The Power of One. (Part 1)
By Jennifer Welker
Monday, 24th July 2006
Jennifer Welker wants travel companies to get serious about human trafficking. She talks to one man who's trying to make a difference. Here we run Part One of her two-part story.

David Arkless, executive board member of Manpower and Special Envoy for the End Human Trafficking Now Campaign travels the globe talking to governments, Chambers of Commerce, NGOs and at World Economic Forums about people movements – both legal and illegal.

Although constantly on the move, he has incredible energy thanks to his passion for people and copious cups of coffee. While in Hong Kong last month, he talked about the severity of human trafficking – which he likens to modern slavery. He is urgently calling on companies to stop the vicious cycle before it's too late. Travel corporations such as Carlson, Hilton and Elite Rent-A-Car have signed on against trafficking since he took up the fight in January.

One day David Arkless received a phone call that would change his world forever. It was from the First Lady of Egypt, HE Mrs Suzanne Mubarak.

It's not everyday that one receives a call from the First Lady of Egypt, and she had called him for two reasons. One, to thank him for the brochures on human trafficking he had put together for a conference three months earlier, and two, to explain why he should put a complete halt to human trafficking.

"‘You are going to help get the global corporations against human trafficking which impacts women, children, families and whole societies,' Mrs. Mubarak told me," Arkless recalls. "She was telling me that I needed to take the initiative to go out and bring corporations together, because this would be the most effective means for bringing about change."

Serious business

"At first, I did not understand the magnitude of human trafficking. It was only after our two-hour phone conversation that I began to understand the level of seriousness and the need for something to be done about it on a corporate level," Arkless said

Human trafficking is a modern form of slavery, and a profitable one at that. The ILO (International Labour Organisation) estimates that US$32 billion is earned annually from forced labour and in two years, human trafficking will outstrip the drug trade. The ILO also estimates that sexual exploitation of women and children as a result of trafficking brings in US$28 billion each year.

"Every major company is involved in human trafficking, which is something we need to worry about. No matter where you are, if you are operating in South America, Asia and Africa, your supply chain is benefiting by trafficking," Mr Arkless said.

The Athens Declaration

In January this year, he helped write the Athens Declaration which calls on companies around the world to commit to the following:

1. Explicitly demonstrate the position of zero tolerance towards trafficking in human beings, especially women and children for sexual exploitation.

2. Contribute to prevention of trafficking in human beings including awareness-raising campaigns and education.

3. Develop a corporate strategy for an anti-trafficking policy which will permeate all our activities.

4. Ensure that our personnel fully comply with our anti-trafficking policy.

5. Encourage business partners, including suppliers, to apply ethical principles against human trafficking.

6. In an effort to increase enforcement it is necessary to call on governments to initiate a process of revision of laws and regulations that are directly or indirectly related to enhancing anti-trafficking policies.

7. Report and share information on best practices.

Source: www.gcwdp.org

Since January 2006, 290 companies have signed on to a policy of zero tolerance toward human trafficking including Carlson Companies; Procter and Gamble; Hilton and Elite Rent-A-Car. He hopes to have 1,000 companies signed up by the end of this year.

Upon signing the declaration, companies are responsible for taking the first step toward putting a self-governance audit in place.

"If corporations don't sign up," Mr Arkless warns, "I'll get on BBC, CNN and CNBC and shame them. I'll even put a double-page spread in the IHT if necessary to shame them. I don't like to do that, but I may have no choice. My hope is that if we drive it into our global suppliers, we could sign up 300,000 companies very soon and within five years, have as many as 6.9 million companies signed up. The aim is to pull everyone's efforts together to fight this.

"If you believe people should live with dignity and have an opportunity to live a fulfilling life, then you need to get involved. Manpower's values are such that everyone has a right to decent work. I am personally driven by three causes: trafficking, migration and refugees," Mr Arkless said.

Next week: Part Two: The numbers and what you can do

Jennifer Welker, an American and nomad by birth, has made Asia her home. Since her childhood, she has lived in Hong Kong, mainland China and now, Macau where she just published her first travel book. www.thenewmacau.com

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