The Fight to End Human Trafficking Continues at WEC

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The Fight to End Human Trafficking Continues at WEC

By Rich Luna | Jul 30, 2020

A group of MPI members has created a resource page designed to educate and raise awareness within the meeting and event industry about human trafficking.

The first public release of work from MPI’s Anti-Human Trafficking Committee is MPI Human Trafficking Resources: Raise Awareness. End Human Trafficking. This robust resource page was launched Thursday to coincide with the United Nations’ World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.

The MPI committee, led by Rob Adams (MPI Kansas City Chapter) from the association’s International Board of Directors (IBOD) and chaired by Cindy Wallace (MPI Oregon Chapter), plans to create an education-in-a-box that can be shared and implemented with each of MPI’s 70 worldwide chapters and clubs.

“Once you hear about human trafficking, you can’t un-hear it,” Wallace said. “It will stick with you forever, and I think that’s a good thing. The more we educate others, not just only our members, the more chance we have of helping people.”

Assessing the full scope of human trafficking is difficult because so many cases so often go undetected.

She said the committee, made up of 18 members with IBOD and Global staff support, committed to raising awareness within MPI chapters and their communities by creating an education-in-a-box that can be implemented with each chapter worldwide. The components will include a focus on identifying victims, and if a victim is identified, what should be done. Over the next year, the committee is encouraging each chapter to host an education session. The committee is also planning engagement at MPI’s World Education Congress in Grapevine this November.

“We’ve created and vetted education and training resources, facts and information, guides, toolkits and even have calls to action for members and their chapters in case they don’t know where to start,” Wallace said. “Our goal was to provide resources that we can trust and present information in a non-intimidating manner. Everyone has their own knowledge, perspective and perhaps apprehension around this topic, and we want to be sensitive to that and ensure that our members feel welcome while on the webpage and with the information it contains.”

The resource page breaks out sections on education and training, facts and information, guides and resources and calls to action, along with content from The Meeting Professional and member-submitted stories.

The UN’s World Day Against Trafficking in Persons is designed to raise awareness and educate others about human trafficking. National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month and National Human Trafficking Awareness Day are observed January.

MPI Human Trafficking Resources: Raise Awareness. End Human Trafficking.

Adams said it is estimated that there are between 20 million and 40 million people in modern slavery around the world today. Assessing the full scope of human trafficking is difficult because so many cases so often go undetected, something the UN refers to as “the hidden figure of crime.”

Trafficking involves transporting someone into a situation of exploitation, which can include forced labor, marriage, prostitution and organ removal. This kind of exploitation is known by a few different names. Human trafficking, trafficking of persons and modern slavery are the ones accepted by the U.S. Department of State.

It is estimated that human trafficking is a $100 billion a year industry, with 1.2. million children trafficked each year.

MPI’s global headquarters and its chapters have aggressively addressed human trafficking. Three years ago, Paul Van Deventer, MPI president and CEO, heard a presentation by Sister Kathleen Bryant, a Religious Sister of Charity from Los Angeles and a board member of the U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, and invited her to speak to the IBOD.

“When we get to the other side of this world lockdown, the horrors of human trafficking will be at the core of a global awakening.”

“I was moved by the plight of these innocent victims—many of them young children—and realized that I had a responsibility and an opportunity to help,” he said.

The Meeting Professional, MPI’s flagship publication, reported extensively on human trafficking, with narratives throughout every issue in 2018.

MPI, along with numerous other industry associations, has signed the Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism, which is the only voluntary set of business principles that companies and organizations in the travel, business travel and tourism industries can implement to prevent and eradicate the trafficking and exploitation of children.

Previously, MPI’s Washington State Chapter was the first chapter to sign the code.

Adams said there were several defining moments that convinced him to get involved.

“The first was to hear an actual victim and their story,” he said. “When you hear the devastation this crime creates, you can’t not want to help. The ah-ha moment for me was realizing the issue impacts in my hometown of Kansas City. I encourage people to look at their local cities and see how it’s so prevalent.

“I think the magnitude of this issue is misunderstood. Few people in our profession realize that in the U.S. alone there are almost 50,000 victims of exploitation.”

Wallace had a similar defining moment. She was moved to join the committee after learning the daughter of a good friend and follow MPI member had been trafficked.

COVID Connection: Bringing the dark world of trafficking into the light.

“Because this member felt safe sharing her daughter’s experience and she knew the importance of educating others, the Oregon Chapter responded by adding anti-human trafficking educational sessions to our yearly programs and by also dedicating content for Global Meetings Industry Day solely to anti-human trafficking,” Wallace said. “I’ve learned that I still have so much to learn and that I shouldn’t feel intimidated if others are more knowledgeable. Members that are more knowledgeable and eager to share are also passionate about making sure that others know the facts.”

MaryAnne Bobrow (MPI Sacramento/Sierra Nevada chapter), who wrote about human trafficking in the COVID-19 era earlier this week, believed it was important for her to be a part of this committee. She previously was one of two MPI members who worked with NCS4 on the initial emergency preparedness program, which has now become a published guide. 

“For a very long time, I have felt the value of belonging to this wonderful community of people willing to help each other,” she said. “Years ago, I made a personal commitment to raise awareness on important issues that are a risk to all of us and could impact our families. Anti-human trafficking is an issue I have been involved in for years, and I intend to continue to promote awareness whenever and wherever I can. It is the moral and ethical thing to do.”

PK Kerian (MPI Washington State Chapter) said the COVID lockdown has not interrupted trafficking and has likely caused more danger to vulnerable populations already in harm’s way. She said there has been good news of late, with the dismantling of sex trafficking rings, cartels and crime organizations, but laments the lack of mainstream media coverage.

“I believe that when we get to the other side of this world lockdown, the horrors of human trafficking will be at the core of a global awakening that few people will be able to process,” she said. “Trafficking, both labor and sex, is subject to supply and demand like any other industry. It is more profitable than selling guns or drugs, as humans can be sold many times over versus a single material transaction. Sadly, this activity will continue as long as there is demand in the world, which is why the meeting industry must be educated so as not to be part of the problem.

“No one wants to be ‘right’ about these harsh realities of the world. The committee was very sensitive to the fact that people are all at different levels of awareness, and no judgment is placed upon anyone who has been blessed with a life without knowing.”

MPI Anti-Human Trafficking Committee

IBOD representative: Rob Adams (MPI Kansas City Chapter)

Chair: Cindy Wallace (MPI Oregon Chapter)

Members: Canesha Appleton (MPI Greater New York Chapter), Jennifer Berkemeier (MPI Michigan Chapter), Pamela Bertelson (MPI Potomac Chapter), MaryAnne Bobrow (MPI Sacramento/Sierra Nevada Chapter), Wally Bressler (MPI Dallas-Fort Worth Chapter), Cory Brooks (MPI Tennessee Chapter), Katie Conoyer (MPI St. Louis Chapter), Micayla Diener (MPI Chicago Area Chapter), Stacie Emarine (MPI Rocky Mountain Chapter), Malinda Harrell (MPI Carolinas Chapter), Zaman Ishaad (MPI Toronto Chapter), PK Keiran (MPI Washington State Chapter), Timothy Neill (MPI Oregon Chapter), Delicia Niami (MPI Northern California Chapter), Debora Perlini (MPI Carolinas Chapter), Tami Reier (MPI Heartland Chapter), Sheila Riikonen (MPI Finland Chapter), Alla Vaynshteyn (MPI Greater New York Chapter), Yumi Yasuda (MPI Japan Chapter).

Staff liaison: Rich Luna

Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash



Rich Luna

Rich Luna is Director of Publishing for MPI and Editor-in-chief of The Meeting Professional.