UNA-NY Hosts Panel on Human Trafficking
featuring Special Guest Somaly Mam

On March 8, 2010, the United Nations Association of New York hosted a panel on Human Trafficking, Somaly Mam: A Heroine from the Brothels, one of the main initiatives of our chapter this year.

Human trafficking has been described by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime as "the fastest growing organized crime in the world," a $4 billion dollar business involving over 4 million victims, not only overseas, but increasingly within the United States.

John Sweeney, Hiroshi Murakami (President of Toray Industries America, Inc.), Paula Rice Jackson, Lord Norman Foster, Dr. Peter Rajsingh

From left: Sherrie Murphy (moderator), Carol Smolenski, Jennifer Dreher, Celhia de Lavarene, Guy Jacobson, Somaly Mam. / Photo: Norman McGrath

The panel discussion was organized and moderated by Sherrie Murphy, VP Board of Directors UNA-NY, and featured five speakers who are all dedicated to fighting this heinous crime:

Carol Smolenski, the executive director and one of the founders of ECPAT-USA, an acronym for End Child Prostitution and Trafficking, has worked in the field of children's rights since 1991. She was previously the UN representative for the Christian Children's Fund and Defense for Children International. ECPAT now operates in 75 countries. Carol described what is being done to stop the sexual exploitation and trafficking of children in the US.

Jennifer Dreher is the Senior Director of the Anti-Trafficking Program at Safe Horizon, which is the largest victim assistance organization in the country. She oversees the program's social and legal services, training, outreach and advocacy, serving both men and women caught in all forms of human trafficking. Jennifer discussed the types of cases occurring in New York City and the services available to survivors through current legislation.

Celhia de Lavarene is a journalist reporting from the UN for almost two decades for Jeune Afrique and Radio France Internationale. In 2001 the head of the UN mission in war-torn Bosnia appointed her to create the UN's first-ever operation to combat human trafficking, called the Special Trafficking Operations Program, STOP. She founded the global organization, Stop Trafficking of People (also STOP), that rescues and rehabilitates human trafficking victims. Celhia talked about human trafficking as a rapidly growing international problem and the apparent lack of political will on the part of many governments to fight it.

Guy Jacobson is a filmmaker and activist who earned the State Department's "Global Hero Award" in 2008 for his tireless efforts in fighting child sex trafficking. In 2002 he founded the Red Light Children Campaign, an NGO aimed at ending all forms of sex crimes against children. He has produced several TV programs, written and published 15 books, and two documentaries on child sexploitation. His feature film HOLLY has been widely acclaimed. He addressed the use of social media to expose this issue, and the need to decrease demand for the sexual exploitation of children.

Somaly Mam, a Cambodian survivor of human trafficking, was sold into sexual slavery by her grandfather when she was 12 years old. When she finally managed to escape, she told her life's story in a poignant memoir, The Road of Lost Innocence. She founded the Somaly Mam Foundation, which has so far rescued more than 6,000 former sex slaves.