Human Rights

On Sunday October 9, an afternoon panel at the Symposium will focus on “Tools for Sustainable Change in the Private Sector.” One of the panelists will be Ms. Eppy Boschma, Senior Advisor to the Global Compact Network Netherlands.

The UN Global Compact began in 1999 with a challenge from then-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan for the private sector to “give a human face to globalization,” and to do business in ways that benefit society and protect people. The UN Global Compact works to ensure that businesses add value to people, communities and the planet, as well as to their bottom lines. Over 8,000 companies and 4,000 non-profit organizations have joined the UN Global Compact in 170 countries, with around 100 local networks connecting stakeholders on the ground.

Corporate sustainability starts with establishing a culture of integrity and a principled approach to doing business. This means operating in ways that meet fundamental responsibilities in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. Global Compact signatory companies incorporate the Global Compact principles into their strategies, policies and procedures, setting the stage for long-term success.

Where does human trafficking intersect with corporate activity? Trafficked and forced labor usually involves people working at the margins of formal economies, with irregular employment or migration status. The sectors most likely to use trafficked workers are agriculture/horticulture, construction, sweatshop garments and textiles, catering, restaurants, domestic work, entertainment and the sex industry. It also affects food processing, health care and contract cleaning.

The Netherlands Network of the UN Global Compact

In 2007, a group of Netherlands-based signatories of the UN Global Compact founded The Netherlands Network of the UN Global Compact (GC NL) to promote the Global Compact's principles and serve its members through organizing learning activities, mutual support with reporting and communication on progress, and joint projects. GC NL now includes over 100 companies in financial services, support services, industry, transportation and software and computer services, guided by the ten Global Compact principles and the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.  

GC NL encourages private companies in the Netherlands to sign on to the Global Compact; provides for learning, benchmarking through peer feedback on GC reporting; offers opportunities to exchange experiences among GC signatories, public authorities, civil society and academic institutions interested in sustainability; and initiates joint projects including:

  • Business & Human Rights initiative aimed at giving guidance on corporate human rights policies;

  • Partnering for Prosperity project that seeks to reduce poverty and hunger by forming local partnerships with small farmers; and  

  • A developing network discussing good practices for eradicating child labor.

The violence and exploitation experienced by sex trafficking victims, the lack of access to proper nutrition, hygienic conditions, and vulnerability to sexually transmitted diseases lead to a variety of personal problems.  Personal problems can significantly deter progress in social integration and exacerbate issues that many survivors face after rescue: limited or no access to legal protection, uncertain residency status, and lack of financial support from the national government.

In The Netherlands, The Bijlmer Project believes that the critical success factor for successful rehabilitation and social reintegration is addressing psychological and behavioral effects at the very beginning of rescue. That means a long-term commitment from their stakeholders and team members, as success means the ability to provide multifaceted approaches. The Bijlmer Project is a unique collaboration between Webster University (Leiden) and Christian Aid & Resources Foundation (CARF).

Webster University goals:

  1. Development of a psychosocial intervention program for survivors

  2. Facilitation of trauma counseling for survivors by trained professionals

  3. Capacity-building peer education programs

  4. Involvement of students and faculty in a sustainable and socially responsible project

  5. Conduct human trafficking research and its implications on society

  6. Offer global internship programs

CARF goals:

  1. Empowerment of sex-trafficked survivors

  2. Cultural mediation and holistic rehabilitation for spiritual renewal of survivors

  3. Helping survivors become role models and educators to other victims

To achieve these goals, the project encompasses the talents of many stakeholders and partners such as Synquity for leadership coaching and New Yardsticks for Work + Shelter business models. Together, the Bijlmer Project team offers a variety of services that include a centralized support location for support with proper legal aid, health and psychological care, counseling and therapy, vocational and job training and literacy education.

Question: What can a professor, a preacher, a coach, and a social entrepreneur build together?

Answer: The Bijlmer Project Bridge2Hope.

Author Fredrik Nael wrote, “It takes two sides to build a bridge.”  With the Bijlmer team of professionals on one side – who is on the other side? Survivors of human sex trafficking who want to achieve greater self-sustainability. “Self-sustainability” means defining a psychological and spiritual healing path for each survivor that leads to economic freedom. This requires that the bridge must be strong, yet flexible; supple, yet knitted together with steely fibers. The survivor side is driven by personal ownership and commitment and the project team side is providing an amazing tool chest of training, coaching and therapy. Both sides are working together to build the Bridge2Hope.

Come to the Symposium and listen to Dr. Sheetal Shah describe how she builds bridges.

Human Rights Watch considers migrants – people living and working outside their country of origin –particularly vulnerable to human rights abuses. The trafficking of forced labor is a global problem. Circumstances work in the employer’s favor to keep migrant workers in vulnerable positions and make them accept the situation by continuing to keep workers in debt bondage.

Many migrant workers incur debt, such as transfer costs or pre-departure training, before they ever leave their own country. Debt continues to pile up on the job in the form of employer fines for small offenses or high housing rental cost. In some countries, such as The Netherlands, if workers do not stay for at least three months, they do not get any of their money back.

Now - imagine yourself working in a country where you don’t know the customs, you don’t speak the language, and you find yourself falling more and more into debt.  You need to talk to someone, but nobody understands your situation. You are being forced to work, but you have no one to tell.

In The Netherlands, FairWork directly supports victims of labor exploitation by deploying a special tool: cultural mediation. Director Sandra Claassen manages a team of  “Cultural Mediators” with language skills and knowledge of different countries and cultures. They make direct contact with the migrant workers to listen to their situations, inform them about their rights, explain the Dutch legal system and help them make informed choices.

Cultural mediation provides important data-gathering opportunities and a keener understanding of problems faced by migrant laborers.  From there, the FairWork organization acts like a network operator, plugging people into the Dutch system, using their areas of expertise to improve working conditions.

FairWork also visits trade unions to understand what they do and how they protect the rights of workers. FairWork is able to use this information to advocate for policy changes, raise awareness with the Dutch public, and develop capacity-building training courses for law enforcement agencies and other organizations in the Netherlands.

Come learn more about labor trafficking from FairWork at the FAWCO Symposium in The Hague on October 8-9, 2016.

Many people take short trips to developing countries and pay a sometimes exorbitant fee to volunteer in orphanages from “voluntourism” agencies. They do it with very good intentions. They volunteer and leave. But how long would that good feeling last if they knew that many of those children had been sold to orphanages and that the profits usually end up in the hands of corrupt orphanage directors? The truth is that many children living in orphanages actually have been trafficked - separated from their families to attract paying volunteers or donors. Research suggests that approximately  80% of children in orphanages in fact have at least one parent still alive and/or  relatives or community members who would willingly care for the children but are unable to do so as a result of poverty.

The Stahili Foundation was founded in response to a situation involving a particular orphanage in rural Kenya.  Well-intentioned volunteers from around the world were unaware of what went on “behind the curtain.” The children were subjected to physical abuse, deprivation of education, exploitation and forced labor. As explained by Michelle Oliel, co-founder of Stahili:

“The orphanage was running as a for-profit business and children were a form of attraction for volunteers, mostly from wealthy countries in Europe and North America. Donors paid money and gave their time while children were being exploited.”

In some countries, the revenue that comes from volunteers has resulted in an increase in the number of corrupt orphanages. Volunteers are usually able to raise money from family and friends to fund their trip in addition to paying a fee to volunteer. Despite their good intentions, however, volunteers are usually unaware that their actions are fueling the growing commercial phenomenon of “orphanage tourism.” Having short-term volunteers arriving through a revolving door can affect a child’s development and emotional well-being, causing attachment issues later in adulthood. 

Stahili is not alone in its view. UNICEF and Save the Children are only a few organizations which discourage short-term volunteer experiences in orphanages. Orphanages should be a place of last resort. Most children in residential institutions such as orphanages are likely to have their own relatives or members of their community willing to care for them if only economic conditions allowed. Where children have no one to care for them, it is critical that they are supported in a way which protects their right to family and community by establishing foster care. 

Moreover, volunteers are usually unqualified or haven’t been trained to work with vulnerable children and look out for the “red flags” indicating exploitation or abuse. In Western countries, those wishing to work with vulnerable children are subjected to extensive background checks to ensure that they are properly qualified. We must demand that the same level of protection be afforded to vulnerable children in the Global South. 

Now, you might be thinking that all forms of volunteering are bad, but this is not the case. We can still make a difference: by acting responsibly, doing our homework and considering how we can best use our skills to stop the spread of for-profit orphanages and the exploitation of children. 

Here are six things you should consider to make sure your actions aren’t harmful: 

  • Conduct thorough research beforehand to make sure that your actions do not inadvertently harm others.
  • Ask yourself if you are fully prepared and qualified to take on the volunteer tasks.  Be sure to avoid working with vulnerable children unless you are qualified to work with them. 
  • Always check out the credentials and reputation of organizations offering volunteer placements. Be wary if you are not asked for a background check!
  • Paying for an experience abroad without understanding how the money impacts local communities and how the money could be used more effectively can cause more harm.  
  • Spread awareness on the issue -- many people don’t even realize the harm caused by orphanage tourism. 
  • Support organizations, like Stahili, who work to end orphanage “voluntourism” and support family reunifications and alternative care.  

Business Value = Human Value. This  interesting equation turns commercial philosophy upside down when implemented in a business model called social enterprise. A social enterprise company is a revenue-generating business that reinvests its surplus to achieve its social objectives rather than deliver profit to shareholders. Harsha Patel*, founder and managing director of Doing Social, lists five success factors for social enterprise startup:

1. Passion for social change

2. Model for social change that meets needs

3. Business acumen

4. Leadership skills

5. Specific technical expertise

The startup of a social enterprise is usually founded on horrific situations and cultural shock. In 2001, Dave Batstone discovered that his favorite restaurant in San Francisco had been the center of a local human trafficking ring that forcibly brought hundreds of teenagers from India into the United States. He realized this was part of a growing international issue affecting every industry and corner of the earth. By turning his shock into passion and engaging with business partners, he was able to develop a viable business model. In 2007, he wrote a book called Not for Sale and a new social enterprise was born.

Not For Sale has projects in the United States, Peru, Thailand, Vietnam, Romania and The Netherlands. What makes these social enterprise projects so powerful is the win/win/win combination of business savvy, internship and community service that supports positive change in local societies. Not For Sale partners have described their work environments as “a place to develop leadership skills in a collaborative project.” Employees enjoy working for a company that makes a difference in the world. Buyers are ready to switch to brands that represent a good cause.

Batstone has stated, “My aim is to integrate business connections into vulnerable communities thus creating jobs.” At the FAWCO Symposium, Not For Sale Netherlands Director, Toos Heemskerk-Schep, will present the Amsterdam social enterprise model, a restaurant that offers professional culinary training to survivors of human trafficking. During their culinary internships, survivors gain valuable job and life skills that will help them find dignified employment. After the women graduate, Not For Sale assists in job placement or paid internships throughout Amsterdam or in their home countries.


“Trafficking in persons,” “human trafficking,” and “modern slavery” are used as umbrella terms for the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud or coercion. What does that mean in everyday language? Human trafficking is slave trade. Sources cite approximately 20 to 30 million slaves in the world today. Overwhelming. Nothing anyone can do about this sad situation… or is there?

The word “hero” is not usually associated with human trafficking.  Let’s face it - in real life, there are very few caped crusaders who fly in and rescue victims. But heroes do exist. They look like normal everyday people because that’s who they are. How are they different from you? Because they do something every day to stop human trafficking. It doesn’t have to be a BIG thing. It has to be a daily habit.

“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” Jim Ryuh

The U.S. Department of State has thought of 20 ways that you can stop modern slavery. This “toolkit” has options for individuals, communities, businesses, students and schools, law enforcement, health providers and law firms. This site can motivate you to get started. Google a topic that interests you and you will find more options and tools. You will come to understand how individual efforts transform into global progress against modern slavery. Opening these toolkits will open your eyes to positive changes you can make. All you need to do is choose a tool and make it a habit to use it.

“Habit is a cable; we weave a thread of it each day, and at last we cannot break it.” Horace Mann

How long does it take to form a new habit? 21 days or less. What sort of habit are you considering right now to become an Everyday Hero?


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