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FROM MOTIVATION TO VOCATION: BRIAN ISELIN’S JOURNEY AGAINST SLAVERY

FROM MOTIVATION TO VOCATION: BRIAN ISELIN’S JOURNEY AGAINST SLAVERY
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FROM MOTIVATION TO VOCATION: BRIAN ISELIN’S JOURNEY AGAINST SLAVERY

14 MARCH 2023

 

VIMEO: https://vimeo.com/808720410, with sub­ti­tles in Eng­lish, French, Ger­man, Span­ish, Ital­ian, Russ­ian, Chinese.

 

MICHEL VEUTHEY: Good evening!  On behalf of the Order of Mal­ta, I would like to wel­come you to our webi­nar  “From moti­va­tion to voca­tion Bri­an Iselin’s jour­ney against slav­ery.”  They will come to see Bri­an Iselin online now. First, allow me to say in intro­duc­tion that human traf­fick­ing, a form of con­tem­po­rary slav­ery, affects all coun­tries and it can­not leave us indif­fer­ent. Accord­ing to a British expert, Kevin Hyland, the first inde­pen­dent Com­mis­sion­er in charge of the fight against slav­ery in the Unit­ed King­dom, “Human traf­fick­ing is a crime that is ignored because it affects mar­gin­al­ized peo­ple and we all ben­e­fit from it.”  We’re here to reflect and act togeth­er. Con­tem­po­rary slav­ery affects mil­lions of peo­ple in dif­fer­ent ways. First, forced labor in agri­cul­ture, con­struc­tion, domes­tic work. Sec­ond, sex­u­al slav­ery. Third, the sale and abduc­tion of chil­dren. Fourth, child pornog­ra­phy. Fifth, organ theft. Sixth, crimes com­mit­ted under coer­cion, such as beg­ging or ter­ror­ism. These crim­i­nal activ­i­ties,  gen­er­ate ille­gal annu­al prof­its of $150 bil­lion. If slav­ery were a Euro­pean coun­try, it would have the pop­u­la­tion of Spain and the eco­nom­ic pro­duc­tion a lit­tle less than that of Por­tu­gal. Con­tem­po­rary slav­ery is a third pro­duc­er of CO2, after Chi­na and the US. 50 mil­lion peo­ple are today vic­tims of con­tem­po­rary slav­ery, 71% are girls and women, 12 mil­lion chil­dren. The caus­es are first, the search for unlim­it­ed prof­it by both pro­duc­ers and by con­sumers. Sec­ond, a cul­ture of waste where we throw away peo­ple as well as objects after hav­ing used them. Train­ing is essen­tial for gov­ern­ments and civ­il soci­ety to become aware of it and use effec­tive­ly tools to fight this plague of human traf­fick­ing, to iden­ti­fy vic­tims, to help sur­vivors. It is what we are doing here at the inter­na­tion­al lev­el in Gene­va, at the Col­lege Uni­ver­si­ty. Tonight, we are very for­tu­nate to wel­come Bri­an Iselin, who is a for­mer Aus­tralian sol­dier and fed­er­al agent and today a human rights activist against mod­ern slav­ery. He is a founder of “Slave­free­trade” and “Iselin Human Rights”.  He has more than 30 years of inter­na­tion­al expe­ri­ence on all the var­i­ous fronts of com­bat­ing human traf­fick­ing. I would like now Bri­an to ask you a few ques­tions. Dear Bri­an, you have a Swiss name. You were born in Australia?

 

BRIAN ISELIN: Yes.

 

MICHEL VEUTHEY: Can we start intro­duc­ing you by ask­ing you to sum­ma­rize the major mile­stones that have punc­tu­at­ed your 30 plus years of expe­ri­ence in the fight against human trafficking?

 

BRIAN ISELIN: Sure. Maybe I could just clar­i­fy that I’ve had more than 36 years in crim­i­nal jus­tice, but only 22 on mod­ern slav­ery. So less expe­ri­ence than three decades, but more than two. So maybe that’s use­ful. What have been the things that have punc­tu­at­ed? Well, I guess the first one was why did I switch from orga­nized crime? More gen­er­al­ly, I was work­ing prin­ci­pal­ly coun­ternar­cotics and coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence. Why did I switch to, at the time, counter human traf­fick­ing? Mod­ern slav­ery as a term wasn’t being used at the turn of the mil­len­ni­um. I turned to human traf­fick­ing because while I was doing coun­ternar­cotics work in Chi­na, I came across human traf­fick­ing cas­es when I was work­ing with the Chi­nese police. The very first of those was the traf­fick­ing of babies for adop­tions in Chi­na. The boys were adopt­ed in Chi­na, the girls were adopt­ed in Viet­nam into the inter­na­tion­al sys­tem. And so that was life chang­ing! Nar­cotics sud­den­ly seemed to be less inter­est­ing and actu­al­ly far less impor­tant. I decid­ed that this was real­ly some­thing that def­i­nite­ly tran­scend­ed bor­ders and juris­dic­tions and I decid­ed, well, we need­ed to do some­thing about this. How­ev­er, I was work­ing for the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment at the time as a fed­er­al agent. When I report­ed the traf­fick­ing cas­es I was told to leave it alone. It was none of our busi­ness and well, that didn’t sit well with me. This was some­thing we all should have been con­cerned about and we shouldn’t have had nar­row orga­ni­za­tion­al inter­ests at heart. After a num­ber of rather exple­tive-laden con­ver­sa­tions with peo­ple in head­quar­ters I resigned! And went to start work­ing on human traf­fick­ing cas­es. So I first went to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in Bangkok and launched their region­al pro­gram for South­east Asia and the Pacif­ic. And since then doing free­lance work. So com­bi­na­tion of sup­port to police and intel­li­gence ser­vices, sup­port to NGOs, train­ing and res­cues and that’s about it. Thank you. What are the events that moti­vat­ed you in this mis­sion to fight and to help the vic­tims? How did this choice become a voca­tion? Well, as I said, the first human traf­fick­ing case, the babies, was real­ly com­pelling. That was some­thing that I just couldn’t look away from. Then my first child labor case was also real­ly life chang­ing. So I’d worked on human traf­fick­ing, worked on babies, and then a child labor case came along. This is a twelve-year-old boy who’d been shot in the head, thrown over­board from a Prawn boat. The sub­se­quent inves­ti­ga­tion we found the prawns end­ed up in super­mar­kets across Europe. And it was just mind-bog­gling to me that nobody knew, nobody could tell. The shop­per in car four walk­ing into the freez­er sec­tion look­ing for prawns had absolute­ly no way of know­ing that this boy’s blood was behind those prawns. The com­pa­nies in the sup­ply chain both don’t know and two, don’t try to find out. There’s a kind of a will­ful igno­rance there in sup­ply chains. Bet­ter not to see it because we know there’s a lot of crap down there. Par­don my French. So that was a life-chang­ing thing. In my case, that was an extra com­mit­ment and every sin­gle case since then has been some extra com­mit­ment! Cer­tain­ly on an emo­tion­al lev­el. Every case builds an emo­tion­al com­mit­ment. Every case is not pos­i­tive. The vast major­i­ty of cas­es have end­ed ulti­mate­ly in fail­ure. So even a mis­sion that is suc­cess­ful ends in fail­ure. So an Alban­ian girl in Italy, we res­cued: the Ital­ian police sent her back to Alba­nia instead of look­ing after her as a vic­tim of traf­fick­ing. On return to Alba­nia, she was stig­ma­tized by her town and she com­mit­ted sui­cide. So you see, this is the insid­i­ous nature of human traf­fick­ing that even a suc­cess­ful res­cue, a so-called suc­cess­ful res­cue, actu­al­ly ends up being prob­lem­at­ic: it ends up being a dis­as­ter for some­body almost always the vic­tim, of course. So it’s been emo­tion­al­ly real­ly dif­fi­cult. A suc­cess­ful mis­sion that ends ulti­mate­ly, at some point in fail­ure is very hard to take. Even hard­er to take is a mis­sion that fails, right? A res­cue that fails, you don’t get there in time, for exam­ple, has hap­pened to me in West Africa, and that is emo­tion­al­ly very dif­fi­cult to accept that we are so slow, we are so poor at what we’re doing. Our respons­es like res­cues, what I’ve been doing, are com­plete­ly futile. On an indi­vid­ual lev­el, they make sense to a point, but on a sys­temic lev­el, they make absolute­ly no sense. They’re futile. Putting all the mon­ey into res­cues is beg­ging to be inef­fec­tu­al. I don’t know if I answered your question…

 

MICHEL VEUTHEY: Then how did your pre­vi­ous expe­ri­ences in the Aus­tralian intel­li­gence, mil­i­tary and police help you?

 

BRIAN ISELIN: Well, the first thing was that it brought some rig­or to an area that wasn’t real­ly being dealt with with any rig­or. So human traf­fick­ing wasn’t being dealt with as so much of an orga­nized crime prob­lem. So nobody was using man­age­ment of orga­nized crime, seri­ous orga­nized crime method­ol­o­gy. So that’s the first thing. The sec­ond thing was that almost nobody was approach­ing it with any kind of an intel­li­gence per­spec­tive. That is, gath­er­ing the intel­li­gence, look­ing at the indi­ca­tors, set­ting out indi­ca­tors even, try­ing to find data against those indi­ca­tors, mak­ing valid assess­ments, includ­ing ques­tion­ing impact. None of these things were being done at the time. We’re talk­ing about the year 2001 here. So noth­ing was being done at the time. The word itself was a kind of new­ly coined, as you prob­a­bly recall. It real­ly only came into the com­mon par­lance the year before and the year that I raised it, the year that we had the baby-traf­fick­ing cas­es. I was rais­ing it with Aus­tralia. The senior offi­cers in my agency had almost no knowl­edge of the word and what was behind it. So it was easy for them to dis­miss because they didn’t know what the hell I was talk­ing about. That was very use­ful. And of course, on mis­sions, the army train­ing came in very use­ful. As a free­lance, you don’t have the sup­port of a lot of oth­er peo­ple. So you have to put togeth­er a team for the spe­cif­ic exer­cise every time. So you need a good net­work, and then you need to be very adap­tive and very self con­tained, let’s say, because you’ve got to sup­port your­self right the way into the coun­try and out of the coun­try. With­out the army expe­ri­ence, there’s no way I could have done that. Absolute­ly no way. So that was real­ly use­ful. And of course, just being fed­er­al agent mind­ed, right? You’ve got an atti­tude that you can solve this prob­lem, even though I’ve learned since that you can’t with law enforce­ment. But I came in with the right atti­tude that we should try and change this, and we had to lift our game to do so. But the last 20 years have shown me that a lot of these expe­ri­ences have just been put to waste because we’re spend­ing mon­ey on solu­tions to slav­ery and traf­fick­ing with­out real­ly con­sid­er­ing the impact we’re hav­ing and not look­ing at caus­es… As you know, it’s a big issue for me. But we’re not look­ing at caus­es and address­ing causes.

 

MICHEL VEUTHEY: And what were the major dif­fi­cul­ties you encoun­tered dur­ing involve­ment and what dif­fi­cul­ties did you underestimate?

 

BRIAN ISELIN: The first dif­fi­cul­ty was the rea­son I quit the job, and that was bureau­crat­ic igno­rance to begin with, and then lat­er bureau­crat­ic intran­si­gence. So even the agen­cies that I was, my agency, for exam­ple, a year or two after I resigned, I start­ed a cam­paign in Aus­tralia to try to bring atten­tion to the issue. At that time, the attor­ney gen­er­al had said there was no traf­fick­ing in Aus­tralia. So I got togeth­er with a bunch of folks in Aus­tralia, and we did a num­ber of dif­fer­ent things, includ­ing a speak­ing tour, a post­card cam­paign, and some inves­ti­ga­tions. With­in a very short peri­od of time, the team doing the inves­ti­ga­tions, which was out of an NGO in Mel­bourne called Project Respect, they put togeth­er doc­u­men­tary evi­dence of more than 300 cas­es. And they did that in a very short peri­od of time. This is not a law enforce­ment group, this is NGO work­ers putting togeth­er, inves­ti­gat­ing this and find­ing cas­es. Why were they able to when the attor­ney gen­er­al said zero? So, any­way, with­in a very short peri­od of time, we went pub­lic with this. I went pub­lic with this dur­ing the speak­ing tour and com­plete­ly embar­rassed the attor­ney gen­er­al and com­plete­ly embar­rassed my for­mer agency. He changed. The attor­ney gen­er­al very quick­ly said, oh, well, he went from zero in one year to the next year say­ing: “Oh, well, even one is too many cas­es of traf­fick­ing.”  He announced the first tranche of fund­ing for some counter human traf­fick­ing activ­i­ties work in Aus­tralia, 97% of which went to my old agency. But I was black­balled because I’d whis­tle blown in a way. So even that agency wasn’t going to come back to me and get my assis­tance on how they’re going to spend that mon­ey. So they have con­tin­ued and con­tin­ued to resist real­ly new think­ing. They resist­ed inno­va­tion, unfor­tu­nate­ly, and this is even to today, I don’t know whether you saw, I post­ed just ear­li­er today about the new mea­sures that Aus­tralia wants to bring in on the Mod­ern Slav­ery Act. These three mea­sures are extreme­ly old mea­sures. They are 20-year-old think­ing, and they haven’t tak­en account of any of the evi­dence in the last 20 years that these three things are real­ly either dif­fi­cult or point­less. And I think it’s this bureau­crat­ic intran­si­gence, right? These bureau­crats seem to think that all they have to do is put togeth­er a lit­tle pack­age. And I don’t know whether they’ve just Googled respons­es and said, this will do, or they’ve looked at the US traf­fick­ing in Per­sons report and said, this is what Colom­bia did. Let’s do that. They’re all doing the same things and repeat­ing the same mis­takes and not learn­ing any­thing from them. A great exam­ple is aware­ness-rais­ing mea­sures, right? Gazil­lions of dol­lars have been spent on aware­ness rais­ing pro­grams, and every sin­gle eval­u­a­tion has dis­cov­ered that aware­ness rais­ing pro­grams only raise the aware­ness of those peo­ple who are already aware! So this is gazil­lions of dol­lars wast­ed on these mea­sures. Then let’s not talk about law enforce­ment impact, which is neg­li­gi­ble. So the depart­men­tal or gov­ern­men­tal intra­judgeance is anoth­er thing. Anoth­er thing which is a fea­ture of the com­mu­ni­ty on human traf­fick­ing and mod­ern slav­ery. A fea­ture of this com­mu­ni­ty is it doesn’t learn. And that’s real­ly frus­trat­ing. I have the same ques­tions when­ev­er I go to a new coun­try today, or whether I’m talk­ing to some­one about this sub­ject. I have the same ques­tions I was fac­ing 20 years ago. The agen­cies have got the same issues from 20 years ago. And every new coun­try I go to, they say, but things are dif­fer­ent here. We’ve got our own con­text, it’s our own cul­tur­al con­text. And actu­al­ly, to be frank, that’s rub­bish. It’s nev­er dif­fer­ent! … There are some sim­i­lar­i­ties and there are some dis­sim­i­lar­i­ties, but these are like facial fea­tures. The human is the same. And so when you go to a new coun­try, you go to Nige­ria and they talk about Juju, for exam­ple, which is this black mag­ic which is used to hold over traf­fick­ing vic­tims. Well, that’s okay. That hap­pens else­where too. It’s not spe­cif­ic to Nige­ria, and it’s also not dif­fer­ent sub­stan­tive­ly from what goes on in human traf­fick­ing. It’s just anoth­er, let’s say anoth­er tool that’s used by traf­fick­ers to get some­body involved. So love is used in some places. The hon­ey trap for a girl who’s a boy, meets them, falls in love, sends them to Swe­den, and sells them into pros­ti­tu­tion. So every one of these traf­fick­ing cas­es has exact­ly the same frame­work. What is dif­fer­ent is some facial fea­tures is all. There is this resis­tance to believe that the prob­lem is a uni­ver­sal one, and there’s this inten­tion or wish some­how that their expe­ri­ence, the expe­ri­ence in Arme­nia or the expe­ri­ence in Nige­ria is some­how dif­fer­ent to every­body else’s. It’s just rub­bish, actu­al­ly. As you prob­a­bly notice, I’m a bit of an icon­o­clast. I real­ly can’t stand these crazy attri­bu­tions of these crazy things that they’re just wrong and wrong-head­ed, but noth­ing changes. That’s real­ly frus­trat­ing for me. We’re not mak­ing progress!

 

MICHEL VEUTHEY : I under­stand. What advice would you give to a young per­son who would like to engage in the strug­gle against con­tem­po­rary slav­ery today?

 

BRIAN ISELIN: It’s a dif­fi­cult one because I have to say, if you real­ly want to work on this, you’re not going to make a liv­ing, so you prob­a­bly should have a day job. Then the mod­ern slav­ery, unfor­tu­nate­ly, should almost prob­a­bly not be. If you want to work on it in con­crete ways, in impact­ful ways, then you’re not going to get there by tak­ing any of the desk jobs that some of the mod­ern slav­ery peo­ple have. You’re not going to have as much impact as you might like. You could do it. You could take a degree in polit­i­cal admin­is­tra­tion or pub­lic admin­is­tra­tion and get a job in gov­ern­ment work­ing on the sub­ject. But to be frank, I would say get your­self well round­ed. I think inter­na­tion­al rela­tions help. Pub­lic admin­is­tra­tion helps. These sorts of edu­ca­tion­al qual­i­fi­ca­tions help. But have a day job, have some­thing to fall back on even if you need to, because it’s very dif­fi­cult to make a liv­ing in this sub­ject area. It’s still some­thing that nobody funds unfor­tu­nate­ly enough! There are, of course, job oppor­tu­ni­ties in this field, in the big inter­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tions, ILO, IOM, UNODC and so on. Large­ly my expe­ri­ence of these has been large­ly that the peo­ple involved in those process­es inside those agen­cies, which is where the jobs are. They’re more admin­is­tra­tors than they are experts, and they con­tract or sub­con­tract the exper­tise. So if you want to be an expert on mod­ern slav­ery, work­ing in one of those agen­cies won’t nec­es­sar­i­ly equip you with that. It might actu­al­ly be quite dis­tract­ing and ulti­mate­ly bone crush­ing or soul crush­ing. But yeah, my advice would be you prob­a­bly can’t make a liv­ing on it. So get a day job and then do some mod­ern slav­ery work on the side. Vol­un­teer as much as you can, learn as much as you can through that process, and even­tu­al­ly you’ll find your way into a com­mu­ni­ty of like-mind­ed peo­ple, and then maybe you’ll make a liv­ing out of it. It’s not some­thing I think you can do straight out of school or uni­ver­si­ty. Get some vol­un­teer­ing under your belt first.

 

MICHEL VEUTHEY : Thank you very much indeed. As you know, in inter­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tions, be it OSCE with Valiant Richey (Spe­cial Rep­re­sen­ta­tive and Coor­di­na­tor for Com­bat­ing Traf­fick­ing in Human Beings · OSCE) or with the Coun­cil of Europe with Gre­ta, we have very com­mit­ted peo­ple, and they also make a liv­ing with this. But still I must say…

 

BRIAN ISELIN: We’re talk­ing less than a hand­ful of people.

 

MICHEL VEUTHEY: Yes.

 

BRIAN ISELIN: Glob­al­ly, there’s a very small num­ber of peo­ple who make a liv­ing out of this. And not so many of them even come from an expert back­ground. Many of them come up through either as diplo­mats and in the UN sys­tem. They get put into posi­tions that relate to human traf­fick­ing or they’re lawyers, for example.

 

MICHEL VEUTHEY : Okay, and then what types of traf­fick­ing have you been in con­tact with? Can you list them?

 

BRIAN ISELIN: I would say 70% of my work has been human traf­fick­ing for sex­u­al exploita­tion of girls. That’s 70%, that’s the vast major­i­ty. Of course, that’s actu­al­ly a huge num­ber of cas­es. If you dis­count the forced labour and child labour, then you’ll find that traf­fick­ing for sex­u­al exploita­tion is, of course, huge. It’s also com­pelling the harms to be free. If you tried to list all the dif­fer­ent forms by harm pri­or­i­tize them, then the traf­fick­ing for sex­u­al exploita­tion, the harms of that are sig­nif­i­cant­ly greater than most oth­ers. From a harm per­spec­tive, you would put that at the high­est. And of course, this is also where spend­ing goes quite a lot because it’s quite atten­tion-seek­ing. UNODC, OSCE, Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, the Unit­ed States, they fund and they pri­or­i­tize things that have dealt, they have pri­or­i­tized things that have dealt with sex­u­al exploita­tion pri­mar­i­ly. I think only since the term of human traf­fick­ing has been expand­ed to mod­ern slav­ery have we seen inves­ti­ga­tions and case­loads and so on spread out away from sex­u­al exploita­tion with­in human traf­fick­ing, it’s prin­ci­pal­ly that. In the Mid­dle East, I worked on traf­fick­ing for domes­tic labour. Then I’ve worked on child labour in plan­ta­tions and fish­ing boats and the leather indus­try. What else? Well, forced labour, a num­ber of dif­fer­ent cas­es of forced labour in var­i­ous coun­tries, but most­ly sex­u­al exploitation.

 

MICHEL VEUTHEY : Okay. Can you give exam­ples of cas­es of traf­fick­ing that had had the great­est impact on you and why? You men­tioned chil­dren, of course, to be in here.

 

BRIAN ISELIN: The child labour case with the boy shot in the head, that had the biggest impact, a big impact, because it was real­ly ear­ly. The traf­fick­ing of the babies had real­ly impact because I was there on the ground look­ing at the babies in the sports bag in the bot­tom of the bus. It was a sur­re­al moment! Head spin­ning! What the hell can’t fig­ure this out? It didn’t make sense, right? It didn’t com­pute what I was see­ing in the bag. That was a major emo­tion­al shock. That was a sig­nif­i­cant one. I men­tioned the girl in Alba­nia, and that one has stuck with me as the Alban­ian girl in Italy, I should say that has stuck with me. Because when so back­ing up a step with that law enforce­ment back­ground, that fed­er­al agent mind­ed­ness. You think when you go into a sit­u­a­tion like a traf­fic vic­tim in a broth­el, she was in Abruz­zo in Italy, and you’re going into this broth­el expect­ing that you’re the res­cuer. I wouldn’t say it’s a white horse kind of sit­u­a­tion, but you go in with a res­cuer men­tal­i­ty, you’re there to do a job that involves the res­cue of that per­son. You’re pre­pared for what they will look like. You’re pre­pared for how they will act. But it’s still a shock every sin­gle time. This girl was ema­ci­at­ed and beat­en. Her teeth had been pulled out because she’d bit­ten someone’s penis, a client’s penis, and so there­after… She was not allowed to… Her teeth were pulled out, so she couldn’t bite any­body. She was beat­en, she was like she was a ter­ri­fied beat­en cat sit­ting in the cor­ner of a cage, basi­cal­ly… She was ter­ri­fied of being res­cued. She was ter­ri­fied of any male. That was imme­di­ate­ly a prob­lem for me. There were no women in the res­cue team. None. The police and immi­gra­tion peo­ple were not women either! It was a very unhap­py expe­ri­ence, and it was a mor­ti­fy­ing, tur­bu­lent, trau­mat­ic exer­cise, and then hav­ing to hand her over into cus­tody where the police were obvi­ous­ly going to treat her not so dif­fer­ent­ly to how she’d been treat­ed up until then. She was not treat­ed well. She was black­mailed by the admin­is­tra­tion, basi­cal­ly, as hap­pens every­where with vic­tims of traf­fick­ing, they’re black­mailed into giv­ing evi­dence. Give evi­dence or we’ll send you back home to where you came from, which, of course, is life-threat­en­ing for almost all of them. That was real­ly trau­ma­tiz­ing. I think they’re the worst. There was a failed one in West Africa that I don’t want to talk about.

 

MICHEL VEUTHEY : Okay. I under­stand. You tried to launch the fight against forced labour through the con­trol of sup­ply chains. It’s an orga­ni­za­tion, Slave­free­trade, that you found­ed. And you are com­mit­ted to the fight against pros­ti­tu­tion and for the pro­tec­tion of women. Can you explain your posi­tion and your com­mit­ment on behalf of women, please?

 

BRIAN ISELIN: Okay, well, I mean, two dif­fer­ent pieces there. The work­ing on the sup­ply chains and the work­ing on the pros­ti­tu­tion of women, and the traf­fick­ing of women. I take a demand-side approach. I use con­cepts of macro­eco­nom­ics and behav­ioral eco­nom­ics, arguably to put togeth­er an idea of where traf­fick­ing and pros­ti­tu­tion fit. Because one of the very first things I learned, or I heard when I joined the UNODC in Bangkok was from a com­mu­ni­ty of peo­ple who were ensconced in a kind of lib­er­al fem­i­nist school. They were telling me, and they were telling every­body, actu­al­ly quite con­stant­ly, don’t con­flate traf­fick­ing and pros­ti­tu­tion. That always trig­gered me because all of the traf­fick­ing cas­es that I was work­ing on, the vast major­i­ty of traf­fick­ing cas­es I was work­ing on, were sex­u­al exploita­tion. They were women in pros­ti­tu­tion. Con­flat­ing the two, they’re already con­flat­ed, they’re already the same phe­nom­e­non or dif­fer­ent parts of the same phe­nom­e­non. What is the phe­nom­e­non? Look under­neath the lay­ers and find the phe­nom­e­non. The phe­nom­e­non, actu­al­ly, when you work it out, is that traf­fick­ing is a kind of an over­flow pool for pros­ti­tu­tion. When demand increas­es for pros­ti­tu­tion, there are only, let’s say in the Nether­lands or Ger­many. Ger­many is a great exam­ple. When demand for pros­ti­tu­tion increas­es, demand for sex with women increas­es: paid sex with women! When that increas­es, there are only so many local women will­ing to do this. In an improv­ing econ­o­my, arguably a more gen­der-equal econ­o­my, there are far few­er local women ready to do that. But the demand by men is increas­ing… Because they’re being told by leg­is­la­tors, for exam­ple, that it’s okay to buy women! They take that mes­sage, they inter­nal­ize that mes­sage, and go out and try and find to by women… Demand is not met, which means there’s an over-demand under­sup­ply, and that’s where traf­fick­ers step in, and they’re able to bring women from almost any­where to fill that gap. This is why you see quite a pre­pon­der­ance of for­eign women in any par­tic­u­lar coun­try being used for that over­flow work from pros­ti­tu­tion. If you see it as an over­flow of pros­ti­tu­tion, then the two are con­flat­ed by nature. The idea that we’re arti­fi­cial­ly con­flat­ing them is false, and it’s a false nar­ra­tive that’s being per­pet­u­at­ed by this com­mu­ni­ty of lib­er­al fem­i­nists. One of the rea­sons we need to tack­le it from the demand side, one of the rea­sons we need to pro­tect women who are traf­ficked by erad­i­cat­ing the insti­tu­tion of pros­ti­tu­tion. It is quite sim­ply that if we treat one, if we treat traf­fick­ing, we are not fix­ing what’s under­neath it. We are not fix­ing… Let’s say you have a bath­room basin, and it’s over­flow­ing, and the water is flow­ing into a tank under­neath. Emp­ty­ing the tank under­neath is not going to solve the basin over­flow­ing. You need to solve the basin. You need to change the capac­i­ty of the basin, some­how, arguably reduce the lev­el of the water. That’s what we’re talk­ing about. That’s why we have to con­flate the two, or we have to rec­og­nize that they are con­flat­ed and deal with them togeth­er. The way to deal with them is to reduce the demand! Because until we reduce the demand for paid sex­u­al ser­vices, then we are going to see a rise in pros­ti­tu­tion, we’re going to see an under­sup­ply for this increas­ing demand, and we’re going to see more traf­fick­ing as a result. It’s super sim­ple stuff, but it doesn’t hap­pen if you don’t make that con­nec­tion that they are con­flat­ed from the begin­ning. That’s a real­ly impor­tant thing to do, to think about. The oth­er thing I want­ed to say was, as this over­flow becomes larg­er, it becomes more pro­fes­sion­al, it becomes more indus­tri­al­ized. It relates to some­thing that we did talk about in the 1970s, which was there was this rise in indi­vid­u­al­ism. And there was a very, very well-known at the time, a rad­i­cal fem­i­nist, Kath­leen Bar­ry. The way she was writ­ing about the sex­u­al exploita­tion of women, she was on the indi­vid­u­al­ist side, I would say. She was actu­al­ly argu­ing what lib­er­al fem­i­nists have been argu­ing the last 20 years: “That women have the right to choose! Women should be able to sell their bod­ies if they want to”.  That was the per­spec­tive that she took. With­in ten years, she’d com­plete­ly shift­ed. One of the rea­sons she shift­ed is because she com­plete­ly under­es­ti­mat­ed that if you allow for that, if you go com­plete­ly towards the indi­vid­u­al­ist side, you are pro­mot­ing the indus­tri­al­iza­tion of the sell­ing of women! It was this indus­tri­al­iza­tion that she hadn’t real­ized and that she decid­ed, well, actu­al­ly that’s more impor­tant. Because glob­al­ly, total­ly in a macro sense, we need to reduce the total num­ber. Indi­vid­ual choice is impor­tant, but if it’s at the expense of many more women, then clear­ly it’s not the right thing to do. While we need to be able to respect women who are in pros­ti­tu­tion and choose, for exam­ple, to ratio­nal­ize it by call­ing them­selves a sex work­er: that whole con­cept of pros­ti­tu­tion can be worked. If they ratio­nal­ize it that way, that’s fine. Let them ratio­nal­ize it, how­ev­er, they like, but under­stand that they’re a func­tion of this indus­tri­al­iza­tion…!  And that’s in fact what we need to be com­bat­ing this indus­tri­al­iza­tion of paid sex! That’s the only way to reduce the vol­ume of water in the basin and there­fore stop the fill­ing of the tank under­neath. I have to work on the metaphor.

 

MICHEL VEUTHEY : Thank you. Also in the fight against forced labour and your project “Slave­free­trade.”  Can you sum­ma­rize the main steps of this project and expe­ri­ence you acquired through the “Slave­free­trade” Project, please?

 

BRIAN ISELIN: It was also an exer­cise to… There are a cou­ple of dif­fer­ent rea­sons for hav­ing cre­at­ed “Slave­free­trade”.  I start­ed it orig­i­nal­ly six years ago and that was hot on the heels of the failed mis­sion that I men­tioned in West Africa. That was dev­as­tat­ing for me. I reached real­ly an emo­tion­al low point because of that it was a ter­ri­ble peri­od in my life and I didn’t want to be on this plan­et any­more. I was hat­ing peo­ple… I real­ly decid­ed it came to such a low point that I need­ed to dig my way out. One way of doing that was to come up with some­thing that was 100% a pos­i­tive response to traf­fick­ing and mod­ern slav­ery. It actu­al­ly came to me in my sleep: two o’clock in the morn­ing, Novem­ber 25, 2016, I woke up “Slave­free­trade” and we’re going to put a label on those prawns in the freez­er that tells peo­ple that these are slave-free prawns and let’s see if that makes an impact. And in so doing, the whole idea was the prawn sup­pli­er who could prove slave free would be reward­ed by the con­sumer and that reward would mean that they would bring more to the mar­ket and they would improve their sup­ply chain as a result. All the way down the chain, the good behav­iour, the pur­chase of the good-mind­ed per­son is reward­ing, all the way down the sup­ply chain, each of the com­pa­nies that have some­thing to do with it. It was impor­tant to come up with some­thing pos­i­tive and it was impor­tant to try to cre­ate a solu­tion around that. That was dif­fi­cult because there is no was no obvi­ous solu­tion. Nobody else was work­ing on this. When I came to it, I thought, there’s going to be a lot of col­lab­o­ra­tors… There’s not! There’s going to be a lot of orga­ni­za­tions that would like to help me with this and fund this. There’s not! There’s not none of the peo­ple who are fund­ing traf­fick­ing and mod­ern slav­ery ini­tia­tives want­ed any­thing to do with a demand-side project! Not one…!  They’re all so, and this is what I men­tioned before about the intran­si­gence of the com­mu­ni­ty. These fun­ders… They’re fundind to per­pet­u­ate the sta­tus quo. They’re not fundind to cre­ate new think­ing, they’re not fund­ing to try new things. They don’t work on the demand side, the demand side is nowhere. Order of Mal­ta and the OSCE are the only two oth­er orga­ni­za­tions that talk the demand side. Three orga­ni­za­tions in the world talk­ing the demand side…!  It’s dis­gust­ing…!  Any­way, I want­ed some­how to build some­thing that would cre­ate this loop between a con­sumer, right the way through a sup­ply chain down to the orig­i­nal source! The way it worked is, right up until last year, we fin­ished the first pilot project, which is in a cocoa sup­ply chain: the way it works is this. This is a live project with prod­ucts on the shelves in the UK. The choco­lates here in the UK, the retail­er, the com­pa­nies come to us for the solu­tion because they want a solu­tion, right? In this case, it was an activist CEO, but it could be any­thing, it could be share­hold­ers, stock­hold­ers, could be legal demands, could be any­thing, dif­fer­ent require­ments. Any­way, they come to us and they want to be clean, they want to have a good sup­ply chain and they want to be part of this cir­cle of good… That we want to cre­ate between a con­sumer and all the sup­pli­ers. They joined Slave­free­trade, the choco­lati­er in the UK. Then in this sys­tem, they invite their sup­pli­ers. Obvi­ous­ly, not all their sup­pli­ers are going to join. One of their sup­pli­ers, their milk pow­der provider in France, for exam­ple, said, no, get stuck. They weren’t inter­est­ed at all. Human rights, they even wrote human rights were not on their agen­da… Which is quite dis­gust­ing, but I got that email from so many com­pa­nies, you wouldn’t believe it! Any­way, so not all their sup­pli­ers joined, but the cocoa sup­pli­er did. The cocoa, they get their cocoa from Colom­bia. So the cocoa pro­duc­er joined. Then the cocoa pro­duc­er in turn invit­ed plan­ta­tions. We’ve start­ed to focus just on one. Com­pa­ny A, invite com­pa­ny B, invites com­pa­ny C. Sud­den­ly we have a sup­ply chain in the sys­tem. Then what we do is we run our process­es. We’ve devel­oped B to B process­es, we call them. This is where we check con­di­tions in work­places in real time on a con­tin­u­ing basis from the eyes of the peo­ple in the work­place. Because the very first thing I learned about that child labour case where the twelve-year-old boy was shot was that actu­al­ly one of the things we’d failed to do was under­stand what his work­place was like through his eyes. Nobody asked him and nobody asks the vast major­i­ty of staff in work­places what their con­di­tions are like..?  And espe­cial­ly not human rights-informed ques­tions? In a per­son­nel pulse, for exam­ple, these sur­veys that com­pa­nies send around from HR, they ask about whether there’s enough Nespres­so cap­sules or if the toi­lets are close enough or toi­lets are clean enough. They don’t ask fun­da­men­tal human right ques­tions, where­as in fact if they’d asked about salary secre­cy and gen­der pay gap and sex­u­al harass­ment and abuse and bul­ly­ing, they would get very dif­fer­ent answers. If they asked them in a way that encour­aged hon­esty, they would get very dif­fer­ent answers and so they would get a very dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive on the work­place. This sys­tem is designed to be an anony­mous sur­vey, but with data where you can check the integri­ty and see if there’s coer­cion or fal­si­ty or fraud or col­lu­sion. You gath­er this data and in this sys­tem we ask 120 ques­tions a year for every sin­gle per­son in the work­place: anony­mous­ly, remote­ly. It’s a remote diag­nos­tic tool and if issues come up then we can solve them. In this case, what hap­pened in the cocoa sup­ply chain, we iden­ti­fied there was a small clus­ter of bul­ly­ing in the pro­duc­tion facil­i­ty. We report­ed that to the mem­ber and then we worked with them to reme­di­ate that bul­ly­ing. That’s the whole idea of it, iden­ti­fy. We end­ed up with I think how many was it? About 1500 peo­ple in that three-tier sup­ply chain. That’s just three work­places. We didn’t try to do too much. Three work­places, 1500 peo­ple. We iden­ti­fied a cou­ple of issues that we worked on, but in gen­er­al what we got was good respons­es in all the work­places. They were all slave free, they met the stan­dard where the bar was set. Once those places were all slave free and we reme­di­at­ed the bul­ly­ing, the choco­late bar could come out on the shelves in the UK with our label on it and declar­ing them­selves guar­an­teed slave free! Con­sumers are buy­ing it like crazy. Super­mar­kets bought the first three pro­duc­tions runs before they even start­ed sell­ing. It’s very suc­cess­ful and very pop­u­lar and I think that that vin­di­cates the work that has gone into try­ing to cre­ate this sys­tem. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, because of a lack of fund­ing we’re not going to be able to con­tin­ue this project. We’ve got proof on the shelves and that’s a very good thing. It’s pos­si­ble to be done. It’s not impos­si­ble, like every­body said when I start­ed. It can be done, we just need… Some good peo­ple with some big mon­ey to get it going and get it work­ing. But it absolute­ly works, the demand-side works. Those are 1500 peo­ple who are def­i­nite­ly not in mod­ern slav­ery who have got good human rights con­di­tions and we con­tin­u­ous­ly mon­i­tor those con­di­tions. When human rights issues come up, we address them with the mem­ber. That’s the mod­el! … Con­sumers reward the choco­lati­er. The chocolatier’s vol­ume increas­es. Their vol­ume of cocoa increas­es. There­fore the cocoa pro­duc­tion facil­i­ty makes more mon­ey, the plan­ta­tion makes more mon­ey. This is an impor­tant behav­ioral loop that we’re cre­at­ing in depen­dence. The impor­tant thing is the prof­it mak­ing in that sup­ply chain depends on their human rights per­for­mance. So instead of the bot­tom line, instead of the human rights per­for­mance being a cost it actu­al­ly needs to be put in the col­umn where the bot­tom line is because you can’t achieve prof­it, you can’t main­tain your prof­it with­out the human rights per­for­mance. It’s col­lo­cat­ing the two instead of them being very, very sep­a­rate in the way com­pa­nies think about human rights activities.

 

MICHEL VEUTHEY : Thank you very much indeed. You already answered my next ques­tion. Which was, what are the deci­sive argu­ments for gov­ern­ments, busi­ness and con­sumers to win the erad­i­ca­tion of forced labour in sup­ply chains and the biggest obsta­cles to overcome?

 

BRIAN ISELIN: Well, the sin­gle biggest obsta­cle is com­pa­nies not car­ing. We can blame con­sumers all we like but con­sumers are a pow­er­ful tool to con­vince busi­ness­es if you can mobi­lize them… But they’re also an incred­i­bly dif­fi­cult com­mu­ni­ty to mobi­lize. When you talk about mobi­liz­ing any part of the con­sumer world for good caus­es. It’s always going to be a very small per­cent­age. And there’s this big dif­fer­ence as you’ll prob­a­bly rec­og­nize from peo­ple you know as well, there’s a very big dif­fer­ence between what peo­ple say they will buy and what they end up buy­ing! It’s a val­ues and action mis­match. 67% of con­sumers say they want to buy slave-free but can’t find it. But a much small­er per­cent­age, even if they can find it, actu­al­ly go and buy it. There’s this dif­fer­ence between… So mobi­liz­ing con­sumers is one thing but it can’t oper­ate on its own. Busi­ness­es need to want to as well and the vast major­i­ty of busi­ness­es quite sim­ply don’t want to! Big busi­ness­es def­i­nite­ly don’t want to…!  It’s very, very clear that they don’t choose to. There are a num­ber of rea­sons for that: one of them is that they think it’s a cost. The oth­er is that they don’t want cas­es dis­cov­ered if there are any. So they’d rather the will­ful blind­ness. And so the things go on in the back­ground that the bet­ter they don’t know. The deni­a­bil­i­ty is a very impor­tant dri­ving fac­tor for big busi­ness. These are actu­al­ly the two biggest prob­lems. The third one is the vast major­i­ty of gov­ern­ments can push busi­ness to the table by using leg­is­la­tion: all gov­ern­ments so far with the pos­si­ble excep­tion of Brazil have cho­sen to imple­ment such weak mea­sures that no busi­ness­es are brought to the table in any kind of a seri­ous way, right? Busi­ness­es are made to pro­duce a glossy brochure about their com­mit­ment, and that’s the extent of it. That’s where mod­ern slav­ery report­ing is at the moment. A com­pa­ny basi­cal­ly writes a CSR state­ment and it’s unver­i­fi­able, no data, doesn’t mat­ter, it’s pub­lished, right? This is where we are. We’re still at that stage since 2011 with the UN guid­ing prin­ci­ples on busi­ness and human rights. We’re still at the stage where com­pa­nies are required by gov­ern­ments to do noth­ing: they are asked vol­un­tar­i­ly to do things, but they’re not required to do any­thing, and where they are asked to do some­thing, or if there’s some kind of a demand to do some­thing… In Ger­many, for exam­ple, they’ve asked them to take active mea­sures, and so that’s always couched in such weak terms that the vast major­i­ty of com­pa­nies either don’t know what to do or they’ll be able to fudge their way through it. There’s this essen­tial tran­si­tion we need from vol­un­tary mea­sures, from the old UNG­Ps, which were arguably on mod­ern slav­ery, they were a fail­ure. The UNG­Ps is vol­un­tary mea­sures. Every piece of mod­ern slav­ery leg­is­la­tion since has basi­cal­ly been vol­un­tary mea­sures. You would actu­al­ly call them soft law because they are not just guid­ing prin­ci­ples, they’re law. But they’re very weak. No penal­ties, low report­ing thresh­olds, things like this. Then the tran­si­tion to hard law hasn’t hap­pened yet. Brazil is the only one that’s done any­thing like it, because they’ve actu­al­ly got some out­comes that are bad for com­pa­nies that have mod­ern slav­ery. Where­as none of the oth­ers, the Aus­tralian, the British, the Cal­i­forn­ian, the French, now the Dutch, the new Ger­man, human rights, due dili­gence, none of these laws have any­thing that is seri­ous­ly dam­ag­ing to a com­pa­ny if they don’t do it. They just don’t do it. And that’s it. There’s noth­ing. Even where pub­lic pro­cure­ment is linked to it. There is a real flaw in the argu­ment, flaw in the log­ic, in the appli­ca­tion of the law. So pub­lic pro­cure­ment claus­es are being added to mod­ern slav­ery acts in dif­fer­ent places. Now, what that means is that if a com­pa­ny is not com­pli­ant or found to be not com­pli­ant in their ten­der, then they can’t win the con­tract. That’s the first piece. The sec­ond piece is that they can be barred from future pub­lic pro­cure­ment if they’re found to have child labour or they’ve got a scan­dal or some­thing. That’s a nice tool, but unfor­tu­nate­ly it’s being imple­ment­ed so bad­ly: eval­u­a­tors or the cat­e­go­ry man­agers and pur­chasers and so on at the pub­lic pro­cure­ment agen­cies have no exper­tise in mod­ern slav­ery and human rights. None what­so­ev­er. They also have no time if you speak to any of them. None of them have time to even make a cut lunch for them­selves, right? They’re so busy with con­tract after con­tract and all the paper­work that’s required, they’re very, very busy already. If you add mod­ern slav­ery to the eval­u­a­tion grid for a ten­der, but you have no time and you have no exper­tise and you have no data, you’re just rely­ing on the ten­der­er who sub­mits a glossy report, what are you doing? What sub­stan­tive­ly are you doing with your pub­lic pro­cure­ment lever? You’ve got pow­er there, but you’ve got no way to wield that pow­er. And com­pa­nies will just be cyn­i­cal enough to sub­mit their CSR state­ment (Social­ly Respon­si­ble Com­pa­nies), their mod­ern slav­ery state­ment, and be done with it. And then the box gets ticked, and then pub­lic pro­cure­ment is no longer a valu­able tool. And yet this is a lever that we should all be pulling, because in the OECD alone, it’s $9 tril­lion. It’s a $9 tril­lion lever, right? Who doesn’t want to pull on that once in a while? Let’s get that $9 tril­lion work­ing with gen­uine pub­lic pro­cure­ment claus­es, in laws that are backed up by staff in the pub­lic pro­cure­ment agency, know what they’re doing, make it a seri­ous per­cent­age of the eval­u­a­tion, and require proof, require hard data, not just rhetoric. I’ve com­plete­ly for­got­ten what your ques­tion was?

 

MICHEL VEUTHEY : Okay. I would like to ask the same ques­tion on pros­ti­tu­tion. What are the deci­sive argu­ments to win the cause of reduc­ing and erad­i­cat­ing pros­ti­tu­tion and the great­est obsta­cles to overcome?

 

BRIAN ISELIN: The solu­tion is what Swe­den orig­i­nal­ly did with what’s now called the equal­i­ty mod­el, pre­vi­ous­ly the Nordic mod­el. And before that, it was just Swe­den. So leg­isla­tive­ly, that’s the solu­tion, and that is to crim­i­nal­ize the act of the buy­er, decrim­i­nal­ize the act of the sell­er. The woman in pros­ti­tu­tion is not crim­i­nal­ly liable. The man who buys her is crim­i­nal­ly liable. Now, even Swe­den, unfor­tu­nate­ly, didn’t imple­ment it very well. And so there are a num­ber of caveats. There are a num­ber of fac­tors that need to be tak­en into account. But leg­isla­tive, that’s the process. That’s what you have to do. You have to put the blame for the struc­ture on the peo­ple who cre­at­ed the struc­ture. Pros­ti­tu­tion is an insti­tu­tion cre­at­ed by men, for men. The solu­tion is to put the blame and the cul­pa­bil­i­ty back on the peo­ple who cre­at­ed it for them­selves. Men need to be cul­pa­ble, crim­i­nal­ly cul­pa­ble, and the women not. That’s the first thing. But the sec­ond thing is that this needs to be done with a raft of mea­sures, which include suf­fi­cient law enforce­ment crack­ing down on those male buy­ers to make it a seri­ous thing. This wasn’t done well in Swe­den. There were some, but not any­where near enough. It needs to be much more than token enforce­ment. Men need to be scared of being arrest­ed for that sex­u­al offense, right! Added to a sex offender’s list or increase the cost of detec­tion for the men. That’s real­ly impor­tant. The sec­ond thing that needs to hap­pen is edu­ca­tion. Swe­den did this okay. But it needs to be done bet­ter and intro­duced into schools at younger age. That the respect for women, low­er objec­ti­fi­ca­tion of women. These sorts of edu­ca­tion­al pro­grams are real­ly impor­tant. In Swe­den they did it quite well. I get a sense it’s drift­ing from where it was, but it was going quite well. The vast major­i­ty of men in Swe­den don’t even or would not even think of buy­ing a woman for sex. I don’t think I’ve ever been, and I’m Swedish now, so maybe I’m sound­ing a bit pan­der­ing, but I haven’t been to a soci­ety where there is less objec­ti­fi­ca­tion of women, pub­lic objec­ti­fi­ca­tion, the wolf whistling and the what’s the word? Ogling and things like this. It’s gen­uine­ly tan­gi­bly, less in the street. And vio­lence against women, like­wise, is at a very low lev­el in Swe­den. I think all of these come togeth­er. And when they do come togeth­er, they cre­ate an envi­ron­ment where women are more respect­ed. Gen­tri­fi­ca­tion is low­er. Men don’t even think about buy­ing a woman for sex. The impact that has had has been a dra­mat­ic reduc­tion in pros­ti­tu­tion in Swe­den and a dra­mat­ic reduc­tion in human traf­fick­ing. Police inves­ti­ga­tion into a human-traf­fick­ing group in Swe­den ear­ly after the leg­is­la­tion was brought in, they decid­ed to move on. They said, we’re going to Den­mark and the Nether­lands because our mar­ket has dried up here. That’s very telling. That’s what needs to be done. This raft of mea­sures around a leg­isla­tive response, educa­tive and law enforce­ment respons­es as well. This is real­ly impor­tant. And then the fourth piece of that pack­age is build­ing exit strate­gies for women in pros­ti­tu­tion. It is not that decrim­i­nal­iz­ing the act of the woman in pros­ti­tu­tion solves every­thing. The woman is still stuck in obvi­ous­ly a very eco­nom­i­cal­ly and per­son­al­ly con­strained cir­cum­stance. There needs to be a great deal more spent on assis­tance to find ways out of that. In many ways, in a very sim­i­lar way to what Fin­land has done with solv­ing home­less­ness. That is, they pro­vide hous­ing, they pro­vide some income, they pro­vide jobs, they pro­vide skills, they pro­vide edu­ca­tion. This is all build­ing a com­fort pack­age, let’s say, around women in pros­ti­tu­tion to help them get out. These four things need to be all done togeth­er. If they’re not all done togeth­er and not all done equal­ly, then it’s going to be par­tial fail­ure. That’s what needs to be done. Biggest obsta­cles: the lip­stick fem­i­nists, the fem­i­nists in uni­ver­si­ties who are still claim­ing that indi­vid­u­al­ism is every­thing, that the indi­vid­ual choice means every­thing and the soci­ety has no say. And I think that posi­tion which per­me­ates not just uni­ver­si­ties, but also into gov­ern­ments and let’s say larg­er soci­ety. It’s a school of fem­i­nism. Any­way, sor­ry, apolo­gies for that, but this school is real­ly quite dam­ag­ing to the idea that we can solve this through allow­ing indi­vid­ual choice to be every­thing. Indi­vid­u­al­ism has costs. It can’t be indi­vid­u­al­ism at any cost. There’s got to be some bar­gain, let’s say. And unfor­tu­nate­ly, it means that some women in pros­ti­tu­tion are going to lose in that their indi­vid­ual choice, if such a choice can be con­sid­ered to be a free thing, which is arguably nev­er. Right? I would say that’s one of the biggest obsta­cles. Sec­ond biggest obsta­cle? No, actu­al­ly, I mean the first biggest obsta­cle is men, right? The first biggest obsta­cle is white, mid­dle-aged men mak­ing pol­i­cy and law on this sub­ject. And they are very slow to move if they move at all. I have known per­son­al­ly of inves­ti­ga­tions of politi­cians, for exam­ple, who were being black­mailed by pro-pros­ti­tu­tion and pro-pornog­ra­phy groups so that they would block laws like the Swedish law, like the equal­i­ty mod­el, because com­pro­mise pho­tographs tak­en of them in a broth­el, things like this. That’s a real thing. It’s hap­pen­ing. Of course the men are the biggest prob­lem. Men not chang­ing is a big prob­lem. Men assum­ing women can be sold and bought is a prob­lem..!  Men believ­ing they have a right to women’s bod­ies, they have a right to con­sume women. That’s obvi­ous­ly the biggest obsta­cle. Then there are these lip­stick fem­i­nists and then there is also the mon­ey. The mon­ey is so phe­nom­e­nal that can be made from recruit­ing very cheap­ly a woman whom you buy an air­line tick­et for and put her in an apart­ment that you’re pay­ing noth­ing for. And then sell­ing her 20, 30 times a day. That’s an enor­mous prof­it mod­el. Right. So that mon­ey is real­ly com­pelling for a lot of peo­ple in con­strained eco­nom­ic times. It’s even more com­pelling for young men to get more involved in that. I don’t know how you tack­le the mon­ey. It’s not so easy to pro­vide alter­na­tives to peo­ple who want to get into the mar­ket as sellers.

 

MICHEL VEUTHEY : Bri­an, I under­stand and I have an inter­est­ing ques­tion also by a friend from Nige­ria, Sis­ter Francesca. Sis­ter Francesca, who is just com­ing now back from Nige­ria. She is in Gene­va and she’s ask­ing, “I’m curi­ous with your state­ment. At some time we spend time cre­at­ing aware­ness with those who are already aware. What would you say about poor moth­ers in a rur­al vil­lage in Nige­ria or else­where in the world who inno­cent­ly give their daugh­ters out to rich madams against women, under the pre­tence that they will get a job and be able to earn a liv­ing, sup­port the fam­i­ly in the long run, how­ev­er, end up being traf­ficked for sex­u­al exploitation?”

 

BRIAN ISELIN: Well. Yes, please. It’s a great ques­tion. The impor­tant thing to think about with aware­ness rais­ing is that the suc­cess or fail­ure of it real­ly depends on how close­ly you tar­get the audi­ence and whether you com­mu­ni­cate to them where they will under­stand the mes­sage and where they can best act on the infor­ma­tion. An exam­ple of good aware­ness rais­ing would be hav­ing a work­ing group with the women in each of those vil­lages, telling them what’s going on and what the risks are. Per­son­al­ly, human con­tact with them, work­ing groups and so on, that’s aware­ness rais­ing that can be effec­tive at a local lev­el. What’s not effec­tive is putting up a poster at an air­port in the depar­tures area with a pho­to of a young girl and say­ing “Beware you might be human traf­ficked”, that’s a waste of mon­ey! That’s a poster cam­paign that has just wast­ed scarce resources. That should have been put into work­ing groups, going out to com­mu­ni­ties to make them aware of what’s going on around them, right? These poster cam­paigns, even though some of these hot­line num­bers that you see, that actu­al­ly even­tu­al­ly end up in some places, they end up at sig­nif­i­cant expense. These are also a waste of time in gen­er­al, right? Hot­lines can work, but most­ly they’re imple­ment­ed in such a way that they can’t. And the per­fect exam­ple is a girl I knew of who was killed by her traf­fick­er because she had a phone num­ber writ­ten on a piece of paper in her pock­et that she’d seen and what was it? I’m try­ing to remem­ber now. She’d seen the num­ber some­where, but it wasn’t on a poster at an air­port. But there was some­how she got a hold of this num­ber  might have been for anoth­er girl actu­al­ly. Any­way, the traf­fick­er found her with this num­ber in the pock­et because the num­ber was so com­pli­cat­ed there was no way she could remem­ber it. It wasn’t like one one one, it was a com­pli­cat­ed num­ber. She’d writ­ten it on a piece of paper, traf­fick­er found it, real­ized that that was the hot­line num­ber and killed her. Hot­lines are very, very dif­fi­cult to imple­ment and I would say that they’re a piece of this whole aware­ness rais­ing thing because they usu­al­ly come with ads at air­ports and so on and so forth. I think pub­lic ser­vice announce­ments are also a huge waste of mon­ey. Videos, Aus­tralia announced one of its new mea­sures is a video about the risk of mod­ern slav­ery in the clean­ing indus­try for the clean­ing indus­try in Aus­tralia. Now, I don’t know about you, but I hap­pen to know the clean­ing indus­try in Aus­tralia is well aware of the risk of human traf­fick­ing with­in the clean­ing indus­try in Aus­tralia. They don’t need a video to tell them that it’s a high risk issue and if any­body in the indus­try doesn’t know that there is a risk of mod­ern slav­ery in the clean­ing busi­ness, they’re a knuck­le­head and they’re not going to care about that video any­way. This is what I’m say­ing with the aware­ness rais­ing is it’s got to be real­ly well thought out, it’s got to be real­ly well tar­get­ed, it’s got to be direct­ed at an audi­ence that is very well iden­ti­fied. We talk in aware­ness-rais­ing cam­paigns about the per­sona. We don’t need a per­sona. We need a group of peo­ple. An actu­al con­crete group of peo­ple, not mar­ket­ing per­sonas, tar­get­ed infor­ma­tion to peo­ple who can act on that infor­ma­tion at the time that they receive the infor­ma­tion. This time­li­ness is real­ly key, right? If you put some­body up a pub­lic ser­vice announce­ment, for exam­ple, about watch­ing out for mod­ern slav­ery, but there’s noth­ing they can do right there and then they see it on an air­plane, for exam­ple, a pub­lic ser­vice announce­ment it’s beau­ti­ful, very well-direct­ed, nice light­ing, but there’s noth­ing they can do about it. Right there, sit­ting on the plane, by the time they’ve land­ed, it’s gone. It’s dead. Aware­ness rais­ing, mas­sive amounts of mon­ey wast­ed on it. The case that you’re talk­ing about in Nige­ria is a per­fect exam­ple of where aware­ness-rais­ing mon­ey can and should be spent because there is a spe­cif­ic, absolute, direct audi­ence who can take that infor­ma­tion and act on it. Go do it!

 

MICHEL VEUTHEY : Thank you very much. Actu­al­ly tak­ing due note, because I think we should work on this togeth­er. I’m pret­ty sure that Sis­ter Francesca will have very con­crete ideas, con­crete answers to fol­low up on your pro­pos­als, because that’s pre­cise­ly what we were dis­cussing before she trav­eled to Nige­ria. Now, I have anoth­er question.

 

BRIAN ISELIN: Can I just say, Michel, one of the best ways to think about aware­ness rais­ing is think­ing about oral his­to­ries. The way we can pass down and pass around com­mu­ni­ties. An oral his­to­ry about what can hap­pen, what the risks are, what the chances are, what it looks like. We use the oral his­to­ry form and pass it on. It’s a word-of-mouth method. It doesn’t get huge num­bers, but it becomes real­ly quite ingrained.

 

MICHEL VEUTHEY: Thank you very much. Then there’s anoth­er ques­tion by Mary Patri­cia Mul­hall. Bri­an, how do you finance your work and your own livelihood?

 

BRIAN ISELIN: That’s a great ques­tion. In the begin­ning, I financed it from mis­sions that I was doing for coun­ternar­cotics work. That is still a thing. Peo­ple are still pay­ing for mis­sions for coun­ternar­cotics work. I was doing that up until my last traf­fick­ing mis­sion, the failed one. I paid for my liv­ing and the start of Slave­free­trade. The first cou­ple of years of Slave­free­trade out of my own sav­ings, they’ve all gone. Since then, to be frank, I’ve just been liv­ing on cred­it and my pen­sion, which I don’t have, I’m tak­ing it out in advance, right? So it doesn’t pay. There is no way to make a good liv­ing on this. Cer­tain­ly, I’m just get­ting myself more and more into debt, unfor­tu­nate­ly, if I can be hon­est. Then I would like not very positive.

 

MICHEL VEUTHEY: my last ques­tion? Which per­son­al­i­ties have had the great­est impact on you when you met in your strug­gle and explained the new chal­lenge you are under­tak­ing with the launch of your con­sult­ing com­pa­ny Iselin Human Rights?

 

BRIAN ISELIN: Sor­ry, what was the first part of the ques­tion again?

 

MICHEL VEUTHEY: The first part. Which per­son­al­i­ties had the great­est impact on you met in your com­bat against human trafficking?

 

BRIAN ISELIN: I would say it’s the teams that I’ve been able to put togeth­er for the res­cues have been the biggest impact, per­son­al­ly on me, in per­son­al­i­ty terms, because these are peo­ple who, like me, were doing it for noth­ing, right. NGOs or fam­i­lies, lots of dif­fer­ent pos­si­ble con­trac­tors were need­ing help, but they weren’t pay­ing any­thing. Some­times they would pay our air­line tick­et, but that’s about all. Then we had all our expens­es and weapons and every­thing else. They were amaz­ing peo­ple who put their lives on the line for a greater good. Even though we all knew, we’re all expe­ri­enced with this, we all knew that every time we res­cued some­one, it prob­a­bly wasn’t going to be nec­es­sar­i­ly good for that per­son. Once we got them out, there would be sig­nif­i­cant hard­ships ahead of them. We all knew that. It was always this bit­ter­sweet feel­ing at the end, okay, we got her out, but now she’s going. Now look where she’s going. She’s just going to be retraf­ficked or killed. You can’t think about that. You’ve got a job to do. The job is to res­cue them and give them a chance, at least, because they would have even less of a chance if we left them where they were. Those teams that have put togeth­er with indi­vid­u­als have been last­ing friend­ships. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, they’re not all here. They’ve done lots of sim­i­lar work and some not here. I remem­ber them deeply but these per­son­al­i­ties, these peo­ple would go into hope­less sit­u­a­tions and help these peo­ple, is so enrich­ing. That’s why I went back mis­sion after mis­sion. Right? It’s not just about the res­cue, it’s also about the peo­ple you get to bring in to do the work.

 

MICHEL VEUTHEY: Bri­an, could you tell us now you’re launch­ing this con­sult­ing com­pa­ny Iselin Human Rights?

 

BRIAN ISELIN: I need to make a liv­ing. I need to pay off my cred­it cards. I’ve just set up a con­sul­tan­cy, which is to pro­vide human rights, com­pli­ance and ser­vices, like human rights audits and so on. A bit like the B to B piece of slave-free trade, right? A bit like if a com­pa­ny wants to be human rights com­pli­ant, then we pro­vide those ser­vices to com­pa­nies that want it. There are some com­pa­nies that are start­ing to look at it because leg­is­la­tion is start­ing to push them in that direc­tion. This is some­thing that’s hap­pen­ing. A lot of big com­pa­nies, for exam­ple, are now start­ing to think about human rights strate­gies which they nev­er had before. This is great. Change is com­ing. It’s tan­gi­ble, it’s just incred­i­bly slow. It’s glacial move­ment. Iselin Human Rights, it’s a small com­pa­ny designed to pro­vide that ser­vice to a larg­er group of com­pa­nies that oth­er­wise can’t afford to be able to buy human rights com­pli­ance ser­vices and don’t know what to do. They don’t have the exper­tise. Big com­pa­nies, Siemens, Volk­swa­gen, Danone what­ev­er? They can buy ser­vices from PWC, KPMG, Deloitte, and those com­pa­nies, of course, have leapt on the band­wag­on to sell human rights ser­vices. They have no exper­tise. They’ve got MBA pro­gram grad­u­ates, but they’ve got a great sales machine and they can pro­duce great papers and slide decks. These com­pa­nies are mak­ing a mint already out of large com­pa­nies requir­ing human rights ser­vices. I guess what I’m say­ing is that I’m try­ing to help com­pa­nies that are less than the multi­na­tion­als, but want to do some­thing with mean­ing. If it’s a suc­cess, I don’t know. It’s only been open a month, so let’s see if it lasts a year.

 

MICHEL VEUTHEY: Bri­an, we wish you every suc­cess indeed in this new human exper­i­ment in human rights and def­i­nite­ly, you have a beau­ti­ful web­site. I think every­one could vis­it this web­site with great profit.

 

BRIAN ISELIN: Please do. There’s a blog on there with lots and lots of arti­cles for you to read if you’re inter­est­ed in these sub­jects. I write some­thing every day for that.

 

MCHEL VEUTHEY: Excel­lent. We should all look at this.

 

BRIAN ISELIN: Please do. www.Iselinhumanrights.com,

 

MICHEL VEUTHEY: that’s easy enough to get. All together.

 

BRIAN ISELIN: all one word Iselinhumanrights.com And then blog if you want to go to the arti­cles and you can sub­scribe, you can sign up to get a noti­fi­ca­tion when I pub­lish a new one, which actu­al­ly is every day.

 

MICHEL VEUTHEY: Cer­tain­ly, we shall…

 

BRIAN ISELIN: can I just say, if any­body wants a blog arti­cle writ­ten on a par­tic­u­lar sub­ject, if you want to ask me about some­thing and for me to write about it, drop me a note. Michel can cir­cu­late my email and I will very hap­pi­ly write an arti­cle address­ing your issue.

 

MICHEL VEUTHEY: No, def­i­nite­ly. If any­one now, today, live or watch­ing the video record­ing of this webi­nar, def­i­nite­ly I will pro­vide them with your email address Bri­an because actu­al­ly, as you say, it’s good to have gen­er­al state­ments, blan­ket state­ments, but it’s bet­ter to focus and have a prac­ti­cal approach and then to involve peo­ple who indeed have, like you, an expe­ri­ence and who, like you, have a com­mit­ment and indeed, that might be very inter­est­ing. Actu­al­ly, I see some­one say­ing, Bri­an, you are sim­ply amaz­ing. Thank you for your expe­ri­ence and I think it’s well deserved.

 

BRIAN ISELIN: That’s real­ly kind. Thank you.

 

MICHEL VEUTHEY: Bri­an let’s stay in touch. Our best wish­es. I’m pret­ty sure that every­one who did fol­low this great inter­view will be hap­py to express their wish­es for suc­cess of your con­tin­u­ing strug­gle, and actu­al­ly, I would just like to thank you for your exam­ple and indeed your frank expla­na­tions. We also like to thank all par­tic­i­pants and to say that our next webi­nar will be on April 25. It will present the needs and sto­ries of male sur­vivors of child sex­u­al abuse, exploita­tion and human traf­fick­ing. It will be with Ena Lucia Mari­a­ca Pacheco. Ena Pacheco just wrote a dis­ser­ta­tion on the dif­fi­cult jour­ney of male sur­vivors, uncov­er­ing and iden­ti­fy­ing the social inter­ac­tions that harm and aid male sur­vivor recov­ery and heal­ing, as well as fur­ther explor­ing the bar­ri­ers that hin­der dis­clo­sure. Now I would like to say that indeed you see the email address of Brian—is brian_iselin () iselinhumanrights.com.

MICHEL VEUTHEY: Exact­ly, brian_iselin () iselinhumanrights.com That works.

 

BRIAN ISELIN: Can you con­nect with me on LinkedIn? See, then you have everything.

 

MICHEL VEUTHEY: LinkedIn/in/in/Brianislin.

 

BRIAN ISELIN: Your busi­ness human rights guy.

 

MICHEL VEUTHEY: That’s very good. No, I see that you’re every­where post­ing very inter­est­ing blogs and mes­sages well worth fol­low­ing. Yes, that’s very good.

 

BRIAN ISELIN: Most­ly icon­o­clas­tic, as you’re prob­a­bly well aware.

 

MICHEL VEUTHEY: No. Bri­an, thanks a million.

 

BRIAN ISELIN: Thank you. Thanks for your time and thanks to every­body for tak­ing the time to listen.

 

MICHEL VEUTHEY: Yes, and also my grat­i­tude to Y. R., our web­mas­ter, and to my assis­tant in Gene­va Clara Breguet Isep­pi, and Emanuele, Gior­gio Pilu­so, and also Lind­say Boudreau, who joined us for one month. Bri­an, again, many thanks, best wishes—and—thank you. Let’s stay in touch because we shall also record this webi­nar and video record­ing shall be avail­able in a few days on our web­site adlaudatosi.org with sub­ti­tles in Eng­lish, French, Ger­man, Ital­ian, Russ­ian, Span­ish and Chi­nese. Feel free to share the link and our Eng­lish online course on human traf­fick­ing for helpers is now trans­lat­ed and avail­able for free in French, Eng­lish, Ger­man and Ital­ian on the www.cuhd.org web­site. I wish you all the best, I invite you to the upcom­ing webi­nar on Tues­day, April 25 at 6 p.m. Cen­tral Euro­pean time. Thanks. —Best wish­es to all. —Thank you. Good­bye, Bri­an. Thanks a mil­lion. Thanks.

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