event, including all of you who are frontline human rights defenders.”
- The first panel on Orphanages as Trafficking Hubs, a phenomenon in developing countries where children are taken from their families, often lured with the promise of an education, and put in orphanages to attract foreign donations. The speakers explained how orphanages that hold children for voluntourism are not just abusing the children, but also abusing the charitable impulse and compassion of people who just wanted to help.
- The panel of survivor leaders also spoke out about the challenge of being tokenized. They pointed out that young survivors do not need sympathy, but support services including housing, healthcare, and education in order to prevent them from falling back into slavery.
- The plenary on Innovations to Tackle Human Trafficking was all about new ideas, new devices, and new methods to counter human trafficking. While technology is often considered a synonym for innovation, it is not a sufficient view on its role and potential. It crucial to recognize that the technological sophistication of traffickers makes innovative approaches necessary and that developing, investing in, and adopting new technology enables innovative responses. Speakers explained how the current scale of investigations is not commensurate to the scale of the problem, urging for continuous monitoring analyzing of data to evaluate legislation. Planet Labs introduced its idea for a modern slavery observatory that allows analyzing satellite images to find and predict the locations of hotspots, and University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab shared how their Slavery from Space project was able to identify brick kilns across South Asia – sites that are infamous for using forced labor.
- During Actions Leading to Solutions: Banks Alliance Around the World the panel discussed the need to share intelligence effectively to detect suspicious transactions and uncover profits from human trafficking, as well the potential of financial investigations to support testimonies and prosection. Intelligence gathering is also critical to limit unintended negative consequences and false positives, to not exclude sex workers and other groups who work voluntarily from opening or keeping checking or savings accounts.
- Outland Denim, whose jeans Meghan Markle wore during the royal tour of Australia last month, and Tony’s Chocolonely shared how they set up their social enterprises to put an end to slavery in their industries and how products can be made differently.
- Apple and Unilever won The Stop Slavery Award, a recognition for the effort both companies have taken to stop modern slavery and to rid it from its supply chain. Apple already introduced an effective process to reimburse workers subject to recruitment fees that may lead to situations of debt bondage and announced a programme to help human trafficking victims get jobs at its stores.
- On the second day, the panel on Migration and Modern Slavery discussed how the world needs migration but wants it on their terms, and how the migration debate has divided southern and eastern European Union states, and societies. Saving human lives has become a politicized act, and safe havens for migrants are increasingly closing, making them more vulnerable to human traffickers and exploitation.