What Can Rotarians Do to Help Alleviate Modern Slavery?

By Malcolm Baird, Rotary Club of Brighton North   

A good and common question among Rotarian colleagues particularly after advising them, “THERE ARE MORE SLAVES ON EARTH NOW THAN AT ANY TIME IN HUMAN HISTORY”.  

The Global Slavery Index 2016 www.globalslaveryindex.org estimates 45.8 million in some form of modern slavery. The analysis covers 167 countries and includes an assessment and rating of Government responses to the issue.  There can be different definitions of Modern Slavery, with the Index report covering situations of exploitation and control, inability to leave because of threats, violence, coercion, abuse of power or deception, with treatment akin to a farm animal, refer Appendix 1.  58% of those living in modern slavery are in 5 countries.   An introduction to Modern Slavery (short video Sept 2015) assists our understanding. https://vimeo.com/140641794

An introduction to modern slavery from The Freedom Fund on Vimeo.

The Free The Slaves analysis is 78% are in industries where manual labour is needed, such as farming, ranching, logging, mining, fishing, brick making and in service industries, dish washers, janitors, gardeners and house maids and then 22% trapped in forced prostitution or Sex slavery. It is estimated of those in slavery, 55% are Women and girls and 45% Men and Boys, with approx 26% under the age of 18yrs. https://au.pinterest.com/VeriteFairLabor/products-made-with-forced-labor

What Can Rotarians Do to Help Alleviate Modern Slavery?

  1. Firstly, Create Awareness in Rotarian circles and within the wider public, of the plight of millions who are physically and mentally held in servitude as slaves for commercial gain.

    This can be done with Rotarians learning more on the subject by having speakers at Rotary Club meetings, District Conferences and Rotary Conventions - Speakers covering, Slavery, Human Trafficking and Corporate Ethical Supply Chains and projects that rescue and provide protection, refuge, rehabilitation and education centres. Having booths at Conferences and Conventions, promoting such projects.

    Rotary International and Foundation has geared its humanitarian work around 6 Areas of Focus and alleviating Slavery does not sit squarely under any particular one of them. Rotary International, the Foundation, Districts and their Clubs do magnificent humanitarian work under all the 6 Areas of Focus.  So What Can Rotarians Do to Help Alleviate Slavery, under the Areas of Focus ?  Two stand out for longer term prevention:

  2. Elevate, “Basic Education and Literacy”

    One of the world’s biggest challenges is the extent of poverty and inequality across the globe and certainly within many developing and 3rd world countries. The common belief is that the cycle of poverty can be alleviated / broken through Education. It would be highly desirable that every child has the opportunity of some education, to be able to read and write, to solve problems, have skills, trade skills, understand health and hygiene, have ethics and become self sufficient with skills for employment so as to contribute in the local community. Education for children can assist to lead a family out of poverty and provide hope and opportunity. Through education the cycle of poverty, the need for migration and the vulnerability to human trafficking and slavery can also be broken.

    There are a number of Rotary Club and District examples of supporting “Basic Education and Literacy” projects. The School of St Jude, Arusha Tanzania –“ fighting poverty through education”, is a prime Australian Rotary success example, which may have equals from other Rotary School funding Initiatives in other parts of the world.

  3. Elevate – “Economic and Community Development “  - Help Create and Develop more Viable Communities.

    In the Rotary Foundation 2014-15 Annual Report under the Area of Focus,” Economic and Community Development” it reports The Canadian Adopt a Village in Laos projects, P18, outlines a prime example of Education Resourcing plus they include other Areas of Focus initiatives, building dams, levelling crop fields, installing water tanks, providing water purifiers, toilets, solar panels, school facilities, health and medical centres, the facilities needed by that developing community – covering many Areas of Focus. Providing long term Community facilities and thereby opportunity, growth and sustainable futures.

    The Rotary International publication, Areas of Focus - Project Strategies, are an excellent guide.



    The Rotary International Foundation would have many many more examples of highly successful “Basic Education and Literacy” and “Economic and Community Development” projects. Publication and promotion of such projects, explaining the how and why of their success could prompt more applications, prompt other clubs funding support and / or the Foundation could offer $2 for $1 in grant funding to expand the impact and make a difference in these humanitarian areas of focus. This approach could over time help to alleviate modern slavery along with assisting in a number of Humanitarian Areas of Focus.

    Let’s promote more projects and their funding. 

  4. Rotarians to Influence Corporations, Governments and Consumers – Supply Chain Ethics & Legislation Enforcement

    Rotarians are Consumers, Community and Industry Leaders, Employees, Investors and Voters.   So, Rotarians do have considerable influence with a Corporations reputation and with Governments, in their operational management and statutory compliance and enforcement practices. We Rotarians can hold such institutions and organizations to account to ensure ethics and transparency in supply chain management. Slavery is illegal in every country and Governments and politicians need encouragement to enforce laws.  Rotarians in each country are in a unique and very strong Community position to influence, speak out and lead, to help alleviate this evil practice. Corporations can review   https://knowthechain.org/ and  http://www.sourcingnetwork.org/anti-slavery-resources/    Support the International Labour Organization http://50forfreedom.org/ campaign to end modern slavery via governments.

    Refer -  The UK, The Modern Slavery Act  http://www.gov.uk/government/.../transparency-in-supply-chains-a-practical-guidewww.gov.uk/government/publications/transparency-in-supply-chains-a-practical-guide.  Similar legislation in other major developed economies would certainly be beneficial.

    For my last view or Idea - Can I be a little controversial.  Could Rotary International address this major humanitarian and moral issue, by looking at it from a slightly different direction ?

  5. Put the subject of Modern Slavery on the Rotary International  Agenda - and Develop a long term Strategy.

    Call for ideas and potential action plans from within the top 10 - 12 Slavery Index Countries, Rotary family countries, with a Modern Slavery Issue, from Rotary Clubs and Districts operating in those countries. (From the Global Slavery Index that is, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Indonesia, Egypt, Turkey, Thailand, Philippines, Mexico, Japan, Cambodia.)  (Approx 8300 clubs and 280,000 Rotarians).  Don’t wait for project submissions or grant requests, from Rotary Clubs in developed countries to tackle poverty, basic education and literacy and economic development projects in those countries, - Ask the local Rotary Clubs, District Governors and DG’s elect, in developing countries as to how the Rotary International Family can help support them, with project support, to alleviate slavery and human trafficking in their country.

    Where can Rotary International and other Rotary Clubs and member countries help to Influence and support their Communities, their Government, their Corporations, with specific areas of focus projects, with legislation developments around employment conditions for domestic and foreign workers, recruitment agents registration, with law enforcement training, and corporate supply chain ethical procedures. The Rotary Foundation team in Evanston Illinois, has a very strong and skilled team that could help lead this process along with the Cadre of Technical Advisers who could assist to draw up  5 – 10yr strategic action plans - to tackle modern slavery in the major, 10 to 15 countries, country by country action plans, (different as per each country requirements), just like for Polio. With 160 plus member countries, 530+ Districts, 33,000+ Clubs, and 1.2m members Rotary International could start a wave of change in Regions of poverty and modern slavery over the next decade and ongoing.

    My thoughts are a slightly controversial approach and I would welcome feedback and particularly others thoughts and action plans on the best way forward for the Rotary International Board to help alleviate modern slavery. 

    My desire:    The Rotary International Board and the Foundation to lead and encourage a long term “Strategy”, with action Plans for all Rotarians to assist to alleviate the extent of poverty and modern slavery in our world.

    I can envisage many non Rotarians, individual philanthropists and many international education foundation organizations supporting and financially contributing to such a Rotary International “Strategy”.  Rotarians can and do have a wide range of skills, expertise and influence and do deliver. Check out the following funding opportunity:

    Mac Arthur Foundation   www.macfound.org/programs/100change   Challenge, “100 and Change” is a current competition to secure a $100M foundation grant  --  “ to fund a single proposal that promises real and measurable progress in solving a critical problem of our time”.  Could a Rotary International Foundation, Walk Free, Free the Slaves and the International Justice Mission cooperative Team make an application, with a Strategy project submission in the 2nd round competition in 2019 ?  A combined submission would certainly focus and crystallise thinking and achieve world attention to alleviating modern slavery. (Alternative sources of funding may subsequently unfold after such a public airing of the modern slavery issue and the developed R I strategy).

An articulated Strategy would demonstrate and enhance the reality of what Rotary International stands for, by changing opportunity in communities in greatest need. Rotary International would truly be revitalised, enhance and retain its reputation from its actions of being the leading Humanitarian Organization in the world.

If people do nothing, if we Rotarians do nothing, there will be little change and the scale of Modern Slavery will live on. Let’s be the Rotarians that speak up and lead an abolition movement as part of our humanitarian endeavours. 

Malcolm Baird is available for Club presentations.

Read about The Rotarian Action Group Against Slavery http://ragas.online/

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