Martina Liebsch, Caritas Internationalis advocacy coordinator for migration, trafficking and gender.
This was one of the messages for the participants of the International Conference “Responding to Trafficking in Persons in the Americas” organised by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) in Washington, from 02-05 November 2008.
A rainbow of initiatives and practices throughout the Americas were presented including the initiatives of the government of the United States.
In view of the magnitude of the problem, its interconnectedness with other forms of crime, the lack of political will to combat it, the difficulties for organisations to get funding for their services and the persistent root causes, the story which Kathleen Mitchell, one of the participants and a survivor told us one morning, was a message of hope and of being aware about their own limitations.
A man is on the beach and throws starfish back into the sea. Questioned by another person why he is doing that in view of so many thousands who may lie on all the beaches of the world, he says while throwing another one into the sea: It makes a difference for this one.
From an advocacy point of view a conclusion was that there is potential to make an impact and plenty of occasions to do so, but it needs communication and coordination by providing comments to the Trafficking in Persons Report prepared by the US Government and recommended to us by Ambassador Mark Lagon, in charge of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. This report provides an overview of the situation of more than 150 countries. It has been criticised by many people, but as long as we don’t have anything better in other parts of the world, we should definitely use this instrument.
It was also emphasised that there is a need for strengthening work with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The participants felt that they are often not aware about the relevant events or advocacy opportunities. So I got back with some homework for the migration team, amongst which the preparation of an international advocacy calendar on Migration and Trafficking, which would be accessible through the Caritas Website and the seeking of cooperation with the ILO during the process of drafting a Convention on domestic workers.
I hope we can make a difference by joining forces on some key issues and I’m grateful to CRS and CCUSA who provided me with the opportunity to get a step closer to this. And maybe we could use the slogan of the new President Elect of the United States: Yes we can!