UN expert: FFP “must be considered an international benchmark” in fight against modern-day slavery!

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United Nations Human Trafficking expert lifts up CIW’s Fair Food Program following fact-finding tour of US anti-slavery efforts…

Nothing like starting off the new year on a positive note!

In her official End of Visit Statement issued late last month, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur in Trafficking in Persons, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, made special mention of the CIW’s Fair Food Program for its exemplary results in the prevention of modern-day slavery.  Here is an excerpt from her statement, issued through the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights:

Washington DC, 19 December 2016 – I am grateful to the Government of the United States of America for the invitation to carry out an official country visit from 6 to 16 December 2016. I would also like to thank the authorities I have met at the Federal, State and city levels, as well as the diplomatic community and businesses for their openness to engage in frank discussions with me. During my visit, I also had the opportunity to meet with representatives from civil society, who play an eminent role in assisting victims in this country, as well as with survivors, whom I would like to warmly thank for courageously sharing their painful experiences and aspirations with me.

Both US citizens and foreign nationals mainly from Central America and South East Asia are trafficked within and into the US. While efforts to combat trafficking in persons have focused primarily on sexual exploitation thus far, [cases of] trafficking for labor exploitation… have also been brought to my attention…

… In this context, I am encouraged by the Government’s invitation extended to my mandate, the first of this kind since its inception, as it implies political will to strengthen a human rights based approach to the struggle against trafficking in persons.

Such an effort to adopt and revise legislation, train professionals, refine internal regulations demonstrate that anti-trafficking efforts are a long standing commitment in the US.  Yet, the purpose of this country visit is also to shed light on persisting problems, issues to be dealt with, challenges faced, and to offer recommendations to address them in a spirit of cooperation…

The statement goes on to catalog the UN’s findings in the areas of Trafficking for Labor Exploitation, Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation, and Protection of Trafficked Persons.  It is in the conclusion of the report’s section on Prevention where the CIW’s work is singled out:

Finally, I would also like to pay tribute to civil society’s commendable efforts to address labor trafficking, such as the Coalition of Immokalee Workers through its Fair Food Program which empowers farmworkers in Florida. It is now implemented in other States, and must be considered as an international benchmark. 

From a vision of a more humane agricultural system born in the dirt-poor farmworker community of Immokalee, Florida, to an “international benchmark” recognized by human rights experts around the globe, the Fair Food Program has made extraordinary progress in just six short years since its inception in 2011.  And that progress would not have been possible without the support of tens of thousands of consumers across the country who have embraced that vision born in Immokalee and made it theirs, heart and soul.

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While we should all be proud of the transformation of farm labor conditions taking place today under the protections of the Fair Food Program — and of being recognized by the United Nations as a model for low-wage workers facing exploitation around the globe — there remains much to be done in our collective efforts to expand the Fair Food Program, both at the level of the corporate food industry and at the ground level, in the fields that remain beyond the FFP’s reach today.

With the new year, this latest report should provide us all with a renewed spirit for the battles to come, starting with the big Return to Human Rights Tour this coming March 16-29!

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