New Internationalist

Abolition Encore!

Issue 337

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Slavery / ACTION
Abolition encore!
Slavery never really went away. Today it's often invisible, comes in an array of guises and finds its wellspring in the desperation of some of the poorest people on earth. The fight against slavery is on the increase, but it is led by activists and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with stretched resources and limited influence. What the anti-slavery campaign needs is a critical mass of supporters who can make its voice impossible to ignore - the kind of collective push that put campaigns such as those against apartheid or landmines on the international agenda.

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Paul Smith / Panos Pictures

Cleaner carpets
[image, unknown] In the Indian subcontinent children as young as six have been found hand-knotting carpets from daybreak till nightfall in crowded, hazardous conditions. Before Rugmark came on the scene in 1994 there was little chance of Western consumers knowing for sure how carpets imported from the region had been made. Under the Rugmark scheme manufacturers in India, Nepal and Pakistan agree not to employ children under 14 and pay salaries that at least match the minimum wage. Unannounced spot checks ensure good practice. Rugmark also offers education, vocational training, food and medical attention to children rescued from the looms. The agency has certified over two million carpets as free of child labour.

GERMANY
Remigiusstrasse 21
D-50937 Köln Germany
Tel: 49.221.942.040.0
Fax: 49.221.942.040.40
E-mail: rugmark@transfair.org
Web: www.rugmark.de

BRITAIN
RUGMARK UK
Thomas Clarkson House
The Stableyard
Broomgrove Road
London SW9 9TL
UK

Tel: 44.207.501.8920
Fax: 44.207.738.4110
Email: rugmark@gmx.co.uk

US/CANADA
733 15th Street NW, Suite 912
Washington, DC 20005
Tel: 1 202 347 4205
Fax: 1 202 347 4885
Email: info@RUGMARK.org
Web: www.rugmark.org

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What you can do...

[image, unknown] Join networks and organizations that are fighting slavery (see box). Add your voice to a concerted campaign towards eradication and take up specific causes.

[image, unknown] Make other people aware that slavery still exists. Ignorance isn’t bliss. Anti-slavery groups could do without having constantly to explain why they are still needed. Show this copy of the NI to friends, discuss the issue with a group you are part of (such as faith groups, trade unions, student groups), write to your local paper.

[image, unknown] Make your money talk. Use your consumer power positively. Buy fair trade products – from bananas to chocolate to carpets. This will keep slave labour out of the frame and give producers a fairer price for their goods. Badger your local retailer or supermarket to stock fair trade goods if need be. (Check out fair trade addresses at www.newint.org/issue322/action.htm )

[image, unknown] Hold companies to account. Get behind the ad-speak by asking companies if they have a corporate code of conduct that respects the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) core labour standards. Ask how this is applied to their suppliers and whether compliance with the code is independently monitored and verified.

[image, unknown] Lobby your government to take action. Write to your elected representatives and ask them to press for policies which would help to end slavery.

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What governments can do

[image, unknown] Ratify international standards that prohibit modern forms of slavery and introduce domestic laws to bring these standards into force. The list includes: the 1926 UN Convention on Slavery, the 1930 ILO Convention on Forced Labour (Number 29), the 1956 UN Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the 1973 ILO Convention on Minimum Age (Number 138), the 1999 ILO Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour (Number 182) and the 2000 Protocol on Trafficking in Persons which supplements the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime.

[image, unknown] Ensure laws prohibiting slavery are properly enforced. Additionally, victims need to be supported, protected and compensated while perpetrators should be prosecuted and punished.

[image, unknown] Tackle the root causes. Governments can inform people about their rights; provide them with access to land and credit; provide basic health and education to all; and end discrimination that marginalizes particular groups and makes them vulnerable to exploitation.

[image, unknown] Set up working groups that actually get to work. These could take up initiatives against slavery and provide information to the public and relevant national and international bodies.

[image, unknown] Play an active role in intergovernmental organizations to help combat slavery. Start by giving the UN teeth. Currently the organization has a raft of impressive international legislation but no power to act independently against abuses. Consequently countries with the most appalling human-rights records can sign up to UN conventions, safe in the knowledge that this is good for their image and that at worst all they can expect from the UN is censure.

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[image, unknown] The United Nations. The UN should appoint a Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery to carry out on-site investigations in individual countries, reporting directly to the Commission on Human Rights, which would have powers to act.

[image, unknown] The International Labour Organization. The ILO should assist governments in their efforts to eliminate forced labour in their countries. This could include helping draft anti-slavery legislation and training officials to enforce it; aiding small enterprises to be more competitive; and setting up programmes to boost employment, particularly of vulnerable groups.

[image, unknown] The WTO, IMF and World Bank. These organizations which have worked tirelessly to uphold the trading rights of big business, whilst ‘structurally adjusting’ the rest of the world need to be compelled to prioritize human rights in their treaties and diktats.

[image, unknown] The European Union. The EU should focus on the fight against slavery within its member states as well as in its overseas assistance programmes, applying diplomatic pressure where necessary.

[image, unknown] Other intergovernmental bodies. The Organization of African Unity, the Commonwealth and the Organization of American States can ensure all member states have signed international standards prohibiting slavery. They could become channels for the exchange of information and for action.


A fresh start
Patrick Forestier / Camera Press
Children shattered by their experience of war in Uganda (see Child, slave, soldier) now have the support of a local organization to help them pick up the pieces. The Gulu Support the Children Organization (GUSCO) has helped more than 2,000 children so far. They see these youngsters ‘not as sick victims, but as survivors with individual resources’. GUSCO starts with the knowledge that these are children who could have committed terrible acts of violence and who may face mistrust elsewhere. So the agency focuses on placing them in a protective, understanding environment. Children in GUSCO’s rehabilitation centre in Gulu, northern Uganda, undergo counselling to come to terms with their experiences and attend school in order to feel like normal kids again. Staff from the centre then work both with families and with local communities to prepare the way for the children’s return.

GUSCO, PO Box 405, Gulu, Uganda
E-mail: gusco@infocom.co.ug


Some organizations which you can support and which can put you in touch with activist organizations in the Majority World.

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Morris Carpenter / Panos Pictures

INTERNATIONAL/BRITAIN
Festival of Flight
A fundraising event in support of Anti-Slavery International. This will take place on February 25th, 2002, in "The Scala", a key central London venue with the capacity of 1,000 people. Festival of Flight will celebrate creative expression as a liberating force. As an evening of entertainment and education, the programme will include music, visual arts, poetry and healing. Please do check out our website: www.amiglobal.org

Anti-Slavery International
Thomas Clarkson House, The Stableyard
Broomgrove Road, London SW9 9TL.
Tel: +44 20 7501 8933
Fax: +44 20 7738 4110
E-mail: s.maldar@antislavery.org
Web: www.antislavery.org

Amnesty International
( www.amnesty.org )
and Human Rights Watch
( www.hrw.org ) also often work on slavery issues in their fight to uphold human rights.

AOTEAROA / NEW ZEALAND
Trade Aid
Box 30 945 Christchurch.
Tel: +64 3 385 3535
Fax: +64 3 385 3536
E-mail: tradeaid@tradeaid.co.nz
Web: www.tradeaid.co.nz

AUSTRALIA
Anti-Slavery Society of Australia
GPO Box 438 C
Melbourne, Victoria 3001.
Tel: +61 39 642 1015
Fax: +61 39 601 64 37
E-mail: info@anti-slaverysociety.org
Web: www.anti-slaverysociety.org

IRELAND
Trócaire
169 Booterstown Avenue
Blackrock, Co Dublin.
Tel: +353 1 2885385
Fax: +353 1 2883577
E-mail: campaigns@trocaire.ie
Web: www.trocaire.org

US/CANADA
Free the Slaves
Suite 550-CIP
1755 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington DC 20036.
Tel: +1 202 244 1865
E-mail: info@freetheslaves.net
Web: www.freetheslaves.net


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