lucie logoCongratulations to Lisa Kristine, who was honored last night at Carnegie Hall in New York as the 2013 Humanitarian Photographer of the Year!

The awards are presented by the Lucie Foundation, honoring the world’s top photographers in a range of categories, including fashion, fine art, humanitarianism, photojournalism and documentary.

“Lisa has gained broad recognition for her collaboration with the NGO Free the Slaves,” the foundation notes on its website, calling her 2010 book Slavery (published by Free the Slaves) a “breathtaking body of work.”

LK Haiti 2011

Lisa photographing Haitian children vulnerable to trafficking | FTS photo

Lisa traveled to the front lines of slavery with FTS activists to capture images that reveal the pain of slavery and the hope of freedom.

Calling Lisa “a master storyteller,” the Lucie foundation says her photographs instinctively identify “the universal human dignity in all of us.”

“Awakening compassion and igniting action in a worldwide audience with powerful, broad-sweeping images of courage and tender intimate portrayals, Lisa elevates significant social causes – such as the elimination of human slavery and the unification of humanity – to missions. Her work resonates in the hearts of us all and moves us to act,” the foundation says.

If you haven’t seen Lisa’s TEDX talk about her journey to photograph slavery, you should!

More than 1.1 million people already have.

And you should consider helping Free the Slaves by buying the book Slavery, for yourself, for a friend, for a local library or school, or for your office.

It’s available on Lisa’s website. A portion of the proceeds benefit FTS anti-trafficking programs around the world.



slavery index cover photoA new estimate of global slavery calculates that 29.8 million men, women and children are enslaved worldwide.

The Global Slavery Index, released today by the Australian-based anti-trafficking group Walk Free, provides a first-of-its-kind country-by-country measure of the extent and risks of trafficking and slavery today.

“Since hidden slaves can’t be counted, it is easy to pretend they don’t exist, the Index aims to change that,” says FTS Co-founder Kevin Bales, who was the project’s lead researcher. Bales is now a professor at the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation at the University of Hull in the U.K.

The Index reveals that the countries where Free the Slaves has focused its frontline work are among the world’s worst hotspots.

India has more slaves than anywhere else, thought the numerical rankings in the Index are based on the percentage of a country’s total population in slavery.

  • Haiti is ranked number two, with an estimated 209,000 slaves (total population 10.2 million).
  • India is number four, with 14 million in slavery (total population 1.2 billion).
  • Nepal is number five, with 259,000 slaves (total population 27.5 million).
  • Ghana is number 18, with 181,000 slaves (population 25.4 million).
  • The Democratic Republic of the Congo is number 23, with 462,000 slaves (total population 65.7 million).
  • Brazil is number 94, with 209,000 slaves (total population 197.8 million).

The six FTS frontline countries account for 71 percent of today’s slaves, according to Index statistics.

The Index ranked 162 countries in all. The U.S. comes in at number 134, with 60,000 slaves. The world’s worst country is Mauritania. Three countries tied for best: the United Kingdom, Ireland and Iceland.

“The Global Slavery Index is a stark reminder that modern-day slavery, a heinous violation of basic human rights, remains a pervasive problem demanding urgent action,” says FTS Executive Director Maurice Middleberg. “We commend the effort to create a more integrated barometer of the magnitude, risks and responses to slavery in specific nations. The Global Slavery Index is a welcome addition to the literature on slavery. It offers useful insights and underscores the need for systematic collection of primary data on slavery’s prevalence. The Global Slavery Index should compel national leaders to focus on finding durable solutions.”

The Index comes a year after the U.N. International Labor Organization estimated global slavery prevalence at 20.9 million people. The two studies included different numbers of countries, and counted different forms of slavery, providing a range of research now estimating that 21-30 million people are in trapped in various forms of slavery today.

The Index report goes beyond a global headcount to also evaluate risk factors for slavery and the strength of governmental responses in 40 countries. Risks include a country’s human rights record, level of economic development, governmental stability and discrimination against women.

The goal, says Walk Free CEO Nick Grono, is to “shape national and global efforts to root-out modern slavery across the world.” Walk Free plans to update the Index every year.

DRC lawsuit logosA U.S. federal court judge has rejected efforts by three leading business associations to block new rules that require American manufacturers to disclose if their products contain slavery-tainted minerals from central Africa.

Judge Robert Wilkins of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia upheld the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) “Conflict Minerals Rule.” The rule instructs publicly-traded manufacturers to investigate and disclose if their products contain tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold from conflict zones in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and surrounding countries.

The new reporting requirement was mandated by Congress as part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law, and was intended to reduce the flow of resources to armed groups in Congo that control key mining sites. Free the Slaves research has shown that slavery is rampant in these mining communities.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable and National Association of Manufacturers sued the SEC to block the reporting requirement. The groups argued that the SEC failed to follow proper procedures by proving that the economic benefits of corporate disclosure outweigh the costs of compliance. The groups also claimed that requiring corporate disclosure of human rights violations in the manufacturing of products violates a company’s free-speech rights under the U.S. Constitution.

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New FTS Research shows that “Congo conflict minerals” are often mined by slaves.

Judge Wilkins late Tuesday concluded that those claims “lacked merit.” He noted that Congress required the SEC to create the Conflict Minerals Rule.

“The decision sets an important precedent,” says Free the Slaves Programs Director Karen Stauss. “American consumers and investors will be better able to make informed choices when companies disclose if there is slavery in their products.”

Several socially-responsible investor groups have noted that corporate disclosure of human rights violations in products will be a valuable tool for weighing the risks of investing in a particular company.

A law to require widespread corporate transparency of slavery in product supply chains in expected to be re-introduced in Congress soon.

This week’s court ruling is also expected to strengthen European efforts to require similar corporate disclosure, as activists and authorities there were keeping a close eye on the U.S. case.

logo_enTomorrow brings a great opportunity to lean about the scope and impact of a hidden form of modern-day slavery: domestic servitude.

The Organization of American States (OAS) is conducting a policy roundtable to raise awareness and promote solutions.

The policy roundtable will be webcast live in English and Spanish from 2:30 p.m. (ET) to 4:30 p.m. ET on the OAS website.  If you are in the Washington area, the event itself is open to the public at the OAS Secretariat on the National Mall near the White House. See the invitation here.

The roundtable is designed to create awareness about a growing form of trafficking throughout the Americas. Millions of women — and men — are on the move worldwide, migrating from impoverished rural areas to cities, and from poorer countries to wealthy ones, seeking jobs and better lives. Many times, they end up being tricked by traffickers posing as legitimate labor recruiters. There is growing awareness that many maids, gardeners, cooks, nannies and other domestic helpers these days are held in conditions that constitute modern-day slavery.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) released a report earlier this year estimating that more than 50 million people work as domestic servants worldwide, many of them in conditions of slavery. Two weeks ago, the ILO released research indicating that 10 million of those domestic servants are children. A new international treaty aims to curb abuses.

Tomorrow’s event will feature a top ILO representative, Erick Zeballos, along with FTS Executive Director Maurice Middleberg and Programs Director Karen Stauss. Free the Slaves Freedom Award winner Josefa Condori Quispe will speak too – she’s a domestic servitude survivor who now runs a shelter in South America for girls who escape this form of slavery. Also scheduled to speak are Marcelina Bautista of the International Domestic Workers Network, Carmen Moreno of the Inter-American Commission of Women, Paulina Duarte of the OAS, and Ambassador Luis CdeBaca of the U.S. State Department’s anti-trafficking program.

Mark your calendar for tomorrow – and spread the word!

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry releases TIP Report | State Dept. Video

Two economic powerhouses were downgraded today in the U.S. State Department’s  country-by-country annual review of global efforts to reduce trafficking and modern-day slavery.

Russia and China – as well as Uzbekistan — were given “Tier 3” status in the 2013 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, meaning those countries do “not fully comply” with U.S. anti-trafficking benchmarks and “are not making significant efforts to do so.” (Read the 2013 TIP Report here.)

Tier 3 status is the worst ranking a nation can receive, and it subjects these countries to possible sanctions that can include the withholding of some forms of assistance from the U.S., World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

“This report pulls no punches. It’s not because the United States is better than anybody else or because the United States thinks it has an automatic right to make this judgment, or because we want to point our finger at another country,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said while presenting the TIP report to a packed auditorium at the State Dept.  “It hopefully initiates a more productive dialogue,” he added. “Countries are twice as likely to take some kind of action to respond to this crime once they are listed in this report on Tier 3” or in the report’s Tier 2 Watch List, he said.

2013_TIPReport_cover_150_1The TIP Report ranks a country’s anti-trafficking efforts on a three-tier scale. Tier 1 is best, Tier 3 is worst. A Tier 2 Watch List puts countries on notice that they will move to Tier 3 if they don’t improve.

There was concern by abolitionists, and some members of Congress, that several nations lingering on the Watch List, including Russia and China, might be upgraded without merit, to avoid diplomatic friction. (Read the congressional letter to Kerry here.) That so-called “automatic upgrade” did not happen.

“We all have an interest in stopping this crime,” Kerry said. “That’s why President Obama is so focused on this issue. And that’s why as secretary of state, I will continue to make the fight against modern-day slavery a priority for this department and for the country,” he said.  “American leadership is required,” Kerry added.

The 2013 TIP report was Kerry’s first as Secretary of State, and it’s the first of the Obama administration’s second term.

“The TIP Report is only as good as it is honest, and we commend the State Department for using fact-based analysis – not concern for sensitive geopolitical relationships – when it assigned Tier 3 rankings to Russia, Uzbekistan and China,” said David Abramowitz, director of The Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST), a coalition of 12 U.S.-based human rights organizations, including Free the Slaves. “China, Russia, Uzbekistan and other countries that have largely turned a blind eye to modern slavery deserve the condemnation of the United States and the international community. We hope that all nations Secretary Kerry has found to have serious problems will take this assessment seriously and begin immediately to develop and implement effective strategies to combat and prevent human trafficking within and across their borders.” (Read the full ATEST news release here.)

An ATEST analysis reveals that roughly 16% of the 187 countries ranked in the 2013 TIP report have been given Tier 1 status (including the U.S.), 49% are in Tier 2; 24% are on the Tier 2 Watch List; and 11% are ranked as Tier 3.

“While Russia and China were in the TIP spotlight today, it’s important to remember that more than 150 countries are ranked as Tier 2, Tier 2 Watch List or Tier 3,” says Free the Slaves Director of Programs Karen Stauss. “It will be vital to press for improvements in all countries, big or small.”