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Stop the Traffik – Future, Fact or Fantasy?

Posted on 11 October 2021

In September, Ruth Dearnley OBE, CEO of STOP THE TRAFFIK spoke with Partner Gary Miller about human trafficking and modern slavery across the world – an issue affecting millions of men, women and children each day. Ruth discussed how trafficking affects us all, the achievements of and challenges facing STOP THE TRAFFIK and what needs to be done differently in the future to ensure long-lasting change.

STOP THE TRAFFIK has created the first ever global data hub – the TRAFFIK ANALYSIS HUB - to facilitate the sharing of information about human trafficking across all industries. The hub empowers individuals, organisations and agencies to make more informed choices to counter human trafficking and also provides information for vulnerable people on help and support available.

The Mishcon Academy Digital Sessions.

Gary Miller

Hello everyone and welcome to the Mishcon Academy session, a series of events, webinars and podcasts looking at the key issues impacting business and individuals today.  My name is Gary Miller and I am hosting this hybrid session today.  I'm delighted to welcome people to our office.  I'm now absolutely thrilled to welcome you, Ruth and to introduce our guest this afternoon Ruth Dearnley who I have had the pleasure of knowing for about six months now and Ruth what I would like to ask you, what is trafficking?  How would you easily and simply convey to our audience what is it?  Is it slavery on its own?  Is it abusing somebody's human rights?  What is trafficking for the, the way you see it so that people can hear from you what is it that is the problem?

Ruth Dearnley

I think from the moment human beings were created there was something where somebody would usurp power over another so that they lost a sense of who they were and there was oppression.  So it's not new.  But the world and its tools and technology has meant that the exploitation of human beings can be done so much better and so this criminal business of exploiting human beings which at its worst is when they are then bought, sold, commodities, products creates and is creating more money because it's just about a global business where people are dehumanised and uses products in order to create wealth and greed and power.  So trafficking as a definition for me and I'm not going to use the palermo’s and all the jurisdiction all the legislation…

Gary Miller

No.

Ruth Dearnley

.. but it's often, it's a road where somebody begins from their vulnerability to begin to be groomed or to be vulnerable. We've all been there. This isn't just something that happens to another person somewhere else. But we know what it is at our most vulnerable to suddenly listen to the wrong person, be moved into the wrong space, be desperate enough to choose something we wouldn't normally and that is a road that you journey down and at its worst it's where you find that you have lost who you are and that you can be owned and moved and bought and sold and exploited at its worst place which, I talk about it as a road because you have to think about that when you think about prevention, because prevention isn't just looking here at the moment when somebody is being exploited, it's about well, how did they get there? How did they get there and at what points can we intervene in that journey? How can we shorten the window, how can we make it as narrow as possible for when that exploitation and that road happens? How can we give somebody the information they need - alternative choice, a community around them, peer support.

From the laws that we pass and create, to the systems that we're all part of right down to the information that that person can get on this, in their hand to tell them where the danger are and signpost them to a better place.  So for me it's the picture of how we can stop the exploitation of human beings at every level which is why none of us can do that.  You've asked for a definition, the definition of the solution for me is that that's why none of us could do that on our own you know, you could pass laws, in fact there are laws in most, almost all countries so trafficking is illegal but look, okay that doesn't mean that the laws are bad it just means we're not there yet we need to do more you know, you can rescue everybody. Imagine if you could just rescue everybody but that's not enough. The money and the money flows, we need to look and understand and that's why we were driven to want to build this rich picture, shine this light on how this business works.  Let's expose it because too often it happens in the shadows, it happens where people culturally allow it and I mean all of us.  It's like if we don't draw attention to it then we can just continue in the what we buy or where we put our money or the way we run our business or the way we do our financial transactions or the sorts of bits of law that we'll allow.  We need to shine a light on all of that and that's why I think we've called it, this is the drive for transparency, so please be leaders, use the searchlight to lead and take others into that space.  But if you refuse to, you won't be able to hide.

Gary Miller

You were either at a party or some other place and someone said, will you join us and help us do whatever it is that they were doing and they used the word ‘trafficking’ to you and was that the first time?

Ruth Dearnley

First time.

Gary Miller

And what was your immediate reaction.

Ruth Dearnley

The real guts in me is always, don't just make a noise but give people something that they can do /  People need to answer three questions: What is it, what is trafficking because if you don't know what it is it's useless.  How does it affect me because unless I know how it affects me I'm really not going to engage.  I might get upset for a while and then I'll move on or I'll get overwhelmed for a while and then I'll move on.  But how does it affect me and then what, what can I do because if you can't answer that third one you shouldn't share anything because that's how people become overwhelmed, that's how people become disengaged you know, there's so much I could try and do in the world and there's so much bad.  So what is it, how does it affect me, what can I do and that's what we decided to do in our little sort of conversation over one or two glasses of wine and then a friend of ours who was listening, who's a fantastic poet came down the following morning and went I've got a name, you should call yourself ‘Stop the Traffik’ - with a ‘k’ and we went oh that's good and so we launched ‘Stop the Traffik’.

Gary Miller

The visceral reaction would be trafficking is bad, we must go and help those who've been trafficked.  That wasn't what you did you looked at it from a much wider perspective.

Ruth Dearnley

Everyone that I was meeting was, was at that front face, that cold face where they were encountering people for whom they needed to find a way out and then follow that road of rehabilitation and as you said, absolutely essential, we need to think beyond that.  How can we dismantle the system?  How can we disrupt the system and even at that early day my skills or my understanding was, how do we empower a community of people who are never going to feel called to give their lives like these extraordinary people around, I mean there are millions of extraordinary people who give their lives to go and do the rescue to be part of that but how can you actually take this issue to the whole community?  How can you take it to a community where there are business leaders, those who work in finance, those in Government, those who, in their day-to-day jobs make policy.  How can you start to take this issue and answer those three questions?  What is it, how does it affect you in your role you know, at Mishcon.  How can it start to, to be part of the world and system that you work and then what can you do about it?  So for me unleashing that sort of tidal wave of ability and skills was about I can't do all those things but if we can be the bridge to start to think about converting this complex issue into something where those people can think and be active then we're really going to become quite dangerous to the issue.

Gary Miller

The time has arrived for the Q and A's.

Audience

I just wanted to ask Ruth how the pandemic has impacted your work and if indeed it has?

Ruth Dearnley

In one way it's actually perpetuated I think and pushed us forward.  The team were extraordinary but I also said this is a moment we need to grab because for the first time ever the world was actually understanding that data and technology,  intelligence and insight was the only way we were really going to understand how to prevent a global issue that we were all a part of.  So in a way it pulled people firmly into our mind-set; how to use data, how to use technology, how to build a data hub.  Why bother.  Why is prevention so important when your focus is often, let's rescue now, let's feel something now, let's do it now.  Well we're all here sitting in this room because people thought preventatively because they thought what's the future?  How can we get back, how can we stop something happening rather than just reacting? 

I think the world is learning and around trafficking, around exploitation, around crime we have a lot to learn from health because health has done it a number of times in our world really well.  Technology is an incredible gift, almost always used by those who exploit rather than those of us who lead first.  Innovation is usually used sadly in history for ways of exploiting, destroying but it is for us to grab it back and it is for us to take those tools and turn them into tools that are searchlights.  Searchlights that say you can't hide but also spotlights that take us forward so we can see the future early and so that we can all turn into people who can look at the future and then deliver today.

Gary Miller

What are the three wishes that this fairy godfather could give you with that magic wand?4

Ruth Dearnley

I would love to see people grab this sooner than having to be convinced of it.  Leaders of today and tomorrow.

Gary Miller

What does that mean today?

Ruth Dearnley

So too much energy for me is spent on trying to convince people that this is the right way to do.  We need an urgency, we've sort of got, we've got an urgency building around the planet haven't we?  I mean, you know, but it's taken a long while of lots of years around climate and you know, this is our home, how long are we going to have it for.  There's an urgency about that.  Whether we can deliver on it is another question.  There's an urgency everyone that however long we all live on this planet the people matter.  Urgency for action.

Gary Miller

Urgency which is awareness is it, awareness?

Ruth Dearnley

To me that is leaders, people of all ages stepping up and saying this issue matters.

Gary Miller

Second wish?

Ruth Dearnley

That people would share what they know. That's a revolution.  So you know that part of what Traffik Analysis Hub and what we've created and its footprint of what's growing fast. It depends on people sharing…

Gary Miller

Sharing.

Ruth Dearnley

…and that means a world that stops thinking in a way that what I have is mine, in my pocket, for my next funding or my competitive edge on you and I don't just mean in not-for-profits although we need to learn to share and not just talk about it.  But it's actually also in every sector.  What can you share and are sharing your stories sharing understanding, sharing your resources, sharing time so a sharing revolution will outsmart everyone.

Gary Miller

Number three, your last wish what's it going to be?

Ruth Dearnley

It's a wish that's already coming true.  I have a great joy when I see people like our you know, people on our team, people who have just got ideas, I never have thought of, they're just running past you.

Gary Miller

Inspiring?

Ruth Dearnley

Yes. Inspiring.

Gary Miller

Is that it? Inspiring others to move…

Ruth Dearnley

Seeing others

Gary Miller

…further forward.

Ruth Dearnley

My wish would be just keep, going go past me.

Gary Miller

So if our audience today went away thinking how can I be more aware, how can they share more and how can they inspire?

Ruth Dearnley

Run faster.

Gary Miller

Run faster.

Ruth Dearnley

Life's too short.

Gary Miller

Do it better.

Ruth Dearnley

And do it together.

Gary Miller

Ruth it was an absolute privilege and an honour to have you share your… part of your story with us today, thank you so much.

Ruth Dearnley

Thank you so much for having me.

The Mishcon Academy Digital Sessions to access advice for businesses that is regularly updated please visit mishcon.com


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