Anti-Trafficking Groups Raising Awareness Ahead of London Summer Games

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By Ivana Kvesic, Christian Post Reporter
June 26, 2012|11:04 am

A group of over 30 international investment firms and organizations, some of which are faith-based, have joined hands to fight against human trafficking at the world's largest sporting event of the year – the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.

The London Olympics are estimated to attract nearly five million visitors for the duration of the July 27 - Aug. 12 games and human rights activists and organizations have expressed concern that the games will be accompanied by an increase in the trafficking of men, women, and children for sex trafficking, forced labor, or both.

"The Olympics are an opportunity for the citizens of the world to unite in celebration of the best of the human spirit: dedication and discipline, mutual understanding, fair play and solidarity," a statement on the initiative's website, Celebration Without Exploitation, reads. "But they also expose a darker side of human nature: for international sporting events and the large audiences they draw are also potential venues for the exploitation of the world's most vulnerable citizens via the deplorable practice of human trafficking and modern day slavery."

Christian Brothers Investment Services (CBIS) is working in partnership with 37 nonprofit organizations and investment firms, including the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility, FairPensions, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, and several other groups to spearhead the effort to combat human trafficking before and during the London Olympics.

CBIS is an investment firm that works in partnership with Catholic institutions to "develop socially responsible investing solutions" for current and future investment needs," according to the company website. The organization works with over 1,000 Catholic institutions to spur socially responsible investing that unifies the seemingly disparate worlds of faith and finance.

In March, the group began its London Olympics campaign by sending out dozens of letters to 21 major Olympic sponsors and 11 hotels in the London area where they had concerns that sex trafficking or forced labor within the global supply chain could potentially occur.

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The letters asked hotels detailed questions regarding policies and training systems for employees on human trafficking awareness, victim identification, knowledge of proper procedure in reporting incidences, and if the hotels had pre-established relationships with law enforcement and social service agencies to ensure that victims receive proper help. Of companies in the private sector that are serving as event sponsors, letters asked about what sponsors were doing to ensure the tight monitoring of their global supply chain and asked them to identify what types of corrective actions they would take if the issue of forced labor was raised.

The responses from both hotels and the private sector have thus far been positive, according to Julie Tanner of the CBIS.

"We've been getting a lot of good responses back from companies. I think in general, we've been heartened by the response," Tanner told The Christian Post in a recent interview. "It appears that a lot of the hotels are already on it and will be doing training and have been doing training. And a lot of the sponsors provided back to us information about their policies and programs, some of which are quite extensive."

The human trafficking campaign is multi-pronged in its approach, also providing an online tool kit with information and statistics from recent reports on trafficking. The website also has an online consumer segment where concerned citizens can find fact sheets, pre-drafted letters for hotels regarding sex trafficking, and also sign a petition calling for a sweatshop-free London Olympics.

Despite the massive effort, human trafficking is often a misreported crime and its clandestine nature makes it difficult to locate victims, pursue traffickers, and halt the crimes, according to Tanner. Thus, the anti-trafficking coalition is also working on advocacy efforts urging the International Olympic Committee to create human rights standards for both Olympic sponsors and host cities.

The coalition sent a letter to the IOC and in hopes that eventually the IOC and other associations that are responsible for holding large sporting events, such as the NFL, institute a set of human rights standards that will protect individuals before, during, and after the games. A set of standards for both Olympic sponsors and host cities can significantly help in the overall effort to combat trafficking at large sporting events.

"There is a role for companies, investors, and associations that sponsor a lot of these events to really help on this issue," Tanner told CP.

CBIS and its coalition of partners in the anti-trafficking fight are currently in the process of analyzing the responses to its letters sent out in March and plan to release a report in July with information on general trends as well as identification of good practices in combating human trafficking for businesses and the public at large.

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