Monday, June 14, 2010

The Sound of a Million Vuvuzelas: More Trafficking Work at The World Cup and A Journey Down Memory Lane, to Kinder Times And Places

As mentioned earlier “trafficking” has been good to us this World Cup, which is why this post will be a short one, typed during a Trafficking Working Group, where I kill time between good matches “facilitating” discussions around our need as stakeholders to coordinate our “response”.

The meeting should finish just in time for me to attend the Italy-Paraguay game tonight, allowing of course enough leeway to make my way from the Radisson Blu in Sandton to the VIP section of the stadium, where I have a HRI sponsored ticket, as part of our campaign to fight trafficking during the world cup (as always when in South Africa, I will take the route less beaten, in this case sticking to the back-roads of the mock-European suburbs reassuringly surrounded by massive electrified walls, behind which discreet servants mend the lush tropical gardens around pools and tennis courts).

The more inexperienced of you may wonder how come my attending games out of the VIP section is related to fighting trafficking. well, it is our obligation as “counter-trafficking stakeholders” to approach the organizers of any large event with a well-designed guilt trips and that’s exactly what we have done both with FIFA as well as with the relevant South African authorities. They need to be aware of the dangers of Trafficking and they need to be seen as doing something about it – it’s just good business in the 21st century. And what better way to show commitment than to make tickets available to dignified representatives of important “partners”, such as yours truly.

While at games I will of course keep my eyes open for any sign of trafficking and will take the opportunity to snap a few pictures of the crowd, which Nathan the intern can then put in our project report and newsletter with a random, ophraesque capture:
(while the world celebrates the world cup, thousands of vulnerable women and children are exploited by internationally networked ruthless hooligans)

As I was sipping Savanna Dry during the Ghana-Serbia game yesterday, in the ear-blasting sound of millions of vuvuzelas, I had a moment of nostalgia for the early days of trafficking and my formative years in what in those days we called “The Balkans”. Like so many other competitors partners in the sector, HRI had a sizeable presence all over the Balkans and up until today continues to have a significant involvement in the region, with offices everywhere from Croatia to Macedonia and everything in-between, much of it funded by trafficking-related grants, but also by “Governance” as well as various European Commission mechanisms, all of them fitting HRI’s business model like a glove.

The transitions from UNPROFOR to IFOR to EUFOR with KFOR and 26 different other “FORS” in-between were all useful opportunities for hundreds of inexperienced HRI staff to become today’s experts in fields as diverse as refugee protection and public health. There were also unique circumstances for bonding and networking, that remain beneficial until today. My old mate Gianluca for example, used to be our official supplier of Italian toilet-paper, vastly superior to the Yugoslav one, shipped in 20foot containers with the diplomatic currier straight out of Rome, with vacuum sealed packages of Parma ham in-between. He remains a close collaborator for HRI and, in exchange for reasonable fees, often produces “counter-trafficking manuals” for our affiliates, based on his experience in “The Balkans” - the world’s trafficking capital.

His expertise was developed over many a “field research” in Pristina’s and Belgrade’s seedier strip-joints (further enriched by subsequent HRI assignements in SouthEast Asia, West Africa and Central America), as well as in several useful interaction with Montenegrin fake-cigarettes suppliers, a community often referred to in those days as “the only reliable people in the Balkans”. With the help of a certain HRI affiliate based out of Vienna (HRIs official R&R location for “the Balkans”), we have established the absolute and universal assumption that all organized crime is inter-linked, which helped not only with “transferrable skills” in experts such as Gianluca, but also with the fear factor when fundraising – insinuating to potential donors that not doing anything about trafficking is the same thing with essentially supporting the illegal arms trade is a very effective fundraising strategy, we found.

This association remains relevant today, which is why HRI continues to be the recipient of very generous trafficking funding in places from Afghanistan to Brazil, Iceland to South Africa.

The failures of all these efforts to make even a visible dent in the world of organized trafficking, should not discourage anybody - it is not a symptom that our approach is wrong, but merely a sign that the respective crime cartels are very cunning and have access to modern technology, which is why our associates need more money for life-saving workshops, “toolkits” and “awareness raising campaigns” – all time-proven strategies to “address” not only trafficking, but pretty much any other “scourge”, from HIV/ AIDS to poverty, child exploitation and environmental degradation.

Meanwhile, I am happy to hear that Holland has won the game against Denmark – tomorrow I do have a fundraising meeting with the EC Head of Delegation in South Africa, and he just happens to be Dutch, a detail that will probably make the meeting more pleasant. Along the same lines, I will root for Italy tonight – not only in honour of my friend Gianluca, but also because it has been a while since Paraguay has funded HRI to do anything.

And as we are talking about funding, i would like to encourage everyone to go here and buy a Talibannosaurus Rex poster - it is for a good cause, as 10% of all proceeds will go towards a worthy HRI cause (either overhead or admin fees, i am not decided yet).

1 comment:

  1. "address" indeed!!

    Enjoy the World Cup. You deserve it.