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.


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.


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, 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.


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.


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 or follow us on Twitter (@HumanityUnited) and Facebook. Humanity United is part of the Omidyar Group:


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.

Thailand: Protect Rohingya ‘Boat Children’


This article has been reposted in its entirety from Human Rights Watch. (Bangkok) - Thailand’s government should urgently send ethnic Rohingya children from Burma and their families to safe and open family shelters. New research documents abuses by Thai authorities, who should take action against camps in southern Thailand used for trafficking Rohingya and punish officials complicit in abuse.

As weather conditions improve, increased numbers of Rohingya, a Muslim minority that is effectively denied citizenship in Burma, have been crossing to Thailand in often-rickety boats.  This has included numerous children, many of whom are unaccompanied by parents.

“Rohingya children need safe, secure environments after fleeing violence in Burma and enduring the trauma of difficult journeys,” said Alice Farmer, children’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Yet Thailand locks up many who reach its shores, leaving them vulnerable to trafficking and further abuse.”

Thousands of Rohingya have passed through one of at least three “trafficking camps” in southern Thailand, where some have been held for ransom or sold to fishing boats and farms as manual laborers, according to Reuters and other media reports in December 2013. The reports allege that Thai immigration officials collaborated with the traffickers by transferring Rohingya held in Thailand to the custody of the traffickers. A high-ranking police official confirmed to journalists the existence of the camps and acknowledged an informal policy called “option two,” which relies on smuggling networks to expel Rohingya migrants, including asylum seekers, from Thailand. The United Nations has called for an investigation into the reports Thai immigration officials moved refugees from Burma into human trafficking rings.

Thailand has no refugee law and does not allow Rohingya to register asylum claims or to seek protection as refugees.

The 2,055 Rohingya migrants Thailand permitted to enter the country in 2013 were treated as “illegal migrants” and did not receive protection as refugees under international law. The government separated families, holding adult men and some male children, including unaccompanied boys, in immigration detention centers, and detaining others, primarily women and younger children, in closed shelters run by the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security.

New Human Rights Watch research shows that Rohingya held in the Social Development Ministry shelters and immigration detention centers have had no legal options for regularizing their immigration status and leaving detention. This prolonged detention with no specified maximum period violates the international legal prohibition against indefinite detention. Meanwhile, children should never be detained because of their immigration status.

In recent months, most Rohingya have escaped from the immigration detention centers and closed shelters, and gone further south in Thailand with the involvement of people smugglers and traffickers. Rohingya told journalists that government officials played a role in these escapes by facilitating contact between the traffickers and the detainees. Children, particularly older boys, were reported to be among those trafficked. Since at least October 2013, some Rohingya were “voluntarily” deported after the government gave them authorization forms in Thai – which most detainees could not read – without providing effective translation assistance. Some Rohingya who agreed to voluntary deportation were not actually returned to Burma but were sold on to traffickers, according to media reports.

Dangers to children fleeing Thailand’s immigration detention centers are squalid and in 2013 were severely overcrowded. In 2013, eight people died in detention from apparent poor health conditions exacerbated by extreme heat and lack of access to health care. Human Rights Watch research found that Thailand has inadequate screening procedures for unaccompanied migrant children, so in a number of cases, there were boys left in immigration detention centers with unrelated adults.

Human Rights Watch investigated conditions in some Thai immigration detention centers and shelters in mid-2013. While conditions in the closed Social Development Ministry shelters were better than those in the immigration detention centers, there were still numerous problems. Children were separated from male relatives, with little or no visitation opportunities, and in some cases, no information about the location of their family members. Children in shelters had little or no access to education.

The Thai government should urgently close down the camps in southern Thailand and prosecute government officials found to be complicit in trafficking from them, Human Rights Watch said. The government has an obligation under international law not to return Rohingya seeking asylum to Burma before first making a fair assessment of their claims. If the Burmese government refuses to accept the return of stateless Rohingya migrants, the Thai government should release them as there is no legitimate reason to detain people solely for immigration violations who cannot be repatriated.

For those individuals who are detained, the government should urgently improve its screening for unaccompanied migrant children and ensure that those children are not held in detention with unrelated adults. It should accommodate Rohingya asylum-seeking children and their families in open shelters with guaranteed freedom of movement, and provide children access to education.

“Thailand is detaining Rohingya children and leaving them vulnerable to the risk of trafficking,” Farmer said. “As boat traffic picks up, it’s vital that Thai authorities find solutions to keep Rohingya children with their families in open centers, and provide them access to school.”

New Research and Testimony:

Mistreatment of Unaccompanied Migrant Children in Detention Human Rights Watch conducted research in Thai immigration detention centers and shelters in June-August 2013, interviewing some 100 detainees and witnesses, including several Rohingya. Our research found that many immigration detention centers in Thailand are severely overcrowded, with detainees having limited access to medical services and other basic necessities. In some cases, authorities restricted Rohingya detainees, including unaccompanied boys, in cramped conditions in small cells, with barely room to sit. As of August 2013, some had been kept in cells for five months without any access to recreational space. Some suffered from swollen feet and what appeared to be withered leg muscles because of lack of exercise. Eight Rohingya men died from illness while in detention in 2013. While intervention by international agencies had improved medical care somewhat after these deaths, detainees still face unacceptable risks to their health due to poor detention conditions.

While the Thai government made some efforts in 2013 to separate undocumented child migrants and take them out of immigration detention centers, Human Rights Watch found that the screening was inadequate. Children, including unaccompanied migrant children, were among the ethnic Rohingya migrants from Burma held in the immigration detention centers.

Hakim A., a 12-year-old unaccompanied Rohingya boy, told Human Rights Watch that he was detained at the Phang Nga Immigration Detention Center in June: “I was put in the same room with other Rohingya. But I just went by myself in the corner of the room. I didn’t know anybody there.… It’s not a good place: the toilet’s right here, you live right here, you eat right here. It’s all very close.”

Service providers in several Thai provinces told Human Rights Watch that unaccompanied children were among the Rohingya sent by the authorities to multiple immigration detention centers in 2013. The government did not carry out regular age assessment procedures and lacked adequate screening to identify children.

Even when the child or a family member told the authorities about the child’s age, some children remained in immigration detention centers. Latifar Z., a 31-year-old Rohingya woman held in a shelter, was allowed in July to visit the immigration detention center to see her 16-year-old nephew. “I complained. I said he’s not 18, but the people there ignored my complaint and said he was an adult,” she said. “During the violence [against Rohingya in Burma] his mother and three younger sisters were killed in front of his eyes. I think he is still very frightened of these things. He should be here with his family so he can regain his confidence. But they made a wrong transcript at the beginning, and they recorded his age as 18.”

In September 2013, Thailand revised its shelter policy in ways that made it only more likely that children would be detained in immigration detention centers. Following the alleged sexual abuse in a shelter of a Thai girl by a Thai boy (Rohingya children were not involved in this incident), authorities announced a policy whereby all boys over age 12 would be excluded from shelters and sent to immigration detention centers.

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, which provides authoritative interpretations of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, has stated that children should never be detained because of their immigration status. Unaccompanied children, who are particularly vulnerable to abuse in detention as they lack anyone to protect them, should never be held with unrelated adults.

Indefinite Detention of Children in Shelters All Rohingya at government shelters interviewed by Human Rights Watch said they were not permitted to leave the facilities. Service providers, including Thai government officials, confirmed this. The Thai government, which refuses to consider Rohingya asylum claims, made no plans to regularize detainees’ immigration status. This left the Rohyinga essentially forcibly confined in shelters they could not leave, a form of indefinite detention. The only option left to the Rohingya in the shelters seeking to continue their travel to Malaysia was to seek the assistance of outside smugglers, who in some cases turned out to be human traffickers, to escape the shelters.

While some government officials contend that closed shelters help protect migrants, depriving people of liberty to “protect” them from traffickers is not a legitimate basis for detention under international law. In practice, the closed shelters make the people held there easy targets for people smugglers and human traffickers. Human Rights Watch research shows that Thai and Rohingya people smugglers and human traffickers gained access to some of the government shelters in 2013 and in some cases directly arranged “escapes.”

The arrangements with those who facilitate escapes are risky. For instance, in June, traffickers promised to reunite Narunisa, a 25-year-old Rohingya in a shelter in Phang Nga province, with her husband in Malaysia for a 50,000 baht (US$1,660) fee. Instead one of the traffickers took her to an isolated area and raped her repeatedly.

For some Rohingya faced with indefinite detention in Thailand, seeking the help of traffickers may appear like the better of two bad choices. Hundreds did escape from the shelters over 2013.

“Some of my family has already escaped,” said Latifah Z., the Rohingya woman held in a shelter. “Should we follow like the others, or should we stay here? We don’t know about the traffickers, is it safe?”

Indefinite detention solely on grounds of immigration status is never justified against children, according to the Committee on the Rights of the Child. Thailand should guarantee freedom of movement to those in shelters, and ensure that traffickers are not preying on those residing there.

Family Separation and Little Access to Education Thailand’s approach to Rohingya migrants unnecessarily separates families. Men are detained in immigration detention centers in many different parts of the country, often far away from related women and younger children held in shelters. Some Rohingya detainees told Human Rights Watch that they were able to visit family members only once over a period of six months, while others never were able to visit. Others said that they still did not know in which immigration detention center their male relatives were being held.

International law protects the right of children to family unity. Best practices suggest that families should not be separated during immigration proceedings. Thailand should explore the use of shelters for families including fathers and older boys as well as for women and younger children, and should allow shelter residents freedom of movement in and out of the shelters.

Human Rights Watch also found that children had little or no access to education while held in Thailand’s immigration shelters. Niza, a Rohingya boy held in a shelter, said “There’s no school here.… Even in Burma, we went to the mosque. But here, we don’t do anything all day.”

The lack of access to education violates Thai and international law. Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Thailand is party, all children are entitled to education regardless of migration status. The Thai government has said that migrant children with or without legal status in the country are entitled to enroll in schools, yet these Rohingya children have been prevented from doing so by virtue of their detention.

Thai ‘helping on’ policy is not helping Rohingya For years, thousands of ethnic Rohingya from Burma’s Arakan State have set sail to flee persecution by the Burmese government. The situation significantly worsened following sectarian violence in Arakan State in June 2012 between Muslim Rohingya and Buddhist Arakanese, which displaced tens of thousands of Rohingya from their homes. In October 2012, Arakanese political and religious leaders and state security forces committed crimes against humanity in a campaign of “ethnic cleansing” against the Rohingya. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya remain at risk in camps for internally displaced people within Burma. In one camp they were beingguarded by security forces allegedly responsible for the killing of protesters.

During the so-called “sailing season” between October 2012 and March 2013, more than 35,000 Rohingya are believed to have fled the country. International pressure on Thailand to provide temporary protection to Rohingya arriving on its shores resulted in the detention policy used in 2013. Between January and August 2013, the Thai government provided 2,055 Rohingya with “temporary protection” and sent them to immigration detention centers and government shelters.  Since October 2013, almost all of the 2055 Rohingya in detention who were covered by the Thai government’s “temporary protection” policy have either fled the shelters, or escaped or been deported from the immigration detention centers.

Throughout this period, many thousands more Rohingya have fled Burma by boat and have been intercepted at sea by Thai officials and either redirected to Malaysia or handed over to people smugglers and human traffickers who demand payment to release them and send them onwards.

Thailand’s misnamed “help on” policy towards small boats carrying Rohingya has failed to provide Rohingya migrants and asylum seekers with the protections required under international law, and in some cases significantly increased their risk. Under this policy, initiated approximately two years ago, the Thai navy intercepts Rohingya boats that come close to the Thai coast and supposedly provides them with fuel, food, water, and other supplies on the condition that the boats continue onward to Malaysia or Indonesia. Instead of helping or providing protection, the “help on” policy either pushes ill-equipped boats of asylum seekers onwards at sea, or sees them handed over to people smugglers who promise to send the Rohingya onwards for a high price, and hand over those unable to pay to human traffickers.

Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to seek asylum from persecution. While Thailand is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, under customary international law the Thai government has an obligation of “non-refoulement” – not to return anyone to places where their life or freedom would be at risk. In its “Guidelines on Applicable Criteria and Standards Relating to the Detention of Asylum Seekers,” the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reaffirmed the basic human right to seek asylum and stated that “[a]s a general rule, asylum seekers should not be detained.” The UNHCR guidelines also state that detention should not be used as a punitive or disciplinary measure, or as a means of discouraging refugees from applying for asylum.

Human Rights Watch urges the Thai government to work closely with UNHCR, which has the technical expertise to screen for refugee status and the mandate to protect refugees and stateless people. Effective UNHCR screening of all Rohingya boat arrivals would help the Thai government determine who is entitled to refugee status.

Feature photo by Reuters.

Fighting The Cruelty Of Human Trafficking, Social Entrepreneurs Craft New Models For Helping Victims

This article is reposted in its entirety from Forbes and was written by Tom Watson. President Obama has named January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month – public campaigns aimed at shining a light into the darkest corners of human cruelty: modern-day slavery and the trafficking of human beings in the United States and around the world.

One effort to combat trafficking and help its victims centers on the creativity and energy of social entrepreneursPartnership for Freedom is a coalition of funders in partnership with the Federal government to identify and fund new models for “innovative and sustainable social services for human trafficking survivors,” created by Humanity United, which is partof The Omidyar Group, and launched in partnership with the Obama Administration at the Clinton Global Initiative in 2012. The coalition includes the Department of Justice, Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Housing and Urban Development as well as the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Initiative,Steven Spielberg’s Righteous Persons Foundation, and other private donors, led by Pierre and Pam Omidyar.

That’s a lot boldface names, but one aspect of the partnership is well worth noting: a public funding challenge that asks social entrepreneurs to propose new solutions for helping victims of human trafficking in the U.S. That challenge has a prize of up to $1.8M over two years to fund the big ideas and measure their impact. Last month, a pool of 162 ideas from more than 260 organizations in 39 states was culled to a dozen finalists – later this spring, as many as three projects will be chosen for funding.

But while the funding is clearly top down, the ideas are much more bottom up.

And that explicit connection to social services practitioners, regional nonprofits, and a range of social entrepreneurs firmly links the hands-on knowledge and experience in this very difficult societal issue with the kind of support that can get a project off the ground, measure its impact and success – and potentially position the idea for greater scale and sustainability.

“The anti-trafficking space has been around for 15 years, we have laws and strong policies in the books, a great system of justice and engaged law enforcement and social services,” explained Catherine Chen, director of investments at Humanity United. “But there  has been little to no work on innovation around solutions in getting survivors out of the situation and helping them to rebuild their lives. We found this area particularly exciting, and the goal is try and spur groups on the ground, to think big – frankly, bigger than the current funding mechanisms at their disposal.”

The finalists for the initial challenge are intentionally diverse; they include ideas like:

  • SafeNight, a mobile and crowdfunding technology to increase emergency short-term shelter for human trafficking survivors, proposed by Caravan Studios, a division of TechSoup.
  • The Networked Survivor, a plan for creating powerful career paths and networks for survivors of human trafficking, proposed by the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking.
  • Homes for a New Horizon, an initiative designed to economically and socially empower Hawaii’s forced labor trafficked survivors and their families though an agricultural center, created by Pacific Gateway Center.
  • Thrive Partnership, a new community-based model for assisting survivors of domestic sex trafficking in the greater Baltimore area toward long-range goals of increased independence and self-sufficiency proposed by  the Araminta Freedom Initiative

One aspect that drove the decision to create a challenge – even in an age of manifold philanthropic contests that often leave nonprofits weary and defeated – was the idea of pushing for innovation, while also creating an entirely new funding channel. “For most providers, the primary funding mechanism has been the Federal funding model,” said Chen. The application barrier was purposely kept low, she explained; proposals were limited to no more than six pages with no fancy graphics or charts. “We wanted to keep the bar low intentionally at the beginning,” said Chen. Applicants were asked to answer one major questions – how could they increase services and improve the lives of trafficking victims in one of three particular areas: better housing, increased empowerment, or improved social services.

Last week, the finalists gathered in Washington DC for a day of collaboration aimed at tightening the proposed models, thinking through the models, and taking advantage of outside experts provided by the funding coalition to provide different viewpoints and additional knowledge. The pairing of these experts had a dual purpose: to help the teams with their ideas, but also to expose the experts to an issue area they may not be familiar with. For example, a landscape architect will advise the agricultural project in Hawaii, an expert from LinkedIn will counsel on the creation of a  professional network, experts in housing, homeless welfare,  refugees, and foster care will work on other projects. There was also coaches in communications, public relations and story-telling. Human trafficking, admits Chen, is often a hard story to tell – and a tough cause to sell.

Yet, Partnership for Freedom sees a maturing in the services area and a desire of those working so hard to end trafficking to improve systems, use better data, leverage technology, and take a chance on new models. The coalition’s fund in designed to be risk capital for those ventures. “This really needs a grassroots movement behind it,” said Chen. “We need to engage and activate professionals who wouldn’t have any interaction with this issue.

Glancing Back at 2013


This year was rife with important milestones, achievements and events related to the human rights movement. We’ve compiled the milestones that most resonated with us. Let us know what resonates with you in the comments section below. 1) Defeated Militia: Colonel Sultani Makenga, Commander of the M23 rebel group in the eastern DRC, surrendered in Uganda along with 1,700 of his rebel fighters this past November. The M23 were ambushed by the Congolese army (also backed by 3,000 UN fighters) and were forced to either be captured or flee. It was under these pressures that they declared a ceasefire, ending a very bloody 20-month uprising.

2) In RemembranceNelson Mandela, former South African President and beloved anti-apartheid leader, died on December 5th 2013. Widely called “Madiba,” Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years for his political activities during apartheid in South Africa.  Despite his imprisonment he preached the importance of reconciliation and represented survival in the struggle for human dignity. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and leaves behind a legacy of equality, justice and freedom.

Seamus Heaney, an Irish poet and playwright who won the Nobel Peace Prize in Literature in 1995, died on August 30th, 2013. One of his most famous poems spoke of suffering and conflict in Northern Ireland. Below is an excerpt; for the full poem click here.

History says, Don't hope On this side of the grave, But then, once in a lifetime The longed-for tidal wave Of justice can rise up And hope and history rhyme.

3) AppointmentsSamantha Power’s appointment as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations began on August 5th, 2013. Power is widely considered one of the most important thought leaders and is most known for her strong human rights background and specifically for her extensive genocide research. She wrote “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide,” a study on the response of U.S. foreign policy in regards to various cases of genocide. She also authored “Chasing the Flame: One Man's Fight to Save the World,” a book about the heroic life of Sergio Vieira de Mello.

4) Symbol of Defiance: Surviving a gunshot wound to the head for defending her right to an education, Malala Yousafzai continues to promote girls education and serves as an inspirational role model for millions of girls around the world. Malala publically debuted with a moving speech to the UN to mark her 16th birthday.  Malala tells her story of being shot by the Taliban in Pakistan in newly published book, “I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban.”

5) Most Perplexing Conflict: Syria’s civil war continues to escalate in intensity, complexity and scope. For more than two years, violent conflict has ravaged this country and has maimed or taken the lives of thousands of innocent civilians and produced an epic refugee crisis with estimates of 6.5 million people now forcibly displaced with little access to aid or security. Widely considered one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises partly due to the internal chemical weapons attacks that have killed more than 10,000 Syrians, international observers remain baffled as to a viable political (non-military) solution that would result in meaningful peace and lasting stability.

6) More than Meets the Eye: When Edward Snowden, former CIA worker, leaked classified details of the NSA surveillance program, he initiated a controversial, if not historic, debate on privacy vs. security in a post 9/11, digital world, questioning how far the government should go to protect the American public. At the core of this debate is whether the metadata surveillance collected in the name of national security is pursued at the expense of civil liberties, such as privacy rights and freedom of expression. Human rights defenders say current surveillance policies must be reformed to respect privacy and maintain freedom of speech. This is a debate worth following as the implications are serious and far-reaching. For more information click here.

7) Notable Movies: 12 Years a Slave, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Anita and Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry.

8) Favorite Reads: The Lemon Tree, The Glass Palace, Long Walk to Freedom, The Kitchen House, Strength in What Remains.

9) Favorite Tweets

@CivCenter: When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.” -Kenyan proverb

@AmbassadorPower: Violence against women isn’t cultural, it’s criminal. Equality can't come eventually; we must fight for it now.

10) Stunning Statistic: The NSA tracks 5 billion cell phone records daily!

Inside eBay Billionaire Pierre Omidyar's Battle To End Human Trafficking


This article is re-posted in its entirety from Forbes Magazine and authored by Clare O'Connor, Forbes staff.

Pierre Omidyar looked out over Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley this past February, scanning the horizon with his camera in hand. All the billionaire eBay founder could see for miles were huge, belching chimneys taller than houses and mountains of red bricks drying in the winter sun. Kids of 12 or 13 lugged bricks on their backs to and from these ovens, 80 pounds at a time. Ninety percent of the workers here in Bhaktapur, the heart of Nepal’s brick sector, are slaves. Day after day they incur more debt to the traffickers who found them these jobs and hovels to live in nearby.

As Omidyar walked around snapping photos, he grew more certain that he wasn’t seeing the whole picture. “They don’t let people like us visit the bad kilns,” he says. “I extrapolated. If this is one of the good ones, what does a bad one look like?”

It’s a question he’s trying to make permanently moot. Omidyar and his wife, Pam, are taking their considerable fortune and business acumen and deploying them in an ambitious effort to end modern-day slavery. Nepal, they’ve decided, will be their case study; success would have global ramifications.

This means creating Omidyar-funded options so that Bhaktapur’s children won’t feel compelled to sign the human traffickers’ bogus, exploitative contracts. First up: a $600,000 grant that will pay for 2,500 working kids to leave the dangerous, dirty Nepalese kilns and go to school. Next the Omidyars plan to pay for entrepreneurship and money management training to help 4,000 more brick workers escape slavery.

In the past four years the Omidyars have become the single biggest private donors to the fight against the pernicious but lucrative human trafficking industry. They’ve invested $115 million to date in their Humanity United foundation, which funds 85 antislavery nonprofits as well as on-the-ground projects in five countries, including this first one in Nepal. They’ve pledged to spend another $50 million by 2016.

They’re up against increasingly sophisticated sex and labor trafficking rings, many backed by organized crime, in a business that generates $32 billion in worldwide revenues a year, according to the UN. But the Omidyars have recruited powerful partners that stand the best chance to date to win the battle.

When eBay went public in 1998, Pierre Omidyar “skipped ‘regular rich’ and went straight to ‘ridiculous rich,’ ” he says. He and Pam, a molecular scientist and his college sweetheart from Tufts, decided immediately that they’d give the vast majority of their wealth away within their lifetimes (they’ve since signed the Giving Pledge). Both just 31 then and worth more than $7 billion, it was a serious, overwhelming proposition. It took a few early years of earnest, scattershot check-writing across a handful of charities before they focused on trafficking as a target.

Humanity United was Pam’s idea. While Pierre expanded his auction site into a multibillion-dollar public company, she spent her days holed up in a UC Santa Cruz biology lab doing pharmaceutical research for her master’s degree, rarely surfacing to read the news. “I insulated myself against world events,” she says. During a stay in Pierre’s birth city of Paris in the early 2000s, she had time to flip through a National Geographic and landed on a piece about Darfur, at the time descending into civil war. She was horrified at the stories of Sudanese child soldiers and trafficked refugees. She did some digging but couldn’t find much coverage of modern-day slavery in the press or any evidence of attention from rich philanthropists.

Pam decided the couple’s donations to charities like Doctors Without Borders and Oxfam, however generous, were no longer cutting it. Pierre was immediately on board. Sudan would join Nepal on the list of countries they eventually chose to focus their cash on first, along with Congo, Liberia and the U.S., where more than 40,000 women, men and kids are being held as sex slaves, unpaid domestic workers or forced field hands at any given time.

The Omidyars decided they wouldn’t start from scratch unless they absolutely had to. In the U.S. they found a smattering of disparate antislavery NGOs, most of them small and working in isolation. In Florida evangelicals from the faith-based International Justice Mission were trying to free Mexican tomato pickers from forced labor with a group called the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. In California social workers from the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking were working to free women trapped in domestic servitude in Los Angeles, as well as monitoring a growing problem of unpaid farm laborers upstate. Both groups were lobbying for the same antitrafficking legislation with little funding and no cooperation.

Pierre, Pam and their team at Humanity United found the best of these U.S. antislavery nonprofits, grouped them under one umbrella–the Alliance to End Slavery & Trafficking–and invested $8 million across all 12 of them. They didn’t meddle much, trusting that the new group would know best how to make a joint case to Congress to pass a raft of laws.

It’s the same tenet Pierre remembers invoking as a twentysomething computer programmer: Give someone the right tools and the benefit of the doubt, and they’ll rarely screw you. (It was, he recalls, rather tougher to convince the jaded tech press that his new auction platform wouldn’t be overrun with cheaters and counterfeiters.) “In the early days of eBay I articulated for the very first time this belief that people are basically good,” he says. “Ebay’s success as a company depends on the success of the community of sellers.”

The Omidyars’ $165 million pledge to Humanity United is just part of the $1.25 billion they’ve given away to date to philanthropic causes–both nonprofit grants and for-profit investments, mostly in companies that would be considered early stage by Silicon Valley standards. The Omidyar Network’s for-profit portfolio spreads $100 million across 28 microfinance operations as well as smaller injections of capital into startups in developing countries: a mobile payment firm in Zambia and a solar lighting venture on the Indian subcontinent, for example. “For some reason people think that doing good is giving money away and business is just business,” says Matt Bannick, who runs the Omidyar Network. “It’s an artificial bifurcation. Businesses can have a social impact. People are earning their livelihoods on eBay.”

So far the slavery alliance hasn’t let the Omidyars down. A year after Humanity United’s grant kicked in, the combined advocacy efforts of these ex-slaves, social workers, lawyers and churches secured 90% of the amendments they’d requested to the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which helps rescued slaves secure visas and protect themselves from retribution from their traffickers. In 2010 the group lobbied for, and won, a landmark $12 million increase in U.S. federal antitrafficking funds.

To antislavery experts, having the Omidyars’ names attached to the cause has helped legitimize it. “These small NGOs are now part of a whole,” says Kevin Bales, who in 1999 published Disposable People , considered a seminal work on modern slavery (and the first book Pam looked for after reading National Geographic ). “They’re not just going cap in hand to senators. If you want a politician to show up for anything, put a billionaire’s name on it.”

The Omidyars’ investment in the alliance also pays for ex-slaves to train as advocates, meeting regularly with politicians to put a clearer face on the misunderstood business of trafficking. FORBES met a member of this national Survivors’ Caucus, Ima Matul, in a former convent in a grubby part of Los Angeles. It’s been converted into a comfortable shelter run by the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking, one of the 12 U.S. antitrafficking groups funded by the Omidyars. She’s one of 550 slaves from 58 countries the Coalition has helped rescue.

Indonesian, petite and dressed in corporate casual, Matul perches on a leather sofa in the home’s large living room. Along one wall is a row of desktop computers where Ethiopian residents often watch soaps from their home country on YouTube. In a sunny back garden vines half-obscure a stone grotto containing a shrine to the Virgin Mary, a relic from the home’s convent days. The shelter is ten minutes from West Hollywood, where Matul spent three years as a teenaged domestic slave.

She’d already escaped an abusive arranged marriage at age 16 by the time she arrived in L.A. from the East Javanese city of Malang. Her traffickers, an Indonesian couple expecting baby number two, reeled off a list of expectations as soon as she arrived in their handsome home. She’d be a cook, cleaner, housekeeper, nanny, and gardener, all for a promised salary of $150 a month, which never materialized. She was beaten daily. If the wife found a patch of rogue dirt or dust in the house, she’d smear it across Matul’s face. Unable to speak English, she felt trapped and was repeatedly warned she’d be jailed if she tried to escape, a common tactic traffickers use to control young, naive victims.

When Matul was finally able to run away with the help of a nanny working next door, CAST gave her shelter, helped her train for a job in a law firm and then hired her to teach fellow survivors to lobby legislators. Last year Matul testified before Congress as part of a push to see the Trafficking Victims Protection Act reauthorized. Right now it remains stalled in the House; it’ll be up for discussion in the first session following the presidential election. Among other measures it would make it easier for courts to prosecute traffickers. Matul knows firsthand how important the bill is because the woman who held her captive never spent a day in jail.

Humanity United’s latest milestone has been rather more public than the passage of biennial bills or the funding of Nepalese schools. In a speech at September’s annual Clinton Global Initiative conference in New York, President Obama announced a partnership between Humanity United and the White House, backed by $6 million from sponsors including Goldman Sachs in its first big donation to anything slavery-related. “We’re going after the traffickers,” said Obama to a mixture of applause and stunned faces.

The President reeled off new initiatives, all of which will serve to boost Humanity United’s work at the federal level. There’ll be training to help police, Amtrak ticket-takers, teachers and others likely to encounter slaves to better identify them as victims rather than prostitutes or runaways. Tech and Internet companies will be offered incentives to help make the Web safer rather than a tool for traffickers to recruit or sell their wares. There’ll be simpler visa procedures for victims, he said. And, crucially, his administration would be helping take forced labor out of the business supply chain, starting with U.S. government contractors.

“The idea that there are exploitative labor practices that pollute the supply chain, more people are aware of now,” says Pierre, noting also the recent flurry of media attention on Chinese iPhone manufacturer Foxconn. “They are starting to think about, do I want to have a piece of equipment that’s made by people in these horrible working conditions? Sweatshops, basically.”

He had to miss Obama’s announcement, which coincided with an eBay board meeting (it still pays the bills, after all). Pam, however, was in the audience blinking back tears. “It was the longest speech on the topic of slavery since Lincoln was in office,” she says. Not far from Pam sat Ima Matul. Before the address the President had sought out the Humanity United delegation and greeted Matul in her native tongue, the Indonesian language Bahasa. Toward the end of his speech President Obama asked that she stand and be recognized for her work.

Pierre has taken a leadership role among Giving Pledge members and fellow billionaires , teaching how to use entrepreneurial skills to tackle the world’s problems. Former eBay colleague Jeff Skoll and Google cofounders Sergey Brin and Larry Page have both backed antislavery initiatives through their respective foundations after consulting with Humanity United. Overseas, Australian mining billionaire Andrew Forrest has been working toward eradicating trafficking in his own hemisphere. He was moved to found the Perth-based nonprofit Walk Free after a close encounter with slavery. His teenage daughter had been volunteering at an orphanage when it emerged the youngsters weren’t being cared for but rather groomed for sex work.

“‘Value add’ is a horrific term when applied to children,” says Forrest, Australia’s third-richest person. “We had a catatonic reaction to it.” He talks regularly with Humanity United executives to ensure the two groups are working in tandem as much as possible. Like Pierre, Forrest is now a full-time philanthropist; he stepped down as CEO of his Fortescue Metals Group to focus on giving his money away. He also shares the Omidyars’ hope that other NGOs, governments and wealthy individuals will start devoting attention and much-needed funds on ridding slavery from the business supply chain, where it remains prevalent. Big-box store chains are especially susceptible to relying on cheap or forced labor in developing countries, often unaware. “It’s the dark side of globalization,” Forrest says.

For Pierre’s part, he’s encouraged by his February visit to Nepal. He stood in the hallway of a brick kiln school funded by Humanity United money, observing from a distance and taking the occasional photo for his amateur portfolio. Pam sat on the floor of the classroom, joining in the lesson. “I would’ve expected, oh, these are terrible victims, and they’re being beaten every day so they’re kind of downcast, like you might see in the movies, walking around with hunched shoulders,” Pierre says. “They’re regular little kids, and the ones who are in school are raising their hands.”

Photo of Pam and Pierre Omidyar by Michele Clement.

President Obama Calls Human Trafficking by "Its True Name," Modern Slavery


On Tuesday, President Obama gave a speech to the audience at Clinton Global Initiative where he stated that human trafficking, both domestically and abroad, should be called be "its true name," modern slavery. He also gave a shout out to the San Francisco based foundation, Humanity United, for their work on human trafficking. You can watch the entirety of his ground-breaking speech below.

Text provided by the White House:

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Appreciate it.  Please, please, everybody have a seat.

Well, good afternoon, everybody.  And, President Clinton, thank you for your very kind introduction.  Although I have to admit, I really did like the speech a few weeks ago a little bit better.  (Laughter.)  Afterwards, somebody tweeted that somebody needs to make him "Secretary of Explaining Things."  (Laughter.) Although they didn’t use the word, "things."  (Laughter.)

President Clinton, you are a tireless, passionate advocate on behalf of what's best in our country.  You have helped to improve and save the lives of millions of people around the world.  I am grateful for your friendship and your extraordinary leadership.  And I think I speak for the entire country when we say that you continue to be a great treasure for all of us.  (Applause.)

As always, I also have to thank President Clinton for being so understanding with the record-breaking number of countries visited by our Secretary of State.  (Laughter and applause.)  As we’ve seen again in recent days, Hillary Clinton is a leader of grace and grit — and I believe she will go down as one of the finest Secretaries of State in American history.  So we are grateful to her.  (Applause.)

To the dedicated CGI staff and every organization that's made commitments and touched the lives of hundreds of millions of people, thank you for being an example of what we need more of in the world, especially in Washington — working together to actually solve problems.

And that’s why I’m here.  As Bill mentioned, I’ve come to CGI every year that I’ve been President, and I’ve talked with you about how we need to sustain the economic recovery, how we need to create more jobs.  I’ve talked about the importance of development — from global health to our fight against HIV/AIDS to the growth that lifts nations to prosperity.  We've talked about development and how it has to include women and girls — because by every benchmark, nations that educate their women and girls end up being more successful.  (Applause.)

And today, I want to discuss an issue that relates to each of these challenges.  It ought to concern every person, because it is a debasement of our common humanity.  It ought to concern every community, because it tears at our social fabric.  It ought to concern every business, because it distorts markets.  It ought to concern every nation, because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime.  I’m talking about the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name — modern slavery.  (Applause.)

Now, I do not use that word, "slavery" lightly.  It evokes obviously one of the most painful chapters in our nation’s history.  But around the world, there’s no denying the awful reality.  When a man, desperate for work, finds himself in a factory or on a fishing boat or in a field, working, toiling, for little or no pay, and beaten if he tries to escape — that is slavery.  When a woman is locked in a sweatshop, or trapped in a home as a domestic servant, alone and abused and incapable of leaving — that’s slavery.

When a little boy is kidnapped, turned into a child soldier, forced to kill or be killed — that’s slavery.  When a little girl is sold by her impoverished family — girls my daughters’ age — runs away from home, or is lured by the false promises of a better life, and then imprisoned in a brothel and tortured if she resists — that’s slavery.  It is barbaric, and it is evil, and it has no place in a civilized world.  (Applause.)

Now, as a nation, we’ve long rejected such cruelty.  Just a few days ago, we marked the 150th anniversary of a document that I have hanging in the Oval Office — the Emancipation Proclamation.  With the advance of Union forces, it brought a new day — that "all persons held as slaves" would thenceforth be forever free.  We wrote that promise into our Constitution.  We spent decades struggling to make it real.  We joined with other nations, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, so that "slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms."

A global movement was sparked, with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act — signed by President Clinton and carried on by President Bush.

And here at CGI, you’ve made impressive commitments in this fight.  We are especially honored to be joined today by advocates who dedicate their lives — and, at times, risk their lives — to liberate victims and help them recover.  This includes men and women of faith, who, like the great abolitionists before them, are truly doing the Lord’s work — evangelicals, the Catholic Church, International Justice Mission and World Relief, even individual congregations, like Passion City Church in Atlanta, and so many young people of faith who've decided that their conscience compels them to act in the face of injustice.  Groups like these are answering the Bible’s call — to "seek justice" and "rescue the oppressed."  Some of them join us today, and we are grateful for your leadership.

Now, as President, I’ve made it clear that the United States will continue to be a leader in this global movement.  We’ve got a comprehensive strategy.  We’re shining a spotlight on the dark corners where it persists.  Under Hillary’s leadership, we’re doing more than ever — with our annual trafficking report, with new outreach and partnerships — to give countries incentives to meet their responsibilities and calling them out when they don’t.

I recently renewed sanctions on some of the worst abusers, including North Korea and Eritrea.  We’re partnering with groups that help women and children escape from the grip of their abusers.  We’re helping other countries step up their own efforts.  And we’re seeing results.  More nations have passed and more are enforcing modern anti-trafficking laws.

Last week I was proud to welcome to the Oval Office not only a great champion of democracy but a fierce advocate against the use of forced labor and child soldiers — Aung San Suu Kyi.  (Applause.)  And as part of our engagement, we’ll encourage Burma to keep taking steps to reform — because nations must speak with one voice:  Our people and our children are not for sale.

But for all the progress that we’ve made, the bitter truth is that trafficking also goes on right here, in the United States.  It’s the migrant worker unable to pay off the debt to his trafficker.  The man, lured here with the promise of a job, his documents then taken, and forced to work endless hours in a kitchen.  The teenage girl, beaten, forced to walk the streets.  This should not be happening in the United States of America.

As President, I directed my administration to step up our efforts — and we have.  For the first time, at Hillary’s direction, our annual trafficking report now includes the United States, because we can’t ask other nations to do what we are not doing ourselves.  (Applause.)  We’ve expanded our interagency task force to include more federal partners, including the FBI.  The intelligence community is devoting more resources to identifying trafficking networks.  We’ve strengthened protections so that foreign-born workers know their rights.

And most of all, we’re going after the traffickers.  New anti-trafficking teams are dismantling their networks.  Last year, we charged a record number of these predators with human trafficking.  We’re putting them where they belong — behind bars.  (Applause.)

But with more than 20 million victims of human trafficking around the world — think about that, more than 20 million — they’ve got a lot more to do.  And that’s why, earlier this year, I directed my administration to increase our efforts.  And today, I can announce a series of additional steps that we’re going to take.

First, we’re going to do more to spot it and stop it.  We’ll prepare a new assessment of human trafficking in the United States so we better understand the scope and scale of the problem.  We’ll strengthen training, so investigators and law enforcement are even better equipped to take action — and treat victims as victims, not as criminals.  (Applause.)  We’re going to work with Amtrak, and bus and truck inspectors, so that they’re on the lookout.  We’ll help teachers and educators spot the signs as well, and better serve those who are vulnerable, especially our young people.

Second, we’re turning the tables on the traffickers.  Just as they are now using technology and the Internet to exploit their victims, we’re going to harness technology to stop them.  We’re encouraging tech companies and advocates and law enforcement — and we’re also challenging college students — to develop tools that our young people can use to stay safe online and on their smart phones.

Third, we’ll do even more to help victims recover and rebuild their lives.  We’ll develop a new action plan to improve coordination across the federal government.  We’re increasing access to services to help survivors become self-sufficient.  We’re working to simplify visa procedures for "T" visas so that innocent victims from other countries can stay here as they help us prosecute their traffickers.

This coming year, my Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships will make the fight against human trafficking a focus of its work.  (Applause.)  They’re doing great work.  And I’m also proud to announce a new partnership with Humanity United, which is a leader in anti-trafficking — a multi-million dollar challenge to local communities to find new ways to care for trafficking victims.  And I want to thank Johns Hopkins University, which will be focusing on how to best care for child victims.  (Applause.)

Now, finally, as one of the largest purchasers of goods and services in the world, the United States government will lead by example.  We’ve already taken steps to make sure our contractors do not engage in forced labor.  And today we’re going to go  further.  I’ve signed a new executive order that raises the bar. It’s specific about the prohibitions.  It does more to protect workers.  It ensures stronger compliance.   In short, we’re making clear that American tax dollars must never, ever be used to support the trafficking of human beings.  We will have zero tolerance.  We mean what we say.  We will enforce it.  (Applause.)

Of course, no government, no nation, can meet this challenge alone.  Everybody has a responsibility.  Every nation can take action.  Modern anti-trafficking laws must be passed and enforced and justice systems must be strengthened.  Victims must be cared for.  So here in the United States, Congress should renew the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.  Whether you are a conservative or a liberal, Democrat or Republican, this is a no-brainer.  This is something we should all agree on.  We need to get that done.

And more broadly, as nations, let’s recommit to addressing the underlying forces that push so many into bondage in the first place.  With development and economic growth that creates legitimate jobs, there’s less likelihood of indentured servitude around the globe.  A sense of justice that says no child should ever be exploited, that has to be burned into the cultures of every country.  A commitment to equality — as in the Equal Futures Partnership that we launched with other nations yesterday so societies empower our sisters and our daughters just as much as our brothers and sons.  (Applause.)

And every business can take action.  All the business leaders who are here and our global economy companies have a responsibility to make sure that their supply chains, stretching into the far corners of the globe, are free of forced labor.  (Applause.)  The good news is more and more responsible companies are holding themselves to higher standards.  And today, I want to salute the new commitments that are being made.  That includes the new Global Business Coalition Against Trafficking — companies that are sending a message:  Human trafficking is not a business model, it is a crime, and we are going to stop it.  We’re proud of them.  (Applause.)

Every faith community can take action as well, by educating their congregations, by joining in coalitions that are bound by a love of God and a concern for the oppressed.  And like that Good Samaritan on the road to Jericho, we can’t just pass by, indifferent.  We’ve got to be moved by compassion.  We’ve got to bind up the wounds.  Let’s come together around a simple truth — that we are our brother’s keepers and we are our sister’s keepers.

And finally, every citizen can take action:  by learning more; by going to the website that we helped create —; by speaking up and insisting that the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the products we buy are made free of forced labor; by standing up against the degradation and abuse of women.

That’s how real change happens — from the bottom up.  And if you doubt that, ask Marie Godet Niyonyota, from the Congo.  Think about Marie’s story.  She was kidnapped by rebels, turned into a slave.  She was abused — physically and sexually.  They got her pregnant five times.  In one awful battle, her children were killed — all five of them.  Miraculously, she survived and escaped.  And with care and support, she began to heal.  And she learned to read and write and sew, and today Marie is back home, working toward a new future.

Or ask Ima Matul.  She grew up in Indonesia, and at 17 was given the opportunity to work as a nanny here in the United States.  But when she arrived, it turned out to be a nightmare.  Cooking, cleaning — 18-hour days, seven days a week.  One beating was so bad it sent her to the emergency room.  And finally, she escaped.  And with the help from a group that cared, today Ima has a stable job.  She’s an advocate — she’s even testified before Congress.

Or ask Sheila White, who grew up in the Bronx.  Fleeing an abusive home, she fell in with a guy who said he’d protect her.  Instead, he sold her — just 15 years old — 15 — to men who raped her and beat her, and burned her with irons.  And finally, after years — with the help of a non-profit led by other survivors — she found the courage to break free and get the services she needed.  Sheila earned her GED.  Today she is a powerful, fierce advocate who helped to pass a new anti-trafficking law right here in New York.  (Applause.)

These women endured unspeakable horror.  But in their unbreakable will, in their courage, in their resilience, they remind us that this cycle can be broken; victims can become not only survivors, they can become leaders and advocates, and bring about change.

And I just met Ima and Sheila and several of their fellow advocates, and I have to tell you they are an incredible inspiration.  They are here — they’ve chosen to tell their stories.  I want them to stand and be recognized because they are inspiring all of us.  Please — Sheila, Ima.  (Applause.)

To Ima and Sheila, and each of you — in the darkest hours of your lives, you may have felt utterly alone, and it seemed like nobody cared.  And the important thing for us to understand is there are millions around the world who are feeling that same way at this very moment.

Right now, there is a man on a boat, casting the net with his bleeding hands, knowing he deserves a better life, a life of dignity, but doesn’t know if anybody is paying attention.  Right now, there’s a woman, hunched over a sewing machine, glancing beyond the bars on the window, knowing if just given the chance, she might some day sell her own wares, but she doesn’t think anybody is paying attention.  Right now, there’s a young boy, in a brick factory, covered in dust, hauling his heavy load under a blazing sun, thinking if he could just go to school, he might know a different future, but he doesn’t think anybody is paying attention.  Right now, there is a girl, somewhere trapped in a brothel, crying herself to sleep again, and maybe daring to imagine that some day, just maybe, she might be treated not like a piece of property, but as a human being.

And so our message today, to them, is — to the millions around the world — we see you.  We hear you.  We insist on your dignity.  And we share your belief that if just given the chance, you will forge a life equal to your talents and worthy of your dreams.  (Applause.)

Our fight against human trafficking is one of the great human rights causes of our time, and the United States will continue to lead it — in partnership with you.  The change we seek will not come easy, but we can draw strength from the movements of the past.  For we know that every life saved — in the words of that great Proclamation — is "an act of justice," worthy of "the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God."

That’s what we believe.  That’s what we're fighting for.  And I'm so proud to be in partnership with CGI to make this happen.

Thank you very much, everybody.  God bless you.  God bless America.  (Applause.)

Cover photo by the Associated Press.

2011 Highlights: Human Rights in the Rear View Mirror

As the year comes to a close, Article 3 takes pause to reflect on a breathtaking year in human rights. From the Cairo streets to Wall Street, people around the globe demanded freedom, dignity and equality - in some cases toppling governments. Social media tools enabled human rights to go viral unlike anything seen before. Democratic elections took place in Eqypt, Democratic Republic of Congo and Liberia. The U.S. Secretary of State publicly stands on the side of LGBT rights.

In looking back on the sweeping events, here are our top picks of the most notable stories and moments of 2011.

Death of Two Notorious Dictators: Col Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, and one of the world’s most brutal tyrants, met his end after months of intense fighting between Gaddafi loyalists and rebel fighters. Kim Jong Il, leader of the world’s most reclusive country, died suddenly. News of his death was kept secret for two days. We hope 2012 ushers in the fall of another: President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.

A Sad Farewell: The global human rights community mourns the loss of Tim Hetherington,Vaclav Havel and Wangari Maathai.

Most Visceral Videos: (1) A defenseless Egyptian woman was viciously beat in Cairo by helmeted officers. The incident was caught on video and ignited a furor by pro-democracy women and activists around the globe. (2) A powerful short film produced by Human Rights Watch on their behind-the-scenes work in Egypt, Libya and Syria during the Arab protests.

Defining Moment:Nobel Peace Prize officials underscored the importance of bringing women to the peace table by awarding this year’s prize to three extraordinary women: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee, Tawakkol Karman.

One-Year Anniversary of An Unforgettable Act:December 17, 2010, a fruit vendor named Mohammed Bouaziz set himself ablaze in Tunisia. This single act of fatal defiance was the spark that ignited a revolution through-out the Middle East and North Africa, which still rages on today in the region. One year later, Bouaziz remains an unforgettable symbol of the "Arab Spring."

Unleashed Uprisings: Without question, 2011 was the year of revolutions and protests. Singularly the most breathtaking was the "Arab Spring", followed next by the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Other countries who often severely crack down on protesters and dissidents such as China and Russia might take heed in 2012.

The Newest Nation: Sudan split into two countries and South Sudan became the world's newest nation. South Sudan officially celebrated its independence on July 9th in Juba.

Historic Resolution: Multilateral intervention on humanitarian grounds in Libya was widely deemed an unprecedented success because the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine was finally invoked by the UN Security Council to protect civilians. For more discussion, visit Will To Intervene.

Extraordinary Philanthropy: Billionaire George Soros gives $100 million (USD) in the form of a ten year “challenge grant” to Human Rights Watch, the largest grant ever made by Soros to a nongovernmental organization.

Most Notable Field Reports: Atlantic Philanthropies commissioned Jonathan Fanton along with Zachary Katznelson to write a report on Human Rights and Philanthropy. The result: Human Rights and International Justice: Challenges and Opportunities at an Inflection Point. Two other landmark reports worth reading, if you missed them: Untapped Potential: European Foundation Funding for Women and Girls by Mama Cash and Steadfast in Protest: a 2011 report on the situation of human rights defenders worldwide by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.

On Courage and Inspiration: Olivier Bercault and Eve Ensler, two veteran activists each cut from a different cloth but sewn together for defying the odds against cancer and trauma. Olivier, a war crimes investigator and human rights researcher, bravely recovered from life-threatening injuries resulting from a near fatal automobile accident. Eve, an activist and playwright, fought uterine cancer with grace and today, healthy, she continues to advocate for Congolese women via the City of Joy.

A Noteworthy New Film: Last month, we had the chance to see sneak preview of the powerful new film: Miss Bala, produced by actor and producer Diego Luna (Milk and Y tu mamá también). The film is Mexico's official selection for the Oscars and will premiere across the U.S. in January 2012. The film, which is drawing raves for its superb acting and innovative style, tackles the subject of Mexico's drug war from the perspective of a naïve beauty pageant contestant.

Most Overlooked Place:Somalia, a bleak and lawless country fraught with famine, drought, disease, piracy and warring factions which, in combination, have cause nearly 1 million deaths.

Decent into Chaos: Syria's unrest continues to spiral into violent conflict. Most international observer's fear the deteriorating situation may be prolonged and bloody with civilians suffering the most at the hands of the Assad government. It's time to "end this tragedy."

“Flickers of Progress”: Secretary Clinton makes an unprecedented visit to Myanmar (Burma), which included a meeting with oppositional leader Aung San Suu Kyi, to test their commitment to reform and human rights after years of dictatorship and isolation.

Favorite Tweet: “I'd like to think God let Havel and Hitchens pick the third.” By Joshua Treviño (@jstrevino) tweeting on the death of Kim Jong Il.

A Few Worthwhile Reads:The Idea of Justiceby Amartya Sen; Haiti After the Earthquake by Paul Farmer; Unbrokenby Laura Hildebrand; and The Unfinished Revolution: Voices from the Frontline in the Global Fight for Women’s Rights, seven stories edited by Minky Warden.

Stunning Statistic: The world’s population hits 7 billion.

Trends to watch and/or support in 2012:

Technology and Internet Freedom: We plan to stay attuned to the human rights implications of technology, particularly the threat to cyber activists and human rights defenders utilizing technology tools. We are keeping an eye on Sergey Brin and his recently formed foundation, the Brin Wojcicki Foundation, as well, we like to follow Arvind Ganesan and remain curious about Access.

International Justice & Accountability: If “the arc of history bends towards justice,” then 2012 should be a defining year for International Justice. We encourage more support and attention towards the strengthening of international justice mechanisms and institutions. We like to follow and support everything and anything by Richard Dicker as well as the Coalition for the International Criminal Court.

Modern Day Slavery: A shout out to for donating $11.5 million (USD) to fight global slavery! The donation is believed to be one of the largest corporate initiatives ever to fight modern slavery. We like to follow Humanity United, whose mission and grantees seeks to put an end to the practice.

Photo credit from top to bottom: Motley News (Occupy Wall Street), PBS (Clinton and Suu Kyi).

Welcome to the A3A Blog

first post

After some intense brainstorming and creativity sessions we are proud to reveal the new Article 3 Advisor blog! Here you will find posts regarding the human rights + philanthropy fields as well as recent in-country travel experiences. This blog is meant to raise awareness and spark dialogue about timely human rights issues and innovative philanthropy.

In addition to creating a new blog, we have also created a new, informative website for our human rights consulting practice. Take a look by clicking here. As always thoughts and comments are welcome. We look forward to hearing from you!