HUMAN RIGHTS: by Siobhan Reeves (reviewer)News Weekly
Andrew Forrest backs bid to stamp out slavery
, April 12, 2014
An historic agreement, with the goal of ending human-trafficking by 2020, has been signed by the Vatican, the Anglican Communion and the Al-Azhar University of Cairo. The signing launched the Global Freedom Network, a bold initiative to harness the resources of all the world’s major faiths in order to end modern day slavery.
Pictured (from left to right): Bishop Marcelo Sanchez
Sorondo (Vatican), Archbishop Sir David Moxon (Anglican),
Mr Andrew Forrest (Australian businessman)
and Dr Mahmoud Azab (Sunni Muslim).
Fittingly, the accord was signed on March 17, the Catholic Church’s Feast Day of Saint Patrick, who was kidnapped from Roman Britain and sold as a slave in Ireland in c.432 AD.
It is a poor reflection on humanity that, nearly 1600 years later, slavery not only remains but has dramatically increased. Today there are 29.8 million people held in slavery, more than at any other time in human history, and the numbers are increasing.
However the worth of a slave has drastically fallen. In 1809 the average price of a slave was (in today’s money) AUD$44,000. In 2009 the average price was a mere AUD$100.
The agreement was signed by Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and representing Pope Francis; Archbishop Sir David Moxon, director of the Anglican Centre in Rome and representing the Archbishop of Canterbury; Mahmoud Azab, representing Ahmad el-Tayeb, the Grand Iman of Al-Azhar University, an eminent Sunni Muslim institution in Cairo; and Western Australian mining magnate Andrew Forrest, founder of the Walk Free Foundation and organiser and funder of the Global Freedom Network.
Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest — the great-great nephew of John Forrest, the first premier of Western Australia — is the founder and chairman of the Fortescue Metals Group, the fourth-largest iron ore supplier in the world and among Australia’s top 20 ASX-listed companies.
He is ranked 270th on Forbes List of the World’s Richest People. He and his wife Nicola were the first Australian signatories to the Bill and Melinda Gates’ Giving Pledge, a commitment by the world’s wealthiest individuals to use the majority of their wealth for philanthropic purposes.
Forrest became engaged with the movement against slavery after his daughter spent time in an orphanage in Nepal, which she realised was a front for child-trafficking.
At the launch of the Global Freedom Network, Forrest observed: “There is no precedent to the depth and operational strength of this multi-faith working agreement: it is the first time members of the Muslim and Christian faiths have come together in such an active way, with the support of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
“It is also the first time Anglican and Catholic representatives have come together in such a comprehensive agreement since the Reformation…. The Global Freedom Network brings together faith communities of almost 3 billion people — nearly half of the world’s population — and will invite all faiths to join its leadership.”
The aims of the agreement include 1) ensuring that faith communities’ materials and investments have no part in slavery 2) pressuring governments and businesses to likewise ensure that slave labour is not present in any aspect of their operations, 3) educating society about human-trafficking, 4) encouraging the G20 to explicitly condemn human-trafficking, and 5) starting a global fund to combat human-trafficking.
The project will be based at the Vatican.
There is a tendency to think of trafficking, particularly as it occurs in the developed world, solely in terms of sex-trafficking. However, in Australia, of the most recent investigations by the Australian Federal Police into suspected trafficking recorded in 2012, 38 per cent were related to sex-trafficking and 62 per cent to labour-trafficking.
The extent of forced and unpaid labour in industry and agriculture worldwide is a terrifying phenomenon. The average person, probably unknowingly, owns or consumes goods in which a minimum of 25 slaves have been involved in the production (see SlaveryFootprint.org for more information).
The 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report from the U.S. State Department reiterated that sex-trafficking and forced labour does occur in Australia. At least 3,000 trafficked persons are estimated to be currently present in Australia.
However, the State Department has commended the Australian government for the recent amendments to its criminal code, particularly in relation to labour-trafficking, organ-trafficking and non-physical coercion (i.e., the Crimes Legislation Amendment [Slavery, Slavery-like Conditions and People Trafficking] Act, enacted March 2013) and for its funding of anti-trafficking educational and rescue programs in the Asia-Pacific region.
For some time, anti-slavery advocates have called urgently for a coordinated global response to trafficking, and it is hoped that the Global Freedom Network will play an important role in fostering such cooperation.
Andrew Forrest has practised what he has preached, ensuring that the supply chains of Fortescue are free from slave labour. It is time for other businesses and governments to do the same.
Siobhan Reeves, a graduate of Sydney’s Campion College, is undertaking a masters degree in international relations at the University of Melbourne. She has recently worked as a volunteer in East Timor, assisting at Klibur Domin, the clinic established by Ryder-Cheshire Australia in 2000.