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Success Against Slavery: Strategies for the Future & Promising Practices in International Programming

Richard Hoffman, Brazil Country Representative, Catholic Relief Services
Remarks at the Roundtable Hosted by the White House Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives and the U.S. Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Washington, DC
October 28, 2008

Three Key Success Factors of the "Trails of Liberty" Project

I would like to thank the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives for the kind invitation to speak of those factors that helped bring the 30-month, $1.5 million "Trails of Liberty" anti-slave labor project to successful completion in April 2008. In making these comments, I do wish to stress that Catholic Relief Services' faith base itself in my opinion contributed very positively to several noteworthy sustainable achievements, thereby succeeding in leveraging the initial generous investment by the President's Initiative of Trafficking in Persons, as received through the US Department of Labor.

FIRST, the project became more successful once it embraced more fully the important fact that the Government of Brazil has bravely not only admitted that the country has a remaining problem of slave labor, but in addition created in 1995 the National Commission to Eradicate Slave Labor (CONATRAE) and encouraged the growth of active government-civil society cooperation for the purpose of eradication of slave labor. This active encouragement by the Brazilian government is highly commendable, given the natural internal desire of some to not air the country's "dirty laundry". The Brazilian government's action in fact underlines the facts that (i.) only a very small minority of economic operators in Brazil are so indifferent to their fellow citizens' human rights as to be willing to practice slave labor; and (ii.) slave labor can be eradicated through societal cooperation.

Once CRS took better advantage of this fact, advances occurred both inside and around the "Trails of Liberty" project:

= CRS Brazil was able to leverage more successfully the power and the influence of the Catholic Church in Brazil, when Dom Dimas Lara Barbosa (Secretary General of the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops/CNBB) in 2008 made more public CNBB's position against slave labor, as well as its commitment to passage of an amendment to the Brazilian Constitution whereby those found to have practiced slave labor can have their lands confiscated (i.e., the “Pró-PEC 438” movement).

= CRS Brazil and partners contributed actively to the creation of five state-level counterparts of the National Commission to Eradicate Slave Labor, greatly assisting the effectiveness of such networking

= Inside and outside the project, CRS Brazil was able to harness Caritas creativity and commitment, most notably in the development of sustainable alternative employment generation options that can help decrease the lure of slave labor procurers in low-income, "at risk" communities. The Manioc Network of Caritas Maranhão started with project funds but was then sustained as a CRS private investment; novel production and marketing methods then spread through positive "word of mouth" and succeeded, with CRS help, in attracting the attention of state government.

SECOND, the project supported constructive, results-based communications between the field and the aforementioned national- and state-level network, centered around the common interest in the successful operation of a viable mechanism. The viable mechanism in question was the Government of Brazil's so-called "dirty list", whereby mobile inspection teams of the Ministry of Labor have the authority to make "on site" identifications of slave labor, as identified by the presence of degrading work and living conditions, evidence of coercion and evidence of privation of liberty. Those economic operators thus identified must for at least two years live with the shame of being included on the publicly accessible "dirty list", which prevents their accessing any public loans, credits or other assistance. Such individuals are on the "dirty list" until they take the actions necessary to warrant their removal.

The "Trails of Liberty" project therefore supported various field level activities designed to support the effective operation of this "dirty list" system, by regularly channeling information to national- and state-level decision-makers as well as helping to identify best practices. Field-level activities supported through the project included:

= capacity of two local partners, the Center for Defense of Life and Human Rights/CDVDH (Açailândia) and the Center for Human Rights/CDH (Araguaína), to channel to the Ministry of Labor mobile inspection teams information of possible slave labor violations, for follow-up by the mobile inspection teams

= some direct but more referral assistance to individuals freed from slave labor conditions (about 1400 during the 30 months of project implementation) -- needs are obviously diverse and will include need to address these persons' physical health, psychological well-being, legal needs, family reunification needs, economic revitalization needs, etc.

= community-level awareness-raising, in part to prevent "at risk" individuals from being lured into slave labor

= sustainable alternative incomes that can reduce the lure of slave labor -- in addition to the aforementioned Manioc Network, other methods tested included the production of eco-friendly charcoal (CDVDH), production of pedagogical toys (CDVDH) and community gardens (CDH).

THIRD, the "Trails of Liberty" project in its final year more assertively pursued media and advocacy opportunities. This fact was greatly assisted by CRS's having as one of its main partners "Repórter Brasil", the leading media voice again Brazilian slave labor and, through its influential website, a key site for viewing of the "dirty list". CRS Brazil took more active advantage of the excellent ongoing media activities of both "Repórter Brasil" and (outside project) the national anti-slave labor campaign of the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), most notably an excellent comics-based and school poster campaign, which effectively inform communities and youth of how slave labor procurers operate and can be identified (and successfully avoided). CRS Brazil took more active advantage as well of the higher-level advocacy influence of both "Repórter Brasil" and CPT, in the form of their support of the aforementioned “Pró-PEC 438” movement but also efforts to engage consumers and producers in both Brazil and the US to the possible presence of tainted slave-produced items produced in Brazil and exported to the US. Although greatest attention to date has been focused on the chain linking charcoal to pig iron and then to steel (as highlighted in the seminal November 2008 "Bloomberg Markets" report), CRS Brazil and partners tried through media placements to draw consumer concern to the presence of slave labor in Brazilian sugar cane and ethanol production.

CRS Brazil projected-related media efforts in the final year of project implementation included:

= an informative direct mailing to CONATRAE and other opinion-makers, so they would be better informed of "Trails of Liberty" activities

= posting through the project of a "Repórter Brasil" stringer to CDH/Araguaína, who then reported on project-supported developments through the "Repórter Brasil" webpage

= two successful topical Letters to the Editor, to the web editions of the "New York Times" and the "Miami Herald"

= provision of assistance to two National Public Radio journalists covering slave labor in Brazil.

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