Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Human Trafficking - UChannel podcast review

A lecture at the Council of Foreign Relations about Slavery in the Supply Chain, delivered by Mark Lagon, of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, U.S. Department of State, was published recently on the UChannel Podcast (also known as University Channel Podcast). The exploitation of people in various forms of labor is of all times and the differences in riches and the demands of economy and in some ways globalization actually encourage slavery and the trafficking of persons. Mark Lagon addresses this problem and talks of the influence of consumers and the industry. If consumers are not ready to buy tuna, when dolphins could have been hurt, the same can go for for example chocolate, when slavery was used somewhere down the supply chain.

In spite of there being laws, slavery exists still and what is needed is what Lagon calls 'good corporate citizenship' in addition to the rule of law. He gives examples from companies such as Gap, Lexus Nexus and Coca Cola and how they are involved in taking action against slavery. His choice of words is very policy-like, I would say; it is about 'monitoring systems' in the private sector and laws and NGO's doing their jobs, about hot-lines and more general examples of instruments that are in place. All is very well, but instruments that are in place are not necessarily being used, or being effective.

As a listener I felt the need for explicit talk. There was one example of Gap stopping a contract with a sweat shop in India, because of its involvement in child labor. The larger part of the podcast is dedicated to Lagon's answers to questions and though the questions are good, Lagon just doesn't manage to turn into an engaged and convincing speaker. Is that symptomatic for the fight against exploitation: a lot seems to be undertaken, but it doesn't sound engaged and convincing?

More UChannel:
Iran 2009,
The denials of yesterday,
Nuts and bolts of empire,
Islam meets Europe,
The rise and demise of Palestine.

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