Posted on 08/16/2013
Think for a moment about this number: 21 million people around the world are victims of forced labor. They are often coerced and later trapped in jobs from which they cannot escape. Of that number, more than 1.8 million are in Latin America and the Caribbean. Meanwhile, many companies with extensive supply chains are profiting, wittingly or not, from this form of modern day slavery.
“We can’t go deeper in the 21st century knowingly allowing this disaster to persist,” said Bennett Freeman of Calvert Investments, a D.C.-based company that invests in socially responsible businesses, at a recent U.S. House of Representatives briefing addressing how business transparency can be an effective tool in combating forced labor and human trafficking in business supply chains. Mr. Freeman was spot-on.
Unfortunately, this issue - forced labor and trafficking for labor - has long been unresolved. However, it is now garnering more attention thanks to the support of Representative Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY)—a great champion in the fight against human trafficking, I might add—who is developing and proposing national legislation requiring businesses to disclose information about their efforts to address slavery/forced labor within their business operations, including their supply chain. The legislation under consideration (H.R. 2759), which is co-sponsored by eight other Members of Congress, is based on a California law passed in 2010 that requires companies to disclose information about their supply chains. The California law, thought to be weaker than originally proposed, relies mostly on businesses self-monitoring and disclosing information that the company wishes to make public. Although insufficient, experts say this legislation has helped raise awareness of force labor issues within supply chains, and move the process forward. H.R. 2759, impacting businesses at the national level, would require businesses to disclose information about their efforts to address slavery / trafficking and forced labor within their business operations, including supply chain and labor management, and enforce compliance.
Given the severity of forced labor within business supply chains, it is important that private sector companies support the legislation, said Karen Stauss, Program Director for Free the Slaves. The Maloney legislation is not meant to impose restrictions on businesses, but rather prompt businesses to understand who is working at every level of their supply chains. It also ensures that consumers have the ability to choose products that are not tainted with forced labor. Businesses not only have an economic interest in this, Stauss added, but also a moral duty to eradicate this form of forced labor from their operations. Ultimately, it will save lives.
Eradicating forced labor from supply chains, however, is not a simple matter. For example, a prepared shrimp cocktail purchased at a local supermarket can have its origin in different—and remote—parts of the globe, imported through various supply chains that could be relying on forced labor without the knowledge of a company or even a supplier. Cathy Feingold, Director of the International Departments at AFL-CIO, suggested that if consumers were more aware of this reality, perhaps they would choose not to source their shrimp from a company that lacked transparency in its supply chain. The reduction in sales would potentially force a company to re-examine its supply chain and make appropriate changes to ensure labor conditions were acceptable.
For a more transparent system to take hold, labor unions and businesses must work together. Ambassador Mark P. Lagon, a Georgetown University professor and former head of the U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP) highlighted the need for governments to also be involved without being intrusive. This must be done with the understanding that governments change periodically and don’t always coordinate effectively within themselves, added Louis Alexander, Senior Programs Director for the Pan American Development Foundation. This lack of dialogue can negatively impact an effort such as this one. For this reason, policy makers and advocates must work hand in hand with civil society organizations, and private sector partners because they remain constant and understand local challenges and the impact of policies on communities.
Ultimately, as I said before, the concerted effort of government, private sector companies, civil society, labor unions and the public at large will save lives. That’s what Flor Molina, an anti-human trafficking advocate and survivor, fights for every day. Sharing her personal story during the briefing, Ms. Molina recounted how a trafficker enticed her with employment in the United States, and forced her to work up to 18 hours a day in a clothing factory in Los Angeles after she arrived from Mexico. She said: “I realized that the other regular workers were free, but I was not allowed to take one step outside of the factory. My trafficker constantly told me that nobody would know if I disappeared or died.” She added: “If there would have been any implementing laws that protected and prevented human trafficking or that made companies responsible, I wouldn’t have gone through that horrible situation.”
By supporting strong new legislation, we will not only spur greater transparency, but help protect those who don’t have a voice.
Posted on 07/03/2013
Last week PADF held the first in a series of Disaster First Response trainings as part of the overall capacity building component of PADF’s Haiti/DR Disaster Mitigation Project funded by the Republic of China (Taiwan). The Haiti/DR Disaster Mitigation Project is an innovative crisis and risk prevention intervention that melds high-technology innovation with low-technology solutions to reduce the impact of natural disasters on the communities of South East Haiti and the South East border region between the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
Held in the Southeastern arrondissement of Bel Anse, the week long training brought together over 100 community members from the communes of Thiotte, Anse-a-Pitre, Grand Gosier and Bel Anse. Local authorities were active participants as well with mayoral representatives from all 6 communes. The trainers were from Haiti’s Office of Civil Protection, a key PADF partner for disaster mitigation Participants learned key elements of first aid and how to implement these critical interventions before, after, and during natural disasters. Throughout the training, PADF’s participative approach was used to encourage community members to share ideas and skills.
Project Director André Engels Friedrich Nicolas emphasized the importance of these trainings: “As the hurricane season approaches, these trainings are more important than ever. By empowering locals to be the first line of defense against natural disasters and the damage they may cause, we alleviate much of the potentially devastating aftermath.”
The next round of trainings is scheduled for mid-July, and will focus on the use of technology for mapping and preparing for disasters. Using GPS technology, these trainings will additionally have a rescue component that allows aid and assistance to be delivered quicker and more efficiently.
Also, as part of this project PADF will apply mitigation measures to reduce the risk of vulnerability and develop monitoring processes to ensure the preparation of the pre-disaster and post-disaster actions, as well as coordinate cross-border mitigation activities and reinforce cross-border cooperation in the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
The program is part of a $2.5 million PADF fund established by Taiwan in December 2012 to implement a Regional Disaster Assistance and Reconstruction program over five years in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Posted on 06/20/2013
By Luisa Villegas
Program Director, South America
Human displacement remains a continued challenge around the world. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Global Trends 2012 report, an estimated 35.8 million people were displaced last year, of whom approximately half—some 17.7 million people—were forced to move within their own countries. For years, Africa and the Middle East have had the largest displaced populations. However, if you distill these numbers by country rather than region—Syria (3 million), the Democratic Republic of Congo (2.7 million) Sudan (2.2 million) Iraq (2.1 million) and Somalia (up to 1.36 million)—each still trails Colombia (estimates vary from 3.7 – 5.5 million), a country with tremendous growth and strong democratic institutions.
In spite of the challenges, for more than a decade Colombia has made significant strides toward helping displaced persons by enacting legislation that encouraged local governments to assist displaced persons and protect their rights. Today, this effort continues with the so-called Victims Law (“Ley 1448 de Víctimas y Restitución de Tierras”), a historic piece of legislation passed in 2011 to bring an end to the country’s armed conflict and to promote peace and social reconciliation. This law is designed to aid citizens who have suffered displacement, kidnapping, extortion, abuse and loss of a direct family member due to the civil strife during the past 25 years.
Since 2000, the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) has assisted displaced persons and other vulnerable groups by improving income generation opportunities and providing access to services such as health, education, housing and food security. Building on this experience, PADF has more recently worked to carry out initiatives that support the implementation of the Victims Law, including developing micro-enterprises among displaced persons; aiding Afro-Colombians and Indigenous people; and providing technical, managerial and other assistance to Victims’ Unit field offices and Ministries such as Justice, Labor and Foreign Relations.
In addition, PADF is helping in the prevention of recruitment by gangs of children and youth at risk, which is supporting the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’s “PIP”—short for Integral Prevention Plan—strategy during 2013 to 2014. This initiative partners with organizations such as PADF to establish multi-service centers in conflictive areas to aid and counsel at-risk youth, much like Boys and Girls Clubs or YMCAs/YWCAs. These centers, operated by local governments and NGOs like PADF, provide safe spaces to engage youth and provide access to computer labs, cafeterias, game rooms, sports facilities, counseling, youth and microenterprise development training. Launched by the Santos Administration recently, this strategy seeks to accelerate the country’s peace process by reintegrating ex-combatants, combating FARC recruitment and gang activities, and ensuring progress regarding the country’s social justice objectives.
Posted on 06/13/2013
By Liza Mantilla, PADF Director of Disaster Management
Technology has become a part of our everyday lives. And in my line of work—disaster management—technology is increasingly proving to be a highly useful and effective tool.
I recently traveled to Managua, Nicaragua, to participate in a discussion about how new mapping technologies can benefit decision-making and government policy. More specifically, the event, co-sponsored by the Republic of China (ROC-Taiwan) International Cooperation and Development Fund (ICDF), ROC Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI), focused on using geographical information systems (GIS) and remote sensing (RS) techniques in decision making and the development of government policy. But how exactly can GIS/RS technology be beneficial?
GIS is a computer-based tool that allows you to map and analyze events on earth, while managing statistics like populations, economic development, and vegetation types in ways not possible with traditional spreadsheets. RS blends art and science by using sensors on airplanes and satellites to remotely collect data, process it into a digital image, and then integrate it within GIS. Together, GIS/RS offers valuable insight to explaining events, predicting outcomes, and planning strategies. For example, by collaborating with Taiwan and tapping into their extensive technical knowledge and know-how, Nicaragua has been able to conduct emergency monitoring on lake flooding, and coordinate emergency response during the 2010 floods that affected Lake Managua and Lake Nicaragua. GIS/RS technology has also been used for coral reef monitoring and mapping in order to understand the impact of tourist development to coral reefs.
The seminar is part of the ROC-Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs-funded project Capability Enhancement in Using Geographic Information System in Central America-Nicaragua, which seeks to assist the GoN in improving its capacity to perform environmental monitoring operations. Among them was Louis Alexander, PADF Senior Programs Director, who underscored the critical role of businesses in disaster risk reduction, which has increased and is changing the profile of humanitarian assistance globally. He added that it is critical that the private and public sectors work collaboratively, co-investing in disaster risk reduction activities. This will help reduce the loss of life and property and further spur economic growth and development in more sustainable ways.
The seminar provided a platform to help raise awareness of bilateral and multilateral relations in the Central America and Caribbean region, providing an opportunity for experts to share experiences and exchange ideas that can pave the way for future development, and how to spur new cooperation in Central America.
Posted on 05/28/2013
By Nadia Cherrouk, Country Director, PADF Haiti
The 2013 Atlantic hurricane season is just around the corner. In Haiti and the Dominican Republic, that’s a big deal. This is why PADF is unrolling a new project—called the Haiti/DR Disaster Mitigation Project—that will identify weaknesses in the immediate environment in some areas in South East Haiti and near the DR border that could affect people in cases of severe storms and flooding. This six-month project, which we launched this week in Port-au-Prince, is an innovative crisis and risk prevention initiative that we’re doing in partnership with the Republic of China (Taiwan).
The project launch event, held in Port-au-Prince, was attended by the ambassadors of Taiwan and the Dominican Republic as well as the Cabinet Director of the Ministry of the Interior. Other participants included representatives from the World Bank, FAES (Haiti’s Social and Economic Development Fund), the Organization of American States, NGOs and members of the media.
The Taiwanese ambassador to Haiti praised the effort as a "timely and important intervention." His sentiments were echoed by the DR ambassador who emphasized PADF's long history of commitment and excellence in Haiti. He praised PADF’s know-how, transparency and commitment to results and further expressed his satisfaction at being able to contribute to the project, stressing the bilateral component of the program. The Ministry of the Interior, who expressed his appreciation for having PADF as a partner, additionally emphasized the necessity of the project, explaining how it aligned with Haiti’s overall disaster-mitigation strategy.
The program is part of a $2.5 million PADF fund establish by Taiwan in December 2012 to implement a Regional Disaster Assistance and Reconstruction program over five years in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Posted on 05/06/2013
By: Nathalie Liautaud
This year’s Interaction Forum in Washington D.C., included a significant number of workshops and conversations on disaster mitigation and risk reduction. I attended one that I really knew very little about, entitled Serious Fun: Promoting Disaster Risk Reduction through Participatory Games. How can talking about disaster risk reduction be fun? I wondered. But off I went to the workshop. Imagine my surprise when I found a workshop full of development professionals ready to get up and role play and discuss the impact of climate change on crops on a roll of a dice? Or determining purchasing power and capacity to diversify crop based on the number of beans on hand? Astonishment aside, this was a great session. Animated by Pablo Suarez, Associate Director for Research and Innovation at the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre, the lively session really got the participants thinking about the types of decisions vulnerable communities must take in the face of natural disasters, but also, about the responses and programs that we, as practitioners, donors, humanitarian organizations, livelihood developers, and field implementers design to face these situations.
The participatory games developed help raise awareness within the communities of disaster risks, climate change and the complexities that stem from these risks in a creative, effective way, which promotes discovery and encourages community participants to engage in problem solving activities. The techniques and tools shared with the participants highlighted opportunities for us to integrate these types of participatory interaction in future programming and implementation actions, and to engage in a fun way partners and stakeholders on the very serious subjects of natural disasters and the mitigation and risk reduction activities that accompany it.
Posted on 04/18/2013
It took me a while to even get the word right, and even harder was when I had to say it in Portuguese: Meliponicultura. The management of stingless bees or meliponiculture is a literally sweet and less risky business than the more known beekeeping of African bees (with stings). In addition to easing their management by not having a sting, these native bees known as meliponini produce an excellent and tasty honey. Each beehive can produce from 1 to 6 liters of honey a year, in addition to other products such as pollen, wax, and a resinous-like material collected by the bees called propolis. Traditionally these products have been used as cure-it-all medicines. They are good for common coughs and colds, as calmative and sedative against insomnia, for wounds and burnings, skin cleaning and even anemia treatment.
As a source of income, these products are helping small farmers in the south of Brazil generate additional resources on top of other agricultural crops. Moreover, the little bees have a key role in conservation of biodiversity. As opposed to their African counterparts, meliponinis are native to Brazil, and as such they help pollinate native forest species that depend on this process for their survival.
PADF, with funding from Boeing, and through a local cooperative in Guaraqueçaba, in the state of Paraná, has supported the local association of native bees ACRIAPA. The cooperative is consolidating itself as a cost- effective alternative for small producers that live in or around almost extinct remnants of Atlantic Forest. Through meliponiculture, they are earning additional income while helping protect nature and conserve biodiversity. As I savor the tasty honey that I just brought back from my last trip to Brazil, I can’t really think of a sweeter deal.
Posted on 02/13/2013
By Mafe Polini
Last week, the In-Kind Donations program team allowed me to be part of one of its regular working days. An early start took us to the soon to be demolished Walter Reed Hospital in Washington D.C. to finish a long journey that this PADF team began last summer. Back in July 2012, they filled up the first of 13 containers full of medical equipment and other donations that were sent to many countries throughout the region. Many communities in Latin America and the Caribbean live without any medical care, and clinics and doctors are often hampered by a severe shortage of equipment and supplies. These factors lead them to seek support from international organizations like PADF that serve as a bridge to deliver assistance.
Although it is easy to write, it is not that simple to do.
The newly decommissioned Walter Reed Hospital is as big as three soccer fields, and was absolutely full of equipment in very good condition that could be used by communities in need around our continent. It took time to identify and organize these useful materials and tools, but it resulted in the delivery of a large quantity of much needed items. The list includes CT-scanners, surgical lights, surgical booms, stretchers, medical exam tables, side tables, dining tables, patient tables, wheelchairs, nurse’s stations, projection screens, and more. Countries like Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Haiti, Mexico and Uruguay were grateful to receive the containers with materials that currently worth no less than 2 and a half million dollars, and are a great help for many organizations to continue their work.
To me, it was a wonderful experience to spend a day walking around this huge building moving furniture around. Lots of memories will remain behind Walter Reed Hospital, and PADF beneficiaries and staff will always be grateful for the kindness of this institution and its people that enabled PADF to give a second life to the working equipment and other medical materials, and to continue to create an hemisphere of opportunity for all.
Posted on 02/11/2013
Last February 5, I participated as the opening keynote speaker at the Inter-American Defense College (IADC) Seminar on Large Scale Disasters and Complex Emergencies. The seminar was held at Fort McNair Washington, DC and examined the various phases of disaster management with special emphasis on the roles of national and international organizations, and the complexities of civil-military planning throughout the disaster management continuum.
There were 15 countries represented throughout the Western Hemisphere, including senior military and civil-military delegates who collectively studied the complexities of disaster management from implementing integrated risk management policies, ensuring adequate disaster preparation, coordinating disaster response and managing large scale disaster recovery efforts. Panel members included representatives from international organizations and civil defense offices from the region.
The presentation included multiple aspects of the disaster management spectrum, with a focus on global platforms and public-private alliances, combined with the evolving engagement of the business community in disaster preparedness, mitigation and risk reduction. Special attention was placed on the growing role of the business community and governments from various developing economies around the world, which represent a changing landscape with new practices and roles of these new actors in disaster management.
PADF continues to promote the principles and good practices associated with disaster preparedness, mitigation and risk reduction in all its work, especially through its Disaster Management Alliance (DMA), a unique regional platform established in 2004 that continues to serve as a vehicle to associate and focus the public and private sectors on disaster management issues, while promoting best practices throughout the region. In 2012, PADF highlighted the importance of this work and the principles behind it in countries such as Honduras, Jamaica, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Costa Rica, at regional international conferences, at the American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America (AACCLA), and at other American Chambers of Commerce meetings held throughout the region.
PADF recently signed a new agreement with the Republic of China (Taiwan) to implement a Regional Disaster Assistance and Reconstruction program over five years in Latin America and the Caribbean. This new program will support disaster response needs, projects that focus on disaster mitigation and also continue to build on the platforms and alliances that PADF has established on disaster preparedness, mitigation and risk reduction.
Posted on 01/31/2013
Our work with the Government of Colombia continues to grow and expand. Yesterday, PADF signed a new agreement at the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington D.C. that will help us support even further Colombia’s priority to prevent at-risk children and youth from being recruited by illegal armed groups.
The agreement called “Integral Program – Boy, Girls and Adolescents with Opportunities” (“Plan Integral para la Promoción de Niños, Niñas y Adolescentes con Oportunidades”) or “PiP + 20” for short, will support Colombia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs strategy during 2013 – 2014 to help local groups establish 20 new locally run multi-service centers in 14 departments (states) to aid and counsel at-risk youth, similar to the Boys and Girls Clubs or YMCAs in the U.S. This is a new initiative that President Juan Manuel Santos is spearheading as part of his administration’s efforts to accelerate the peace process in Colombia, reintegrate ex-combatants, and combat recruitment by illegal armed groups and gangs.
This program is intended to nurture an environment that reduces the vulnerability of children and youth to illegal activities by using recreation and sports, art and culture, and educational strengthening and leisure activities. Our office in Colombia, which has already worked since 2011 in a pilot program on this same issue, is getting ready to begin this new phase.
During yesterday’s agreement signing ceremony at the OAS, Ambassador Albert Ramdin, OAS Assistant Secretary General and Vice Chairman of the PADF Board of Trustees said, “I want to thank the Government of Colombia for the trust and confidence in PADF through the OAS. It’s a great opportunity to see this funding being trusted to execute programs in Colombia that will provide new opportunities for young people.”