HTC associates recently participated in a Google+ video hangout hosted by Ambassador Daniel Baer of the U.S. Mission to the OSCE. The session was appropriately timed, as it took place on the second day of “Not for Sale,” a conference in Vienna bringing together leaders in the field of counter-human trafficking.
The co-hosts of “Not for Sale” were the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe — both active agents in the fight against modern slavery. While the OSCE helps bring prominence to emerging best practices, the Council of Europe is responsible for the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, in force since 2008.
True to these organizations’ commitment to seek input from experts internationally and locally, Ambassador Baer chose to look beyond actors with international influence to reach out to local experts and service providers. Fellow HTC associate Dana Bruxvoort and I were fortunate enough to be invited to take part in the dialogue. The discussion, which took place online on February 18th, included participants from organizations like Love146 U.K., Ark of Hope for Children, Orphan Relief Effort, The Defender Foundation and Grey Guise. The paradigms represented were diverse: non-profit, for-profit, faith-based, secular and academic. Then there was us, representing the Human Trafficking Center and a uniquely research-based approach to the issue.
Strategies discussed for enhancing the OSCE’s work included emphasizing the role of technology and social media, creating spaces for victims to feel secure self-identifying to law enforcement, and encouraging more (and more accurate) empirical research. On this last point, my colleague and I emphasized the need for funding, for cooperation and for more value placed on research generally. Without research, we explained to Ambassador Baer, we lack the framework for understanding the impact of our efforts. Worse, we risk misusing or misallocating already scarce resources. Ambassador Baer was receptive to these ideas, saying that officials who come to the table with passion and anecdotes need more research-based evidence.
It is always encouraging to see intergovernmental actors reaching out to people on the ground. Government agencies and service providers can learn much from each other as they come to appreciate the needs and motivations of those on the other side. Hopefully, more conferences like these will result in more collaboration, more sharing and—you guessed it—more research.
*The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the position of the HTC