I’m writing this article on Saturday 21 June 2014. In the United States it is Friday 20 June and our Prime Minister, John Key and a New Zealand delegation are in the United States discussing various matters of importance between New Zealand and the United States. I imagine there is a torrid schedule of meetings and discussions, including meetings with President Barack Obama and Secretary of State, John F. Kerry.
I note all of this because at the same time as our Prime Minister is meeting with President Obama, nearby Secretary Kerry is delivering the opening speech at the anticipated release of the annual Trafficking in Persons Report. This is a very important global report that annually assesses what almost every government in the world is doing to combat modern slavery. I was struck by the report’s opening paragraph…
“In the 14 years the United States has produced the Trafficking in Persons Report, the world has made tremendous progress in the fight against human trafficking. There is no government, however, that has done a perfect job responding to this crime. In the years ahead, it seems unlikely that any government will reach perfection.”
I found that paragraph both disappointing and a challenge. It’s disappointing that a human trafficking report would begin with suggesting that in the foreseeable future no country in the world could get on top of the evil issue of slavery and the slave trade.
However, it also invited a challenge. I said back to the screen I was reading from, “New Zealand could be the country that could do it.” I really believe that to be true. It might take many years to achieve but if we believe in a slave free world, then why not start with a slave free New Zealand? We could become the first nation in the world to be truly slave free.
Our Government has a goal of New Zealand becoming smoke free by 2025. That is a fantastic goal, but here’s another goal, how about New Zealand becoming slave free by 2040?
Some might say, “there are no slaves here, so what kind of goal is that?” It’s a fair question if you believe there are no slaves in New Zealand. However, the reality is there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that suggests slavery exists here in Aotearoa New Zealand.
One of the things that Stand Against Slavery (SAS) is already doing is being part of a coalition of six organisations that have commissioned extensive evidence-based research that will map the prevalence of slavery in New Zealand. We have also partnered with Justice Acts to complete a comprehensive review of New Zealand’s legislation. This report is almost complete and it will help us prioritise the legislative changes that need to be made to help victims of slavery and human trafficking.
Further, if we want to be a slave free nation we need to do more than just find slaves, set them free, and prosecute slave owners and traffickers. We also need to look at everything that feeds into NZ society. Every product we buy, and service we enjoy, needs to come from slave free supply chains. That is going to require co-operation across the spectrum. Every person who lives in New Zealand, wants to make New Zealand home, or just visits, must know that slavery is an unacceptable part of being a New Zealander. That when a person enters New Zealand they are entering a Slave Free New Zealand.
New Zealand has a history of being a world leader on important issues and modern slavery could be one of those. The 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report suggests that there is still much for us to do here in New Zealand and SAS is determined to develop strategies over the next few months to challenge the New Zealand public and its leaders to stand against slavery. Watch out for more in the coming days.