June 01, 2012

Campaigning Against Trafficking in the Hospitality Sector (MGA)

The abominable practice of human trafficking on a global basis, estimated to generate revenue of over $32 billion annually, is indicative that slavery, as an institution, is still thriving. The ongoing commoditization of human beings has seen men, women and children bought, sold, and held in bondage to provide coerced labour and sexual services. It is a global enterprise, affecting vulnerable citizens in all regions of the world, and has been described by the Council of Europe as undermining human rights, as well as the fundamental values of democratic societies.

There have been significant advances, both rhetorical and practical, made in the past decade with regards to increasing efforts to clamp down on human trafficking. Protocols, Conventions, and binding legislation have been adopted at international, regional, and national levels, indicating an increased commitment to prosecute and convict those who are guilty of trafficking offences, and well as affording increased legal protection to victims, and attempting to reduce the prevalence of crimes committed through education campaigns and partnerships with civil society groups and NGOs.

However, conviction rates have remained low; victims are still isolated and unable, or afraid, to come forward, and a lack of awareness of the issue prevails amongst the general public. A recent Irish, cross-border brothel raiding operation has discovered three possible victims of human trafficking, confirming the ongoing gravity of the situation in Ireland, and the need for increased anti-trafficking activity.

Mercy International Association has chosen the battle against human trafficking as one of itskey areas of focus and has been engaged in a variety of projects on a global basis, providing safe houses for victims of trafficking, lobbying for improved national and supranational legislation, and engaging in advocacy and educational campaigns in order to raise public awareness.

In the United States, Mercy Investment Services has achieved considerable success using its corporate voice, launching a letter campaign, and partnering with other faith based groups to place pressure on companies to implement policies that will eliminate any engagement with human trafficking in their supply chains. The cooperation of companies in the travel and tourism sectors is of particular salience as they may be uniquely placed to potentially identify and rescue victims. Mercy Investment Services is, therefore, highly encouraged by the fact that dialogue with Wyndham hotel group, and Delta Airlines resulted in both organizations signing the ECPAT Code of Conduct that protects children from sex tourism.

It is necessary to examine the successful strategy employed by Mercy Investment Services in order to determine its strengths and to assess whether it can be applied in other countries where Mercy operates, beginning with Ireland. This research will be undertaken by Siobhán Margolis, who will be contacting members of the successful campaign in the United States in order to gain an in depth understanding of the mechanisms employed, as well as examining the style and efficacy of campaigns in other countries that have sought to place pressure on the hospitality sector to incorporate anti-trafficking policies into their business plans.

The Sisters of Mercy have immediate plans to take up this campaign in Ireland. By contacting other Irish organisations who are interested in pursuing a similar action campaign, and considering the possibility of a joint operation, it will be possible to further determine the direction and shape of an effective campaign strategy for Ireland. The lessons learned will be written up for sharing with other Congregations who are interested in joining in this campaign.

To access the Terms of Reference for the research, click here

Messages to Siobhan Margolis - MGA Intern


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