Matt Friedman, CEO Mekong Club, an NGO based in Hong Kong, working to expose human trafficking crimes and address the issue globally came to Business School Lausanne last week. Matt gave the audience a riveting, heart breaking account of the situation the world finds itself in today, a situation that impacts the business world in unexpected ways. According to Mr Friedman there are over 36 million human beings who are trafficked all over the world, and of these over 23 million are in Asia, where a lot of businesses and supply chains operate today. Human trafficking or modern day slavery- another term sometimes used to describe these terrible practices – is rife.
Matt told us about the women he had met who were sold into forced prostitution, about people working in garment factories or on fishing boats who are forced to work 7 days a week with no hope of escaping — the list was long and very sad.
Matt Friedman believes that slavery is a problem that business can solve; he is an international human trafficking expert with more than 25 years of experience as an activist, program designer, evaluator, and manager. From 2006 to 2012, Friedman was the Regional Project Manager of the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP) in Thailand, an inter-agency coordinating body that links the United Nations system with governments and civil society groups in China, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. Prior to this Friedman worked for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Thailand, Bangladesh and Nepal.
At a certain point in time Matt Friedman decided that he wanted to do more, to find ways of trying to raise awareness and find solutions to these problems and he founded the Mekong Club some years ago. With this organization Matt and his team heighten public awareness of human trafficking and forced labor, they work and engage with the private sector and find ways to help to end these practices.. He told us that the law is changing and he mentioned the Californian Supply Chain Act, the UK Modern Slavery Act and different EU legislation in place. Still a long way to go, but, thanks to Matt Friedman, the audience at BSL better understand the challenges the world is facing and, hopefully, will be part of solutions needed.
Listen to his Matt Friedman’s TEDX talk:
Author: Mary Mayenfisch-Tobin, BCL, LL.M, Solicitor