New Year, New Me?

The beginning of a new year is often a helpful moment for self-reflection, isn’t it?

Whether it brings an optimistic gym subscription or a resolution to file lecture notes straight away (in the words of Aragorn: ‘That is not this day’), we often find ourselves thinking back over the months that have passed and wondering how we might want things to change over the next ones. As we tie up the accounts from our first term of Treated Right, it’s a moment to say thank you for your support – which led to over a £1000 being raised for our chosen charities – and to look towards the future.

With that in mind, it’s also a good opportunity to reflect on developments in human trafficking and exploitation over the last few months on a global and national level. Here are a few noteworthy things:

  • The US Trafficking in Persons Report 2017 (published in April) is so worth reading if you have the time, and want a good overview of the challenges governments face in prevention efforts and the judicial sphere. A section I found particularly encouraging was the TIP Report Heroes,which offers just a few examples of people who are boldly defending the rights of others.
  • There has been positive change in legal efforts: following Britain’s lead (the first country to pass a law requiring companies to disclose their methods to ensure their supply chains are slavery free), other major nations from France to the Netherlands are doing the same. In France, a law was passed which requires companies with over 5,000 employees in the country, or 10,000 worldwide, to publish plans outlining steps to cut out human rights and environmental violations from their supply chains. The Dutch parliament proposed a law to make firms determine if child labour exists in their supply chains, and set out an action plan on how to combat it. Meanwhile, Australia is considering anti-slavery laws similar to Britain’s, and is set to table draft legislation in early 2018.
  • Some of the largest worldwide brands from Adidas to Apple, Intel and Walmart are examining their supply chains and speaking up about what they’re doing to fight slavery. Adidas and Intel were among the winners of the second Thomson Reuters Foundation Stop Slavery Award, recognising their efforts to identify, investigate and root out forced labour. Companies are finding modern slavery is increasingly spotlighted, with regulatory and consumer pressure to disclose what’s going on in the supply chains.

But alongside this there are huge difficulties. Notwithstanding the appalling truth that human trafficking is the fastest growing crime in the world, here are some facts pertinent to this year:

  • 20 countries in the TIP Report are still not state parties to the protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking, supplementing the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime.
  • Earlier this year, legal experts raised serious concerns that Britain’s withdrawal from EU could dramatically curtail efforts to tackle trafficking: the loss of EU regulations, funding from Brussels and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.
  • And what’s described as the ongoing ‘human tragedy’ of the migrant crisis means that more people than ever before are vulnerable to this kind of abuse: in November, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi warned: “Compelled to flee, but without legal pathways to safety, refugees are exposed to appalling harm, together with migrants, including torture, rape, sexual exploitation, slavery and other forms of forced labour,”

So at the start of 2018 there’s a lot to look back on. But surely it’s also a moment to review the way we ourselves live and consume, and ask what we can and should change. If you’ve never taken the slavery footprint calculator test at, then I really encourage you to do so. There’s something very stark about seeing how many people are enslaved to work for the things we own and so easily dispose of.

In response to that, this year you could:

  • Commit to buying Fairtrade, whenever the option is there. Items might cost a bit more but as sustainable food advocate Anna Lappe says: ‘Every time you spend moneyyoure casting a vote for the kind of world you want.’ When buying gifts, take a look at brands like Worldcrafts which develops sustainable, fair-trade businesses among impoverished people around the world.
  • Rethink clothing brands in particular. Fast fashion gathered pace from the end of the 1990’s when brands began to look for new ways to increase profits, and it’s a problem which is ever increasing, with building pressure on supply chains. Check out some ethical and sustainable fashion brands like Know the Origin, Charis Esther Hand Embroidery and People Tree And use charity shops more!
  • Keep up to date with what’s going on in legislation so you can be in touch with your MP. This week saw the launch of the website in support of Lord McColl’s Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill. The Bill will give trafficked people in England and Wales a guaranteed right to support in law, not just in the initial period but with the option of a further 12 months afterwards. The website has lots of information about the Bill, stories from survivors and a feature that lets you contact your MP with a pre-written draft email about the Bill to highlight its potential for positive change. Just enter your postcode and the site will send an email on your behalf to your MP. You can change the text or add your own thoughts if you want to.(Click here).
  • Stay engaged.  A few of us from Treated Right will be going to a dance show and talk on Saturday night – ‘Just Sex’ – to learn more about where Cambridge fits into the sex trade… why not join us?

As we look towards the future it can be hard or discouraging sometimes when the change which we long for doesn’t seem to be taking place. Let’s turn frustration into reflection and discouragement into action.

We’re looking to grow and widen our impact this year. Why don’t you too?

That’s one way to start off your new year right.

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