In July this year, the UK Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland, outlined his top priorities in the fight against modern slavery. In this, Hyland emphasised the importance of enhanced international collaboration in order to bring down human trafficking at a global level, stressing that modern slavery is often a transnational crime and therefore demands a transnational response.
Whilst the commissioner underlined the importance for governments and law enforcement bodies to collaborate internationally, it is often NGOs on the ground that hold the most vital information on human trafficking trends, victims and perpetrators. As such, it is critical that these organisations have the ability to share this information and collaborate globally, in order to ultimately disrupt human trafficking chains.
This month, representatives from fifteen different UK anti-trafficking organisations came together in London to discuss these issues in further detail. The workshop provided an opportunity for the attending organisations to discuss prospective means of collaboration between themselves and served as a platform to learn more about the new digital tools that have been developed specifically to improve collaboration within the anti-trafficking sector.
At the session, chaired by Ruth Dearnley OBE, CEO of STOP THE TRAFFIK, two tools in particular were presented: the STOP APP and the Freedom Collaborative. Although these differ in purpose, they are united by one common objective: to provide a secure global platform for individuals and organisations to share information and stories from their communities about human trafficking.
Helen Sworn opened by introducing the Freedom Collaborative, which is the first online platform to facilitate connectivity, knowledge-sharing and cross-border cooperation among anti-trafficking stakeholders globally. Sworn explained that the Freedom Collaborative aims to encourage and develop collaboration from the bottom up, driven by those on the frontline, in order to create a centralised space for the anti-trafficking community.
Within this community, members are encouraged to share resources, attend webinars and join discussions to impart news, advice and opinions on the issues surrounding modern slavery. To highlight the power of the platform, Sworn explained that the Freedom Collaborative is now home to more than 300 organisations from the anti-human trafficking community and has already been used to establish international partnerships and case collaboration.
Following this, Dr Bill Peace presented the STOP APP – the first mobile app of its kind to collect, analyse and share data on human trafficking. Dr Peace explained that the vision behind the app is to disrupt trafficking supply chains by starving them of profit through the greatest of tools – people and technology, by empowering anybody who knows, has seen or even heard a situation that they believe to be trafficking to talk about it in a safe and secure space.
Dr Peace also introduced the Centre for Intelligence-Led Prevention, which analyses all data inputted into the STOP APP, and the partnership it has formed with IBM. He underlined the importance of the data that NGOs hold and explained that, by harnessing this intelligence, it is possible to track global trends and hotspots of human trafficking, which will ultimately provide those that are fighting this crime with powerful information to build campaigns and action to stop human trafficking.
Jonathan Hargreaves, Global Vice Chair of the Technology Sector at Edelman, concluded the session by reinforcing the importance of individual stories – in combination with technology – in disrupting human trafficking. He explained that, to date, the approach to fighting modern slavery has been very much a ‘cat and mouse’ tactic, due to outdated and siloed information.
However, Hargreaves stressed that this is no longer a sufficient method; human trafficking remains the fastest growing crime globally, largely due to its hidden nature, thus it requires a more targeted and intelligent response. He explained that by collaborating successfully and sharing data in one central location, the anti-trafficking sector now has the ability to use big data analytics to predict and prevent the growth of international trafficking chains.
Overall, the session was a highly positive example of anti-trafficking organisations coming together to discuss how we can best work together to fight human trafficking on an international level. Whilst the workshop highlighted the integral role that technology will increasingly play in empowering NGOs, communities and individuals to disrupt global trafficking chains, this is just the first step; technology does have the power to disrupt, but it requires people to share their stories if it is to succeed.