|(1) A Crime that Shames us all|
World Premiere of Not My Life
Statement by Antonio Maria Costa introducing Robert Bilheimer’s Film
Alice Tully Hall, 19 January 2011
Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Alice Tully Hall, welcome to the world premiere of Not My Life, a documentary film by Robert Bilheimer, narrated by Ashley Judd.
Human traffickingis a misnomer: it places emphasis on the transaction aspects of a crime that actually is enslavement. Let’s call it for what it is: it is exploitation of people, by people, day after day. It is slavery, for years on end. Until recently most of us may thought that slavery was a matter of the past. NML shows that the past is not dead. It is not even past.
After much neglect and indifference, the world is waking up to the reality of slavery. The public and the media are becoming aware that humans prey upon humans for money. Parliaments are passing appropriately severe laws. The judiciary is facing its anti-slavery responsibility, with more prosecutions and convictions. Civil society and the private sector, are mobilizing good-will and resources for the assistance to victims.
Hearing this wake-up call, politicians as well as ordinary people ask three questions. First, they want to know how severe the crime of human trafficking really is: how many victims are there? Second, they want to know who are the traffickers, what are their motivations and gains. And, third, people want to know what is being done, and more needs to be done, individually and collectively, to fight this shame.
NML introduces the three characters that are part of this tragedy: criminals, victims, and Samaritans.
- In the documentary you will meet and face offenders: ravenous wolves whose deadly deeds you would think impossible in this 21st century, if they weren’t well-documented.
- NML deals especially with their victims, whose laments will move you deeply: God’s lambs whose suffering you would again think unacceptable in today’s world, but they are well-documented too.
- In all of this darkness, you will also be exposed to humanity’s best -- the many Samaritans who help the helpless, mend the wrong, and speak against the unspeakable.
These three characters are all brutal when they do harm, tragic when they suffer, and noble when they help. NML tells you their stories to judge, namely about the brutal battle between good and evil is on.
NML confronts us with the fact that the problem of hell on earth is even greater and more extended than the individual cases of violence it describes. For every one of the diabolic characters you meet in the documentary, NML intimates that there are thousands of foot soldiers who are willing partners in the crime of slavery.
But there is more than that in NML. Robert’s documentary cannot draw a conclusion, because still there is no end to the story.
NML then examines more evidence: this time by the victims. This segment of the documentary is even more overpowering.
There are millions of stories like these, literally. Yet, because there are so many, they risk becoming matter-of-fact. No!, NML tells us, we cannot deny fairness or compassion to brothers and sisters who might have been as successful as any of us – had the circumstances of their lives been different. And vice-versa: NML shows that we could have been in their role, had our parents been less caring, generous and committed.
NML final point is about our personal choices – day-in, day-out. Without knowing it, we may be complicit in feeding the beast of slavery. Actually, trafficking is a business – it brings products, at times licit merchandise, to the market. Very often, we are the market. You may say: not me. I don’t exploit other humans! What NML tells us has nothing to do with me!
Wrong! Your mobile phones contain rare minerals like coltrane and casserites, mined by little enslaved people whose trade enriches big warlords in Congo (and elsewhere). Many of the garments and leather products you use daily are made by slaves especially in Asia, most of the time underage. The great chocolate you will exchange over the holidays will have been produced with fruits harvested in West Africa (maybe in Ivory Coast) by people under bondage, paid not even a dollar a day. Much of the hardwood covering your floors is illegally logged from Congo or Indonesia. The sparkling piercings on the nose of those ladies we meet at the mall could be blood diamonds from Sierra Leone. The coke snorted from fashion people New York, London or Milan was smuggled in the intestines of a young mule from Nigeria.
There is perhaps not a single item you wear, use, eat or drink that is not contaminated with the blood, sweat and tears of today’s many lambs. NML tells us that to stop the bleating of the lambs, each one of us has to stop being part of the problem. To be part of the answer we all have the responsibility to reduce the demand for products provided by wolves.
There is a final message in NML: modern slavery is a crime too complex, too cultural, too intertwined, in short too important to be left to governments alone. Civil society, namely all of us, must rally against uncivil society. NML launches an appeal in favour of a commitment similar to the ones that have worked to great effect in large-scale campaigns against global warming, energy saving, tobacco smoking, waste recycling -- to mention a few. Once the public’s awareness was raised, people came together to take action to fight back against threats that are destroying communities. NML tells us that the same can, and must, be done to fight slavery.
In conclusion, the challenge for us all – as individuals in a community, or as a community of nations – is to face the uncomfortable reality that the victims, the documentary shows (comforted by international statistics), are mostly children. This is a lesson per itself. If society persists in cannibalizing itself, in praying on its offspring, then I fear there will be no future for society itself.
|Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 February 2011 14:00|
|Into The Lion's Den|
Posted: 10 January 2008
On 7 December I made a speech to a rather unusual audience - the Drug Policy Alliance, most of whom are in favour of legalizing drugs. It was a rather raucous affair with a few boos but more applause than expected. Have a look:
|Media can Start a Consumer Revolt against Human Trafficking Forum on the role of the news media in exposing human trafficking|
New York, 16 June 2010
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would love to say that it is my pleasure to take part in this panel. Actually, this’ not true: it saddens me, well into the 21st century, to take part in a panel discussion on modern-form of slavery: a crime that shames us all now as much as it did centuries ago..