Pam Omidyar Reflects on the Work of Humanity United as Human Trafficking Awareness Month Comes to a Close

Increasingly, there is more awareness among people today that modern day slavery exists in our world to support the demands of a consumer driven global economy.  Today, many of the goods we use are often produced far from where they are bought, successively changing hands along complex and opaque supply chains.  Forced and child labor exist across too many these supply chains, with documented abuses throughout the production process. A growing body of research tells us there are an estimated 21 to 30 million people living in slavery around the world today.  In fact, trafficking in persons is one of the top-grossing criminal industries globally, with traffickers profiting an estimated $32 billion every year.  It is not acceptable to continue to allow people’s lives to not be free and to have millions of people forced to work without choice or beneficial return for their efforts.

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In 2005, we established Humanity United to build peace, promote justice, and advance human freedom in the areas of the globe where these ideals are challenged most.  Today, I am very proud that Humanity United remains deeply engaged in the effort to combat trafficking and slavery around the world.

President Obama named January National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month to shine a light on modern-day slavery and the trafficking of human beings in the United States and around the world.  As this month draws to a close, let me share with you some of the important anti-slavery work that is being lead and supported by Humanity United on a number of fronts.

Awareness:

Since our founding, Humanity United has supported research and investigative journalism initiatives to increase the understanding and awareness of the issue of modern-day slavery.  Last spring, we began a partnership with The Guardian to increase the quality and quantity of investigative reporting on issues of slavery and trafficking around the world.  This partnership has resulted in the Modern day slavery in focus site, which continues to produce quality reporting from journalists from around the world.

A few months ago, The Guardian broke the story of the plight of Nepalese labor migrants living, working and dying in forced labor conditions in preparation for the 2020 World Cup in Qatar.  This story brought world-wide attention to this issue, and subsequent reporting from media around the world continues to spur dialogue and solutions about the need for improved standards for these workers.

Supply Chains:

Humanity United is working to engage corporations and businesses, who have an clear opportunity and a moral responsibility to meaningfully contribute to the eradication of slavery from their supply chains.  We are working to support specific efforts within the seafood and palm oil industries, and through efforts like KnowTheChain.org, an online resource we launched with partners last fall to promote greater transparency and dialogue with corporations around the issue of slavery in supply chains.

It is encouraging to see corporations, consumers and investors respond as they learn more about this issue. I am hopeful that Humanity United’s efforts to engage companies around these issues continue to spur understanding and action to ensure no one on our shared planet is enslaved.

Policy Advocacy:

Humanity United convened and continues to support the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking, a coalition of 11 U.S.-based human rights organizations advocating for solutions to prevent and end modern slavery and human trafficking in the United States and around the world. ATEST advocates for lasting solutions to prevent labor and sex trafficking, hold perpetrators accountable, ensure safety and justice for victims and empower them with tools for recovery.

Trafficking in the United States:

When we hear about human trafficking, too many of us assume it is an issue that only occurs abroad, but the sad fact is that it is happening right here at home in the United States. Tens of thousands of people across this country are living in some type of modern-day slavery. And while human rights organizations work to combat this crime, survivors face a plethora of obstacles as they enter a new life and a system that is not equipped to support and help them.

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Last fall, on the one-year anniversary of the President Obama's landmark speech on human trafficking and slavery at the Clinton Global Initiative, Humanity United – together with the federal government and other private donors – launched the Partnership for Freedom, a public funding challenge that asks communities and organizations to propose new solutions for helping victims of human trafficking in the U.S.

We have identified some exciting and innovative finalists from the first challenge, from which judges will choose winners later this spring, and we will launch the next challenge later in the year.

Funding:

Humanity United joined the Legatum Foundation and Walk Free Foundation to recently announce the joint development, support and foundation of an ambitious seven-year effort to raise and deploy $100 million or more to combat modern-day slavery.  The Freedom Fund is the first private donor fund of its size dedicated to combatting modern-day slavery.

Our objective is simple – to seek and align significant funding to the cause while amplifying the impact of our efforts to combat slavery through collaboration – with the goal of measurably reducing slavery in key areas of prevalence by the year 2020.  The Freedom Fund will officially launch later this year.

During National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month and beyond, I am mindful of the millions who continue to suffer in enslavement.  I want to express my gratitude to the dedicated staff and leadership at Humanity United, as well as our many very committed partners, who work every day on these and other initiatives to combat the crime of modern-day slavery and create a free world for all.

It will take the engagement and significant collaboration of public, private, and social sectors to truly shift mindsets and culture around the hidden and shameful nature of slavery. Through greater partnerships, transparency and aligned intention, we can scale immensely to achieve our worthy vision of our shared global freedom.

Humanity United is a U.S.-based foundation dedicated to building peace and advancing human freedom. At home and in the corners of the globe where these ideals are challenged most, we lead and support efforts to lift up the voices and will of people, ensure good governance and the rule of law, engage markets and business as a force for change, and encourage the exploration of promising ideas and innovations to end conflict and slavery—all with the belief that everyone has the right to a life that is peaceful and free. Learn more at www.HumanityUnited.org or follow us on Twitter (@HumanityUnited) and Facebook. Humanity United is part of the Omidyar Group: www.omidyargroup.com.

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Pam Omidyar is the Founder and Chair of the Board of Humanity United, which she established in 2005. Humanity United is a philanthropic organization committed to building peace and advancing human freedom by leading, supporting, and collaborating with organizations that also envision a world free of conflict and injustice.

Pam and her husband Pierre are active philanthropists, guided by a common set of values – a deeply rooted belief in humanity, and a conviction that the world thrives when we prioritize treating others with compassion, dignity, and a respect for diversity. Working across many sectors and geographies, the Omidyars have contributed to causes ranging from economic advancement for the underserved and human rights to technology for improving kids' health and sustainability initiatives.

To fulfill their mission Pierre and Pam are deeply engaged in the organizations they founded, including: HopeLab, Humanity United, Omidyar Network, and Ulupono Initiative in their home state of Hawaii. While each organization across The Omidyar Group has a specific focus, they are united in that they all aim to improve access to create enabling positive conditions for people and their communities.