Source: Stanford University Center for Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law
January 17, the Program on Human Rights welcomed Bradley Myles and Helga Konrad to the Stanford campus to open the 2012 Sanela Diana Jenkins International Speaker Series. Bradley Myles is the executive director and CEO of Polaris, a leading organization in the United States combating all forms of human trafficking. Helga Konrad is the special representative on combating trafficking in human beings at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
Drawing from a combined thirty years of experience working in the field of human trafficking, Myles and Konrad discussed the challenges of making accurate assessments of the magnitude of the problem. Myles explained that the US does not have reliable estimates on the number of victims of human trafficking. The lack of data has undermined efforts to implement public policy, raise awareness and funding. There are many reasons why assessment of human trafficking is very difficult. Myles argued, for example, that within the United States there are many different definitions of human trafficking that facilitate misconceptions of human trafficking and create a vacuum in the law.
Konrad pointed out that in Europe most countries have adopted new anti-trafficking laws or amended their criminal codes to provide for the specific crime of human trafficking. However, the need for national and regional coordination mechanisms and frameworks persists. She highlighted that although data is important, one person submitted to human trafficking is one too many. In her opinion, Europe still needs a regional referral mechanism that would interact with services and other counter-measures (shelters, hotlines, voluntary repatriation, and short-term assistance) to protect victims and not criminalize them.
In the United States, the Polaris Project has been providing services to survivors and striving for long-term solutions since 2002. Polaris operates the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline 1.888.3737.888 and works to train different audiences including police officers, health providers and child protection social workers. Myles mentioned that awareness and information enables people to take responsibility. He believes that it is possible to create a movement to empower communities to change laws, policies, costumes, and effectively combat human trafficking.