Last week Siddharth Kara, author of Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery, was interviewed by Rahim Kanani on forbes.com. Kara who advises the U.N., the U.S. government , and other governments on anti-slavery research and policy, describes how he became involved with the anti-slavery movement as an undergraduate and working at a refugee camp in Kosovo.
In the interview, Kara explains why human slavery is so profitable, far more so than drugs and other illicit businesses. He also describes some of the advances being made in combating human trafficking and what further advocacy is necessary.
Here is an excerpt from the interview:
Rahim Kanani: What are some of the biggest challenges to ending trafficking and other forms of contemporary slavery?
Siddharth Kara: A lack of detailed understanding of how and why slave-like exploitation functions in various sectors of the global economy is a primary barrier to a more effective response. Much effort in the field of combating modern slavery has focused more on anecdote and sensationalism than on actual analysis of the problem. A paucity of resources deployed to understanding and combating slavery is another primary barrier. The US government spends 350 times more money each year to combat drug trafficking than slavery. This does not mean that we will end slavery by simply throwing money at the problem, but it gives a sense of the anemic level of resources that have been allocated towards this issue. And by the way, the US government spends more money to combat slavery than most any other government in the world, so that gives you a real sense of how big the gap is globally. Another primary challenge has to do with the inability of activists in the field to catalyze a more unified grassroots movement to combat the issue. The antislavery movement remains highly fragmented, and as a result, its ability to mobilize social opinion and lawmakers on the issue has been hampered.
Rahim Kanani: Have we made any progress in the last decade and if so, what’s changed?
Siddharth Kara: Without question we have made progress. The primary area of progress relates to a massive increase in awareness of the issue. When I started my research in 2000, very few people knew about human trafficking and contemporary slavery. Since that time, there have been many films and TV shows about the issue, many new organizations created to combat slavery, many new laws passed around the world to do the same, and an overall increase in general knowledge of the issue. However, not all awareness is good awareness, and at times the awareness raised has been sensational, inaccurate, and more focused on personal or organizational gain. Another area of improvement has to do with the engagement of the commercial sector on the issue. More and more companies in several industries have become aware of human trafficking and have taken modest steps to understand and combat the issue. This is a good sign that, if continued, promises to be very beneficial to the field. Finally, charitable foundations and governments have been providing more funding to research and combat human trafficking, and while the gap between supply and demand of resources remains very wide, at least it has closed somewhat in the last decade.