Information is proving a powerful tool against modern-day slavery
In September 2016, Thomson Reuters joined the UN University (UNU), a think tank established by the General Assembly within the UN System; the Permanent Missions of the UK and Lichtenstein to the UN; and the Grace Farms Foundation, a nonproﬁt foundation and retreat center; to issue a report, “Fighting Human Trafﬁcking in Conﬂict: 10 Ideas for Action by the UN Security Council.” The report reviewed the tools available to the UN Security Council (UNSC) and member states and offered 10 ideas for action, providing concrete steps for the UNSC and its partners to take to sever the link between conﬂict and slavery. Subsequently, on Dec. 20, 2016, at its 7,847th meeting, the UNSC unanimously adopted Resolution 2331, which encourages member states to “build strong partnerships with the private sector and civil society … to provide information helping to identify, disrupt, dismantle and bring to justice individuals and networks involved in trafﬁcking of persons in areas affected by armed conﬂict.”
As the resolution was passed, (then) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described human trafﬁcking as a global problem, saying the most vulnerable people were those caught in conﬂict — women, children, internally displaced persons and refugees. Emphasizing the importance of ﬁghting trafﬁcking for the sake of the victims, and of reducing funding for terrorists, he said countries should investigate and prosecute cases in which their own nationals committed such crimes abroad.
The “Fighting Human Trafﬁcking in Conﬂict” report provided a unique opening for action. It was the result of a two-day workshop conducted last summer organized by the UNU with the help of the same ﬁve organizations, which brought together over 100 diverse experts from Permanent Missions to the UN, UN entities, national law enforcement agencies, ﬁnancial intelligence units (FIUs), the Technology sector, the Financial sector, media organizations and civil society to discuss the complex and pressing issue of human trafﬁcking in armed-conﬂict situations and how best to address it.
This workshop also marked the beginning of the partnership between these organizations. More recently, a follow-on workshop was held in March 2017 at Grace Farms on disrupting ﬁnancial ﬂows associated with slavery, human trafﬁcking, forced labor and child labor with many of the same participants.
For years, the Thomson Reuters Corporation and the Thomson Reuters Foundation have played a critical role in bringing attention to how technology and data can address human trafﬁcking through a series of issue-raising activities. Included among them are partnering with Cyrus R. Vance Jr. (New York County District Attorney, Manhattan), CEOs from major ﬁnancial institutions and leading NGOs to identify the ﬁnancial “red ﬂags” of human trafﬁckers in ﬁnancial systems; launching the ﬁrst global information and intelligence platform on modern-day slavery in supply chains by combining supplier screening through Thomson Reuters World-Check® and Thomson Reuters Enhanced Due Diligence; and working with NGOs to identify sources of labor in supply chains.
The issue of human trafﬁcking transcends borders, which is why it needs an international response, and also why the UN report and Resolution on disrupting human trafﬁcking in conﬂict zones is so very important. The current migration crisis facing the world unfortunately makes huge populations vulnerable to trafﬁcking and exploitation as they ﬂee war zones or are sold into bondage to fund or aid the ﬁghting. The 10 ideas offered in the report to the UNSC included increased monitoring of armed groups’ involvement in human trafﬁcking, data sharing, the use of sanctions, international criminal cooperation and enhanced private sector due diligence.
The plan highlights three main areas for action:
- Denunciation and Accountability (to denounce human trafficking in conflict and promote accountability)
- Disruption (through data-sharing, monitoring, use of existing sanctions tools and fostering private sector due diligence)
- Protection (for the individuals who are most at risk, or currently suffering)
We were gratiﬁed to see that many of these ideas and recommendations were incorporated into the UNSC’s ﬁnal resolution.
Slavery is a massive criminal enterprise, with an estimated 45 million people currently enslaved worldwide. It is second only to drugs as a profitable criminal activity. It therefore inevitably leaves traces, especially in this Internet-coordinated era.
We believe that intelligent data, gathered and analyzed by experts, can be a powerful tool to disrupt modern-day slavery.
Data-sharing can identify the tracks of illegal profits as the criminals try to launder the proceeds through financial institutions. We work daily with organizations and companies around the world to help them not only to meet their regulatory obligations but also to use anti-money laundering tools to provide vital evidence for the authorities. We work with government agencies to help them access information on bribery, corruption and other forms of illicit financing. Increasingly, these link with human trafficking. And – as recommended in the UN Report – we have currently developed training for risk and compliance officers on preventing human trafficking and slavery.
A database such as our own World-Check helps us make sense of vast amounts of open source information, which can be used to uncover instances of human trafficking and slavery. We are already providing clients with access to over 63,000 profiles relating to human trafficking and human rights abuses. Thomson Reuters CLEAR® is another one of our tools that is used in the ﬁght against human trafﬁcking and modern-day slavery. We provide CLEAR® to Polaris, a leading US nonproﬁt organization that operates the National Human Trafﬁcking Hotline and the BeFree Textline. Through these operations, Polaris has access to the largest set of human trafﬁcking data in the United States and uses CLEAR’s public and proprietary records and analytic capabilities to uncover connections between trafﬁcking victims and the people and organizations that perpetrate these crimes.
The advantage which global companies share is their experience in thinking across borders – of operating truly internationally and taking an approach to business which spans the jurisdictions of individual governments. Many governments will impose sanctions on individuals and organizations, but there is only a limited amount of agreement among them. Criminals can take advantage of this in order to launder the proceeds of crime across borders. Global organizations such as banks and commodity importers can play a crucial role in cutting off the criminals’ access to the global financial system and freezing their assets wherever they are found.
And that is what is particularly exciting about the UN initiative. It calls for global cooperation, not only between governments but also between companies and campaigning groups, spanning the public, private and voluntary sectors to create a united, global effort to end human trafficking.
Thomson Reuters was honored to be involved in such an important body of work.