Summer Institute 2015 Begins with Overview of Trafficking in ASEAN and Industry Insights

Denpasar, 11 August 2015—The opening day of the 8th Annual Summer Institute in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights saw fruitful and substantive discussions between the attending representatives of ASEAN bodies and speakers from civil society, international organization, and business actors on preventing slavery and trafficking in persons in the region. The institute began with welcoming remarks by Professor Harkristuti Harkrisnowo, HRRC Acting Executive Director; Professor Ketut Suastika, Rector of Udayana University; and His Excellency I Dewa Putu Eka Wijaya Wardhana, S.H. M.H  Deputy Governor of Bali. These esteemed speakers all touched on the importance of combatting trafficking and slavery in ASEAN, and together, they sounded the Balinese gong to commence the week’s program. After the welcoming remarks, His Excellency Ambassador Ong Keng Yong delivered the keynote address. Starting his talk by mentioning the Summer Institute as an “alumni reunion” of his cherished colleagues, the Ambassador stated that slavery and trafficking are “insult[s] to humanity” and emphasized that anti-trafficking efforts must include multistakeholdership.

After Professor David Cohen delivered an overview of the week’s program, the first session began with special attention to the human rights dimension to slavery and human trafficking. In this panel, Mr. Jonathan Martens of the IOM, Ms Heike Lautenschlager of the ILO’s ASEAN TRIANGLE project, and research expert Dr. Anne Gallagher AO (via audio recording) offered insight into the conditions of forced labor and possible legal and regional avenues to protect migrant workers. This panel emphasized the importance of addressing the demand behind trafficking, and with discussants Mr. Thomas Thomas of the ASEAN CSR Network and Dr. Seree Nonthasoot, Representative of Thailand to the AICHR, all highlighted the need for a national and a regional concentrated effort against the exploitation of workers.

The two sessions after lunch focused on Industry Insights, with the first discussing the perspective of businesses with regard to trafficking and forced labor and the second covering a report on labor as well as creative efforts to combat human trafficking and slavery. Following presentations from Mr. Mohammad Shah bin Hashim of Global Compact Malaysia and Mr. Teddy Gusmara of H&M, Ms. Helen Sworn acted as a discussant and followed up on previous remarks of anti-trafficking efforts requiring “interconnectedness as an ASEAN community.” And while increased competitiveness among countries will no doubt have an impact on movement of labor, Sworn optimistically stated that, “This year 2015 is the year of change.” The afternoon’s second panel hosted Ms. Melizel Asuncion of Verité Southeast Asia, who presented Verité’s report on electronics and labor in Malaysia. Discussant Mr. Sam Zarifi of the International Commission of Jurists followed up with an emphasis on a coordinated, regional perspective on the issue. 

Today’s panelists and speakers all focused on a concentrated, coordinated effort against trafficking slavery as well as a difficult in gathering data on forced labor and trafficking. As Ms. Asuncion answered in a question to her panel, “People do not even know what questions to ask! Because nobody knows. The workers don’t know themselves.” Tomorrow’s sessions will deal with these issues in greater detail.

This year’s Summer Institute is made possible through the generous support of USAID, the U.S. Department of State, the British Embassy in Jakarta, the Handa Center at Stanford University, and the East-West Center.