In ITV’s recent historical drama, ‘Victoria’, slavery was a hot topic; the sixth episode of the series focused on the 1840 meeting at Exeter Hall for the anti-slavery convention, where Prince Albert delivered an impassioned speech against slavery. Despite the 1807 Slave Trade Act, which removed British involvement from the industry, slavery was still prevalent on a global scale and the convention was used as a vehicle to promote international collaboration and further its abolition across the Atlantic, given that it was still a thriving trade in America.
When Prince Albert took the stage, it was a momentous occasion; at the height of the British Empire, Victoria and Albert were amongst the most influential figures in the world and, by pledging their commitment to ending this issue, it was a demonstrative stand from the top down. However, set to the backdrop of the Victorian era, modern audiences could be led to believe that the series’ portrayal of this was merely an issue of its time, and one that was left behind a long time ago.
Nevertheless, over 175 years later, we are seeing history repeat itself. Once again, slavery is a highly prevalent issue and one of the most pressing crises of our time. It is estimated that over 45 million people are presently victims of modern slavery* – although it is almost impossible for us to understand the full extent, given the clandestine nature of this crime – and once again key global figureheads are taking to the world stage to demonstrate their commitment to eradicating this issue.
In September, UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, addressed the United Nations to deliver her campaign against modern slavery, with an aim to internationalise the work the UK has already done on the issue. Human trafficking is a truly global industry and, by meeting with representatives from around the world, this was an opportunity for May to promote a heightened cross-border collaboration and expand global policies to tackle the crime.
In line with this, May also implemented an increased budget of £33million in the UK in the fight against modern slavery in the UK and announced that UK intelligence will form an anti-slavery taskforce which will work to fight modern slavery. The taskforce will work both in source countries to disrupt the trafficking networks and within the UK, to uncover those who are benefitting from the slave trade and aid the prosecutions of these people.
It is clear that slavery, despite the efforts of history, has remained a prominent crime and it is critical that it is fought from the top by those with a worldwide influence- much like Albert and Victoria. However, history has taught us that this is not enough; for us to be successful in the fight against human trafficking it is imperative that this effort is a collaborative approach. We must work on an international scale and we must do this from within the communities that are affected by trafficking, for it is often those that are living within these vulnerable communities that hold the most vital information. By empowering these people to share their stories, we can create a much more complete picture of the global issue and we can build resilient communities that simultaneously recognise the issues around them and know how to address them.
It is for this reason that we have developed the STOP APP – a tool to empower people from every part of the world to share their stories and provide essential data for this global picture. With this global data, STOP THE TRAFFIK’s Centre for Intelligence-Led prevention is able to develop a much richer dataset, analyse its global impact and share it back to the communities and organisations to create a collaborative approach in the fight against human trafficking.
*Statistics taken from the Global Slavery Index