Tuesday, June 8, 2010

"Working in Trafficking" at the World Cup

Turns out the world cup starts friday. I didn’t know that, me, and the fact that my several trips to South Africa, for life-saving workshops and other meetings, coincide with some of the better games is just how it happens.

That’s right.

In small-talk sessions with fellow travelers i am planning to pull the above line often, for sport. I expect the usual business class crowd on the Joburg route to diversify over the next month, to include the grumpy guy who had to buy a very expensive ticket not to miss that business meeting and that other guy who forked out for business (half miles half cash) when there were no more places in couch as he didn’t want to miss that game to which his wife got him surprise tickets without bothering to book a flight.

The good news is that trafficking is back on the agenda and HRI is as ever the leading agency with an expertise developed over the last 12 years or so, in the “golden era of trafficking”, when hapless donors were scrambling over ben seen as funding very simplistic visions of the world of trafficking, as presented to them by HRI & affiliates, so they can please an Oprah educated constituency.

In Moldova, Cambodia, Ukraine, Indonesia, Panama, Costa Rica and elsewhere where a HRI expat may find it comfortable to settle for a while, trafficking has been combated with workshops and trainings, which also created a lucrative market for the counter-trafficking expert, a HRI specialty represented in particular by the dodgy ex-policemen with the 80s chauvinist jokes, the hysterical “case worker” providing technical input in “legal drafting processes” and the former DA, always a training expert in legal definitions inspired by the Arizona Counter Trafficking Act, particularly relevant in the Philippines and Vietnam.

Armies of HRI experts descended on every imaginable “shelter”, to make it more secure, more gender integrated, more child-friendly and more donor-compliant, all expensive processes that helped us better count “targets” and deliver successful projects.

Awareness campaigns were launched (best practices included “The Beaver and the Crocodile” edutainment strategy in Indonesia and the “I am empowered, I Know the Difference between Smuggling and Trafficking” t-shirt campaign in Guatemala), training curricula were developed, law-enforcement handbooks, press handbooks and hand-books for the military were printed, films were made and broadcasted, relevant fables were included in pre-school curricula. The link to migration was immediately explored which has been good to our refugee/ migration portfolios.

Additionally, to please our most eager donor during the “golden era”, HRI has pursued the useful assumption that all women in the sex trade are victims who need urgent saving, a matter in which our experts could provide cutting edge training to the police forces of relevant countries.

Often the bond between trainer and trainees would be sealed with a glorious night at the karaoke parlor (just indulging in a cultural experience) and the few cases when HRI consultants were involved in unspeakable acts with teenagers were always handled swiftly with the respective offender promptly transferred to another country where they would be tasked with presenting “lessons learned” and “best practices”. (If this sounds familiar, our methods in those days were guided by the church of course, a solid and strategically important HRI partner, also in matters of trafficking.

I assume you already saw the signature HRI Win-Win: HRI & affiliates get the cash and the kudos, government officials can continue getting backhanders from their dodgy business partners while showing the world their counter-trafficking credentials and the donors can get an Oprah tear, convertible in whatever political currency floats their boat.

Everybody happy.
Meanwhile women and children continue to be abused, which will ensure future work for all of us, so all should be ok. That no real trafficker was ever successfully convicted is another matter, which is easily explained away by the “lack of precise legal definitions defense”, a matter that must be addressed by a series of complex cross-border and regional activities conducted by a team of HRI experts. Among other things of course.

It may strike some as strange that countries with no legal system to speak of, no constitution and no courts would have a highly precise definition of "trafficking", inspired by the legal literature of Arizona, as part of a 600+ sections Counter-Trafficking Act, “operationalized” by a vast package of guidelines, by-laws and “SOPs” (ok I’ll tell you: Standard Operating Procedures”), but I say at least this “framework” has benefitted from the input of people with no legal background at all, who have ensured that no due process will be necessary when prosecuting a trafficker.

In other words, Trafficking is the new Terrorism, and I am taking back that thing about no trafficker having ever being convicted – it has happened that this opposition leaders or the other reactionary character have been found involved in trafficking, usually around election time, their prompt imprisonment always ensuring a better “tier ranking” a matter that leads to an increase in “trafficking” funding to HRI.

Did anyone say win-win? Thank you.

But that was the golden era. These days even Oprah has changed her business model and trafficking has been pushed ever so slightly towards the fringe.

Except every four years, during world cup or the Olympics. HRI & affiliates have already secured funding, got the story in every paper, launched campaigns and issued statements about expectations of significant increases in trafficking and exploitation during the world cup, all based of course on following precedents:
(whole thing here in pdf)

Part of us feels it is our duty to make some noise out of principle - after all, this is Africa and just because it didn’t really happen elsewhere doesn’t mean it won’t happen here. But also, there is another small matter – don’t know about you, but every cup is different and I for one want to make sure i can say: “I was there” (as well).

1 comment:

  1. "so they can please an Oprah educated constituency."

    Awesome. Man I can't stand Oprah and her worshippers.