shopify stats
Human Trafficking Center

FTS Leader Teaches DU Students How to Free Slaves


Feb 2016


Note: This blog was originally published on the Free the Slaves website. You can find the original post here

By Rex Hamaker, Director of Marketing and Communications

When asked what he does for a living, Maurice Middleberg answers with a smile: “I free slaves.” On February 9, he told students just how he does it, as a guest lecturer at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies’ Human Trafficking Center.

Long after the Emancipation Proclamation and an array of domestic and international laws criminalizing exploitive labor practices, an estimated 21 million people remain in slavery around the world, minus the over 10,000 Free the Slaves has liberated since 2000.

Middleberg described three main approaches to fighting human trafficking:

  • Groups like Verite seek to fight trafficking by exposing labor exploitation in corporate supply chains.
  • Others, like International Justice Mission, focus their efforts on increasing criminal prosecutions to change the cost-benefit analysis to traffickers who benefit from this “low-risk, high profit” crime.
  • Free the Slaves focuses on community-building strategies. Even while freeing individual enslaved people, Middleberg noted that vulnerabilities to trafficking tend to be community-wide, and solutions for sustainable liberation must be rooted in communities.

With that in mind, Free the Slaves seeks to step-up its efforts by expanding the number of countries and communities it serves, strengthening the capacity of more local institutions, and building coalitions within and across borders.

With a staff of only around 25 people worldwide, this may seem like a daunting task, but Middleberg explained Free the Slaves partners with many local activists, and takes a long-term vision of capacity building that makes sure people who are freed have productive places in communities to which they can return.

The Human Trafficking Center is committed to using academic rigor and transparency, sound methodology, and reliable data to understand forced labor and human trafficking, so students took particular interest in Middleberg’s discussion of how Free the Slaves monitors and evaluates its projects. Having done the difficult and resource-intensive studies necessary to determine the prevalence of human trafficking at the individual level in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Free the Slaves has since shifted its focus to the community level. Middlberg described 16 standard indicators that measure things like institutional capacity and the efficacy of the local criminal justice system that can be improved to eradicate trafficking.

This exciting work should be a welcome complement to other approaches, and the results thus far show promise as the work of Free the Slaves scales up to bring increased action and not just awareness.

Photo Credit: Lise Ehlinger

About the Human Trafficking Center

The Human Trafficking Center, housed in the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies, is the only two-year, graduate-level, professional-training degree in human trafficking in the United States. One way graduate students contribute to the study of human trafficking is by publishing research-based blogs. The HTC was founded in 2002 to apply sound research and reliable methodology to the field of human trafficking research and advocacy.

Founded in 1964, the Josef Korbel School of International Studies is one of the world’s leading schools for the study of international relations. The School offers degree programs in international affairs and is named in honor of its founder and first dean, Josef Korbel.


Print This Post Print This Post

Leave a comment