Will human trafficking make the list of sustainable development goals?

Credit: Claus Tom Christensen via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).
Credit: Claus Tom Christensen via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

.- A top ranking UK anti-slavery commissioner says that human trafficking is not just an issue to be talked about, but one the global community needs to forcefully commit to eradicating.

For the United Kingdom’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner Kevin Hyland, the sustainable development goals being drafted for the close of 2015 “need to be clearer about modern slavery and human trafficking.”

These goals, he told CNA April 17, need to be much stronger in their emphasis that every form of slavery and trafficking is “an issue that needs to be globally responded to.”

With the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set to expire at the end of 2015, new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030 are currently being developed to set targets for future international development.

The SDGs were formally discussed for the first time at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development that was held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012. Since specific goals were not elaborated on during the conference, a 30-member working group was formed by the U.N. General Assembly and tasked with preparing a proposal of SDGs.

Although the MDGs focused heavily on areas such as poverty, education, gender equality, child and maternal health, and environmental sustainability, discussion is still underway for the SDGs, which have not been finalized.

In order to reach an agreement on specifics, the U.N. scheduled a Sustainable Development Summit to take place in New York this September. It has been confirmed that Pope Francis will address the heads of state and government present at the summit on Sept. 25 as part of his visit to the United States.

Commissioner Hyland said that he himself has been engaging with the United Nations about the finalization of the SDGs, specifically in regards to human trafficking.

The Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for the Sciences, which has been dedicated to studying the phenomenon of modern slavery and human trafficking since Pope Francis’ election in 2013, could serve as “a good vehicle to influence those goals,” he said.

Hyland is currently in Rome participating in the April 17-21 plenary session of the Pontifical Academy, entitled “Human Trafficking: Issues Beyond Criminalization.”

In his role as an independent commissioner, Hyland explained his job is to focus on how legislation against trafficking is being carried out and to make sure offenders are convicted and brought to justice.

As someone independent from agencies and the organizations such as law enforcement and Non-governmental Organizations, the commissioner is responsible for reporting on how the entire United Kingdom is working to combat modern slavery.

He is also a member of the Santa Marta Group, which is an alliance of international police chiefs and bishops from across the world who work together with civil society to eradicate human trafficking and provide pastoral care to victims.

The group was launched by Pope Francis in April 2014 with the goal of developing strategies in prevention, pastoral care and re-integration through the international network.

In addition to sexual slavery and exploitation, Hyland said that other major concerns as far as trafficking goes are domestic servitude, organ harvesting and slavery in the fishing industry.

He revealed that he has been working with Cardinal Antonio Tagle, archbishop of Manila in the Philippines, to foster greater collaboration between the diocese and the Filipino embassy in London to keep a closer watch on women who are trafficked into domestic servitude in London and the UK.

There are many men in the fishing industry who are either trafficked or end up in slavery in other parts of the world and who are forced to work “very long hours, being badly hurt and being abused and not being paid,” he said.

Also present at the plenary session was Cecilia Taylor-Camara, Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of Migration Policy of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, who said that two major areas of trafficking that are often “hidden” and off the radar are organ trafficking and baby farming.

Baby farming is also “one of the most challenging issues” they are seeking to raise awareness about in the UK, where there is “a very strict legislation regarding adoption.”

In order to avoid the hassle of the adoptive system, Taylor-Camara said that people are now going to other parts of the world “where children are affectively farmed so that they can be adopted. And that is awful.”

Organ trafficking, she said, is also “hugely significant,” because often organs are taken under false pretenses in which people are guaranteed a sum of money they never receive, or have an organ removed when they go in for a different problem.

The trafficking of organs is on the plenary’s discussion slate for Monday, when the topic will be addressed particularly in regards to the situation in India.

Taylor-Camara also expressed her hope that the eradication of human trafficking will make its way onto the list of SDGs for 2030, so that it will be given “a very high profile” on the global agenda.

Both Hyland and Taylor-Camara stressed the benefits of collaborative efforts between local bishops and law enforcement officials, saying that the “unusual” partnership helps to assure not only justice for trafficking offenders, but also that the victims are in good hands and getting the help they need.

“It’s a really unusual setting, (but) bring them together, and you’ve doubled your resources,” the commissioner said.

Taylor-Camara lauded Pope Francis’ leadership, saying that his commitment to bringing Catholic social teaching and the dignity of the human person to the forefront of the world’s attention has “energized us.”

“Since the Pope’s interest in human trafficking, we have not only succeeded in raising awareness nationally, but our work has been given a global profile. People are interested in the work that we’re doing because of the leadership of the Holy Father.”

A workshop on sustainable development will take place in the Vatican April 28, giving special attention to society’s most vulnerable, especially the poor, excluded, victims of human trafficking and modern slavery, children and future generations.