Saturday, May 03, 2014

The end is not nigh, but that's OK

I received an email this morning, inviting me to end human trafficking by supporting a particular charity.

It's a wonderful thought, that we really can end human trafficking. As the founder of a charity that also fights trafficking, perhaps people expect that I, too, believe in "ending it."

But my view is that human trafficking is like an incurable, yet treatable, disease. We will always have it with us. There's no permanent end, no miracle cure to be had.

So then - is it hopeless? Absolutely not!

The fight against trafficking is a fight worth waging. Here's why.

1. The battles are just as important as the war.

While human trafficking may well be with us forever (and if not, I will gladly admit I am wrong!), specific aspects of it can be extinguished. Here in Vietnam, Blue Dragon is aiming to see the end of rural children being trafficked to sweat shops; that's a whole trade in human misery that can feasibly  be brought to an end.

2. Reduction is worthwhile, even if abolition is unattainable.

If we cannot end trafficking once and for all, it is still a worthy goal to reduce it and curtail its growth. Medical science shouldn't abandon the idea of treating sick people simply because they cannot always succeed and more people will get sick; and nor should we give up the fight against trafficking simply because some people will still get trafficked.

3. There's a 'conscience' element to this.

Human trafficking stirs emotions. Recent years have seen a surge in support for the anti-trafficking movement: everyone from school kids to celebrities are speaking up about it. Something about human trafficking touches on our conscience, no matter who we are; it's a despicable crime, and deep down we all know it. Unlike most other crimes committed in our world, this is one that stirs us to act. To do nothing would be akin to the crime itself.

4. Ask a trafficked person.

In the 'development sector' we prefer to use the term 'survivor' rather than 'victim' because the former is empowering, the latter disempowering; but a person who has been trafficked has experienced a degradation of the worst kind. They have been victims. Trafficking imprisons people and puts them to work against their will, usually for some form of menial or dangerous labour, or for sex. Nobody who has been trafficked would question the value of doing something about it. Even if we cannot end all trafficking, there are individual victims - survivors, if you will - who are right now hoping that someone will come and help them. We can end it for some, even if not for all.

I do fear that trafficking is a disease our world will always have to live with. But I don't fear that we can therefore do nothing, nor that we must accept trafficking as part of the human condition.

The end of human trafficking is not nigh, but that's OK. There's still plenty that we can do, and that's worth doing.

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