I live in a country that has slavery.
There are some people who have been illegally brought in to be domestic slaves. There are some people who have been illegally brought in or have been enticed into industrial slavery. There are some people who are in slavery due to the extreme form of arranged or forced marriages. There are many who are in sexual slavery - sold on darkened street corners or through dubious advertising sites.
I live in a country that prides itself as being highly civilised and cultured - yet slavery and grim exploitation is there beneath the surface, sometimes not far beneath the surface. It's something people rarely speak about but know it's there and so, by default, allow it to continue. I live in this civilised country. Many who are reading these words live in similar countries. I can say this with some certainty. And with more certainty … it is a crime that shames us all.
Isn't it good to be so civilised?
I can say with even greater certainty the problems of trafficking, exploitation and slavery are about to become worse. Much worse. Families will be ripped apart, innocence lost, lives destroyed, usually at the hands of insidious criminal gangs whose currency is people, drugs, guns and corruption. How can I be so certain? I can be so certain because in my professional capacity I undertake a significant amount of research and investigation in order to understand how the world is developing and will develop, usually within a 3-5 year time scale. The changes starting to take place will be complex, intricate and highly interconnected. They will fundamentally affect all countries, all companies, all people. This isn't a warning - it is simply a fact.
I won't go into the extensive detail of what the changes will be yet the ripples of consequence will be far reaching. Yet as countries squabble over what can and should be done, one of the main consequences of what has already been set in motion will be a massive shift of people - a new wave of economic migration. The first stage of this movement of people is already evident. It is a move from rural to urban settings, to overcrowded cities, with an increasing stream of people crossing boundaries to what they consider to be the more affluent areas of the world.
The second stage of the movement will be driven by a range of factors within the host regions (3-5 years) such as:
transforming the stream of people into a migration flood from the vulnerable regions to that which will be considered less vulnerable, in a type of osmosis effect. We call this the "push-pull" effect.
This will mean a huge number of people on the move or willing to move. It will be human nature at its most desperate and will be an unrivalled opportunity for criminal gangs to capitalise upon the need. The first reaction of many governments when faced with an increasing number of people attempting to gain access across their borders, will essentially be to close the borders to any "undesirables" as far as legally and practically possible. However, as politicians and border agencies all around the world know … restricting the movement of people is great for political sound bites but very, very difficult in practical terms. The history of the world has been built on the movement of people. It is human nature to move to secure survivability. Understanding this is the key to tackling the problem.
With their supply infrastructures already in place, when the times comes, the gangs will be in a position to expand their operations to channel people from the less well off global regions to those regions where money and survivability is more available. This will be a vast money making opportunity for the gangs, based on the need of the many yet largely creating exploitation based misery that will undermine the societies the migrants come from and most definitely those societies the migrants will emerge into.
As part of the wider picture, the above is likely to happen. Usually when I work with companies to create strategic development for the 3-5 year time scale, most do a very good impression of an ostrich when it comes to understanding the future they are developing into. This means clear opportunities and threats are missed - usually with great cost, avoidable cost. We can see examples of this all around in our world today.
However … although, collectively, we are masters of our own fate and the future is not "written in stone" through a lack of organisation and even less willingness to act, usually only the worst possible outcome is achieved. This is where UN.GIFT comes in. As a high profile co-ordinating organisation UN.GIFT can achieve more than any individual group. UN.GIFT can pull together diverse resources to do more than highlight the crimes of exploitation and slavery. Prevention is better than cure. This is a co-ordinated effort much needed in our 21 st century where we tend to think we are so civilised. UN.GIFT is in an ideal position to persuade along the course of action so the world no longer sits idly by and ignores a crime that shames us all.
And the good news and bad news?
The bad news is that the chain of events that will lead to fundamental social, political and economic change has already started - and there is no going back in time.
The good news is that the future is not written in stone - so we here today have the opportunity to re-write the future into something far more suitable for the high expectations of the 21 st century. If we don't do it, who will? Actions speak louder than words.
The challenges facing todays world are numerous and they are complex. They are of a scale and scope that means no one country has all the answers, no one organisation or no one single person has all the answers. This means more will be achieved through co-operation than it ever will through an isolationist approach. The work of UN.GIFT provides such an opportunity to work with countries and their different agencies, different organisations, to create a co-ordinated approach to the crimes of trafficking, exploitation and slavery. Only through cross border co-ordination can these crimes and the misery they produce ever be tackled.
This is our responsibility. This is the moment when we need to stand up to be counted. This is the moment history will remember those of us who take a stand and at least try and make the world a better place for our children. This is the moment we define our civilisation.
James Stuart is a senior level advisory management consultant. He has over 20 years experience of strategy development based organisational transformation. This has been for a range of globally branded multinationals as well as a range of public sector organisations, most recently leading edge healthcare.
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