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  • Writer's pictureCarolina MIlanesi

Modern-Day Slavery: A Global Crisis and HPE’s Call for Collective Action


This week at HPE Discover, John Schultz, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating and Legal Officer hosted a fireside chat with Humanitarian Photographer, Lisa Kristine on the goal to eradicate modern slavery. Lisa Kristine is a renowned humanitarian photographer and activist who documents indigenous cultures and human rights issues, especially modern-day slavery. She has traveled to over 150 countries, capturing powerful images that highlight the dignity and struggles of marginalized communities.

In today's interconnected world, one might think that slavery is a relic of the past, yet it persistently lingers, hidden in the intricate web of modern supply chains and industries. This contemporary form of slavery  that pertain to contemporary issues of forced labor and human trafficking.


The Prevalence of Modern Slavery


Modern slavery is a significant global issue, encompassing various forms such as forced labor, human trafficking, debt bondage, and forced marriage. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Walk Free Foundation, approximately 40.3 million people are victims of modern slavery globally. Of these, 24.9 million are in forced labor, and 15.4 million are in forced marriages. Women and girls account for 71% of modern slavery victims, which is around 29 million individuals. Children make up about 25% of modern slavery victims, translating to approximately 10 million children. Wars, economic dislocations, climate change, other disruptions are creating more and more vulnerable people that the traffickers and the slave slave masters can take advantage of.

Kristine has documented the harsh realities faced by these individuals through her compelling images. From brick kilns in India to children enslaved on the shores of Lake Volta in Ghana, her photographs capture the dignity and plight of those trapped in slavery. Her work raises awareness about the extent of modern slavery and the urgent need for collective action.


Hidden in Plain Sight


One of the most distressing aspects of modern slavery is its invisibility. This form of exploitation is frequently "hidden in plain sight," embedded within everyday products and services. In 2015, the United Nations Global Commission on Human Rights issued a daring challenge to the world: eradicate slavery by 2030. The UN highlights the need to educate the public to recognize and combat modern slavery and calls for the enforcement and enhancement of legal frameworks to criminalize all forms of slavery. International collaboration is paramount as cross border cooperation will lead to better prevention and intervention.  


But of course, eradicating modern slavery is not only a public issue, corporations, especially in tech, have a big role to play.


Corporate Efforts to Combat Modern Slavery


HPE is so deeply involved in this issue and discussed it with analysts and stakeholders during the conference because they strongly believe the promise of technology and AI in particular, it must be to resolve dire situations such as modern slavery, hunger, climate change.


The AI revolution cannot be exclusive to those who have the privilege of attending high-profile events in places like Las Vegas. We must wield technology responsibly to transform the lives of those trapped in modern slavery. “We need a 'net-zero' moment for slavery—like the milestone moments we've had for climate action. For climate change, when the world united around measurable goals like net zero emissions, it drove substantial progress”, said Schultz.  To make meaningful strides, there is a need for a benchmark to measure progress against modern slavery. HPE believes technology can be the key to that transformation, but it requires collective effort.


HPE partnered with Human Threads to combine ethical storytelling with educational platforms, creating interactive exhibitions placed in significant venues like the Vatican or museums worldwide. These exhibitions attract not only the public but also policymakers and influencers who can drive legislative changes and reshape narratives towards justice.

HPE’s mission is clear: to eradicate slavery by raising awareness and educating communities and decision-makers. Awareness is crucial because, without it, progress is impossible. It’s interesting to note that while awareness alone isn’t enough, without it, no meaningful action can occur.


Real-Life Examples and the Power of Visual Storytelling


Kristine's experiences highlight the dire conditions faced by forced laborers. In Ghana, children working in fishing villages are subjected to grueling hours, dangerous tasks, and life-threatening situations. These children, often trafficked and forced to work without proper care or education, represent the human cost of modern slavery. Rescue efforts, such as those that reunited a boy named Kofi with his family, demonstrate the hope and positive impact that activism can bring.

In the mining industry, workers endure hazardous conditions, such as mercury poisoning and exposure to harmful dust. These exploitative practices deplete their health and trap them in cycles of poverty. Technology and AI can play a crucial role in addressing these issues by identifying and eliminating unethical practices within the industry.

 

 

The eradication of modern slavery is a formidable challenge, but it is one that we must undertake collectively. Governments, businesses, and individuals must unite to raise awareness, implement ethical practices, and support victims. Through the responsible use of technology and AI, we can monitor supply chains, identify exploitation, and drive meaningful change.

 

The call to action from HPE is clear: Let us work together to create a 'net-zero' moment for modern slavery. By standing in solidarity, making informed choices, and advocating for justice, we can make significant strides towards a world free from exploitation and abuse. It is our collective responsibility to ensure freedom, dignity, and justice for all.

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