Friday, November 4, 2011

The Tail Wagging the Dog?

This semester, I have two Political Science classes in which the same topics are often being covered at the same time. It's not intentional on the part of the professors, but it does make the conversations much more interesting. This past week, the focus has been on human rights and humanitarian aid.

The picture on the left is of a village in Darfur being burned by a group called the janjaweed - armed men whom many believe have been actively recruited by the Sudanese army to destroy the homes and lives of the people of Darfur. In one of my classes, we watched a movie called "The Devil Came on Horseback," about an American photojournalist who witnessed and documented the unspeakable atrocities committed against the Darfur people. To say the film is disturbing is an understatement.

Despite the overwhelming evidence presented by this man, and our own President's declaration that what was happening in Darfur was in fact genocide, nothing was done. We knew what was happening and let it happen.

When the movie was over, we talked, as a class, about the reasons why the U.S. didn't intervene - and has a history of non-intervention with regards to human rights. There are a lot of theoretical reasons why the U.S. doesn't do more. Most people in power believe (or claim to believe) that the U.S. shouldn't infringe on another country's sovereignty. What they do to their citizens is their business, not ours. Kind of like saying you'll try to break up a fight that happens in the street but you won't call the police if you hear a fight taking place in the house next door.

As I sat listening to all the intellectual reasons, I got angrier and angrier. Theoretical perspectives were develop to offer guidance, but they are not law. Yet so many people in class talked about these theories as though they "tie the hands" of the United States. Rather than using theory as an excuse for non-intervention, shouldn't we stop to consider that the theory is meant to serve the people - not vice versa?

At what point do we stop acting like diplomats, theorists, politicians and intellectuals and just start acting like human beings? At what point do our leaders gain the courage to say "yeah, I know this is the theory behind our non-intervention policy but people are dying and we're gonna do something about it." ?

And how do we, as citizens, facilitate that shift?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Very Long Overdue Update

Hello everyone. To those of you who are still following this blog - thank you for sticking around. I'm sorry it's been so long since I've posted anything new.

Here's a quick update on both me and current anti-trafficking efforts.

At the end of 2010, I was accepted into the internship program at International Justice Mission. In January, I moved to Washington, D.C. and began interning with IJM's Government Relations Department. My focus was community organizing: communicating with constituents across the country (and around the world), helping prepare for our Advocacy Day in April, and managing the Michigan state campaign.

When the internship began to wind down, I was offered a summer job with the department. So I'm still in D.C., still working with IJM's Government Relations team. It's been an incredible experience! I've learned so much, I feel I don't even know where to start. I'm here until the end of August, and then I'll move back to Michigan to find a job and finish school.

That's the short version of my personal update.
Now, as to anti-trafficking news.

Many of you may already know that the Child Protection Compact Act was not passed last year. It was voted out of committee in the Senate, and put forward for a Unanimous Consent vote. Unfortunately, the bill was put on hold by a couple of Senators who had concerns about the money that would be spent to establish the programs laid out in the CPCA. IJM staff and others worked hard with those offices to try and find a solution, but they simply ran out of time. Needless to say, many of us were disappointed.

This year, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act is due to be reauthorized and we are hopeful that some of the provisions from the CPCA will be rolled into it. We are expecting the bill to be introduced very soon.

In addition, tomorrow the State Department releases its annual Trafficking in Persons report. I'm excited to tell you that I will be there for the event, and live-tweeting from the IJMcampaigns Twitter account. So, if you don't already, follow IJMcampaigns and get live updates tomorrow from me!

Over the last couple of years, IJM's Government Relations team has rolled out state campaigns which are managed by local advocacy leaders. Campaigns are running in several states, including Michigan (woot!), and the leaders are making remarkable progress in raising awareness and getting others involved in advocacy efforts. If you or someone you know would like more information about a state campaign, you can email Since I'm the one who monitors that email inbox, you'll likely receive a response directly from me. :)

Our team is also working with constituents across the country to schedule in-district meetings with Members of Congress this summer. If you'd like to participate, send an email to the above address. Constituents will talk with Members and their staff about the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, and the importance of fully funding the State Department's Trafficking in Persons office (which, as an aside, had its budget cut by more than 23% this year. We'd like to see the budget fully restored).

One last bit of news: check out this wonderful Op-Ed piece written by Holly Burkhalter, VP of Government Relations at IJM.

Thank you, again, to those who are still following this blog. And, again, I'm sorry there's been so little activity. I have some actual free time this summer, so you'll be hearing from me much more often. Keep up the great work, all of you! And thank you for joining the fight to end slavery!