CNN’s Freedom Project has just posted powerful coverage of Mauritania, the last country on Earth to formally outlaw slavery.
“On this land, everybody is exploited,” one source told CNN. Only one slaveholder has been successfully prosecuted since slavery was criminalized in 2007, CNN reports.
CNN’s team produced a moving 23-minute documentary and companion article featuring FTS co-founder Kevin Bales, who traveled undercover to Mauritania for his groundbreaking book Disposable People.
CNN’s documentary coverage is a rare look into a little-covered corner of West Africa.
Free the Slaves co-founder Kevin Bales was on CNN last Friday. He was interviewed by Richard Quest about the state of slavery in the cocoa industry. Just over 10 years ago, in September 2001, Free the Slaves helped broker the historic Harkin-Engel Protocol.
Otherwise known as the “Cocoa Protocol,” the agreement marked the first time in the 250-year history of the anti-slavery movement that a global industry took responsibility for slavery in its supply chain. Chocolate companies, several NGOs, international labor organizations, Senator Harkin, Representative Engel, and the governments of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire all signed on.
The agreement was inspired by a growing awareness of slavery and other human rights abuses on the cocoa farms of West Africa. Free the Slaves helped shed light on these abuses in the Peabody award-winning documentary, “Slavery: A Global Investigation” which aired in 2001.
In the CNN interview above, Kevin Bales reflects on what has happened in the 10 years since the protocol was signed:
“I was proud to sign it and not least because there is something historic about an entire industry coming together to pool their funds to address the issue of child slavery and adult slavery in cocoa… But I am disappointed. To a large part it’s a resource question. It’s about the fact that while several million dollars a year are moving from the chocolate industry into work on the ground in West Africa, it’s simply not enough to meet the size of the problem… I believe that any time anyone happens to be in slavery, that’s a serious problem.”
Bales added that, while it is important to continue to pressure the chocolate industry to keep their supply chains free of slavery, there are other cocoa-using industries—like cosmetics and food manufacturers—that have not “taken part in dealing with the problem in their source material.”
CNN covered how Free the Slaves staff and partners work to alleviate modern-day slavery despite challenges like extreme poverty. Ghana director Emmanuel Otoo shares his gratitude for his mother’s choices and his motivation to continue his work. “We observe a lot of situations currently where out of poverty, out of need, out of desire to give their children the basic necessities, parents tend to traffic their children – give them out or sell them out,” he told CNN. “So I compare this to our relationship with our mother that in spite of the difficult times, in spite of the lack, the need, and the want, she did not give us out. She could’ve done that, but she did not.” The story also touches on our recent trip to Congo. You can find the report on the extent of slavery in the Congo mines and the full video here
CNN’s Freedom Project reminds us that while the internet can be wonderful for awareness it is also a tool for trafficking people in slavery. It’s shocking to hear that in 2010 slave traders made more than Google, Nike , and Starbucks combined! It’s important to be aware of the ways our participation can affect the issue. Let’s make technology a tool for positive change!
The June 23rd ATEST/CNN International event featured Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, the State Department’s human trafficking chief, Academy Award-winning actress and U.N. Goodwill Ambassador for Human Trafficking Mira Sorvino, CNN International executive vice president and managing director Tony Maddox, trafficking survivor and advocate Rani Hong, and Kevin Bales, president of Free the Slaves.
ATEST is a diverse alliance of U.S.-based human rights groups acting in unity to end modern-day slavery and human trafficking—both at home and abroad. Founded by Humanity United in 2007, ATEST is currently composed of the following organizations: Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), ECPAT-USA, Free the Slaves, International Justice Mission, Not for Sale Campaign, Polaris Project, Safe Horizon, Solidarity Center, Verité, Vital Voices Global Partnership, World Vision, and former U.N. Goodwill Ambassador Julia Ormond, president and founder of the Alliance to Stop Slavery and End Trafficking (ASSET).