CNN’s year-long Freedom Project continues to churn out great coverage on modern-day slavery. We were excited to see Amanda Kloer’s (editor of Change.org‘s Human Trafficking blog) recent article highlighting the importance of the U.S. government appointing a special envoy to Congo—a position that Free the Slave actively supports.
Earlier this month, several U.S. Senators joined the chorus calling for the special envoy appointment. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Jerry Moran (R-KS), and a bipartisan group of 14 other Senators sent a letter to President Obama urging him to take swift action to help stabilize the Great Lakes region. Read the letter here (PDF).
The ongoing conflict in Congo is the deadliest war in the world. Millions have already lost their lives in the battle between warring rebel militias and the national army and the associated decay of infrastructure and institutions. The battle to control the country’s vast mineral wealth and the slave labor that harvests those minerals is fueling the continuation of the fighting and suffering.
Since September 2009, FTS teams have been working in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to uncover the extent of slavery and develop effective strategies for ending it.
Earlier this year FTS joined seven other human rights organizations (Africa Faith & Justice Network, A Thousand Sisters, Enough! Project, Falling Whistles, Friends of the Congo, Jewish World Watch and STAND) to urge President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and others in the U.S. State Department to appoint a Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa.
FTS believes that the appointment of a Special Envoy is of utmost urgency. Congo’s elections are just months away, and many more long-term challenges ahead, it will be impossible without a senior-level envoy to achieve a coordinated U.S. and international policy in time to have the needed impact on these elections and other progress.
A special envoy has the potential to bridge the divides that currently exist between various U.S. agencies and embassies working on issues in the Congo. The envoy would report directly to the Secretary of State or the White House and would would play an instrumental role in pushing forward a comprehensive policy for Congo—especially with regards to eradicating slavery in the mines.
Further strengthening the rationale for a speedy appointment, a Special Envoy to the Great Lakes is a legal requirement under Public Law 109-456. It was President Obama himself, as a freshman senator in 2005 and 2006 that proposed the bill that became PL 109-456 AND the bill was co-sponsored by then Senator Clinton and passed with bipartisan support.
WHY IS THE APPOINTMENT TAKING SO LONG?
Many challenges exist to the appointment of a special envoy, despite PL 109-456. Budget realities confront the present administration and have created a wariness to support an additional special envoy in the administration. Furthermore, previous efforts to appoint a Special Envoy to the Great Lakes region have reportedly been met with resistance from State Department officials who feel it might disrupt conventional chains of command. Read more about FTS’ position and others, like Ben Affleck that are advocating for a special envoy in the Congo.
- Asia One News: China’s gender gap fueling trafficking: “The gender gap has created a situation where there are not enough women of marrying-age for China’s single men…Chinese police have so far freed 10,621 kidnapped women and 5,896 kidnapped children… Among the women freed were 1,099 foreigners, mostly from Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Mongolia, who were sold as brides to Chinese men or forced to work as prostitutes.”
- Change.org: Victory! Bangladeshi labor leaders released from jail: “Victory is sweet for the over 1,000 Change.org readers took action to demand the release of Bangladeshi labor rights advocates Kalpona Akter and Babul Akhter from jail… Kalpona and Babul were put in jail on trumped up charges at a time when garment workers in Bangladesh were protesting for better wages.”
- Senate passes Child Protection Compact Act, an anti-child trafficking bill: Senator Barbara Boxer said, “The trafficking of children is one of the most heinous crimes imaginable. I am so proud that my colleagues, both Democrats and Republicans, supported this bill, which will give the State Department new, innovative tools to help protect vulnerable children around the globe.”
The Child Protection Compact Act, if passed into law, would allow the U.S. to give up to $15 million in aid over a three year span to countries who are “eager, but currently unable” to combat slavery and human trafficking. You can learn more about this law at the website of our ATEST colleagues, International Justice Mission.