MIAMI, May 26, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Co-sponsored by the Embassy of the United States of America to the Holy See, Miami's St. Thomas University hosted an international forum on human trafficking in Rome, May 18 - "Building Bridges of Freedom: Public-Private Partnerships to End Modern Day Slavery." U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, internationally recognized theologian and a St. Thomas University alumnus – Miguel Humberto Diaz – initiated the Conference with his welcoming remarks, followed by Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, Director, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons of the U.S. Department of State. The role of both public and private sectors was thoroughly discussed, including the role of faith-based organizations, corporations and civil society. St. Thomas University President, Monsignor Franklyn Casale, an international spokesperson on the subject, was in charge of the conference's closing remarks and call to action while Executive Director of the Intercultural Human Rights Program at the STU Law School, Professor Roza Pati, participated as moderator of one of the key panels.
In his address, Monsignor Casale mentioned how "the Catholic Church and Catholic institutions today are well in the forefront of the fight against human trafficking, modern day slavery." "Today the Catholic Community has strongly embraced and champions the anti-trafficking cause. It is reflective of our well developed Catholic social teachings," he added. He expanded details on an educational program on trafficking in the Catholic schools, stressing that in our diverse society, the recognition of human dignity and this call for action is not exclusive to one particular faith-based denomination, with similar sentiments echoed throughout many faith-based communities.
The Rome Conference brought together a broad spectrum of participants in the fight for eradicating human trafficking. Despite diligent efforts (especially by many in attendance), the numbers of reported victims of modern day slavery are steadily increasing. There are an estimated 700-800,000 persons trafficked annually across international borders with the thirty million victims worldwide at any given time. The majority of trafficking victims are generally within the 18-24 age bracket, with over one million children trafficked annually. Efforts such as those stemming from this powerful coalition bring hope, as increasingly more countries are developing domestic laws to combat the trafficking in humans. To date, just over 116 countries have enacted legislations to stop all forms of modern day slavery.
For the past ten years, anti-trafficking stakeholders have presented different approaches to combat this phenomenon. One key approach relatively new has been the utilization of the 3P paradigm of prevention, (criminal) prosecution, and (victim) protection. But, as noticed and heard in the Rome Conference, because the detected incidences of modern day slavery are increasing, it is clear that even with the existing approaches to end modern day slavery, more is needed. Modern day slavery is an extremely lucrative business endeavor.
In closing, Monsignor Casale stated that, "First we need to recognize the apparent irresistible financial lure for traffickers and craft like-minded business-oriented anti-trafficking policies. Second, we as institutions of higher learning, advocates, governments, government officials, corporations, need to heavily invest in the business of the struggle against modern day slavery. Some of us readily invest in new technology, risky stock portfolios, and innovative business concepts; let us now invest in ourselves, and our neighbors – in promoting the dignity of the human person."
He also spoke of the role of the Academy in this struggle to eliminate the problem and in particular the distinct role played by Miami's St. Thomas University. "Within the United States, and on international levels, institutions of higher learning serve as incubators, think tanks, research institutions, and clinics for faculty, students, and neighboring communities. Oftentimes, academic institutions serve as the initial learning and informational portals on topical issues. AT STU, future law makers receive their degrees, doctors are trained and business is taught. As such, partnerships can exist in a number of venues and cross-disciplines within academia. Accordingly, since modern day slavery is one of the human rights concerns of our day, higher education institutions have and must continue to develop curricula and modules focused on educating their students on modern day slavery – its roots, causes, and solutions."
St. Thomas University has been a pioneer in the struggle. Over 250 law students (LL.M.) and others work directly with issues of migration, servitude and abuse. For example, its Human Rights Institute, founded in 1992, processes over 6000 Haitian and Cuban migrants every year. Most of STU's 11 Law School clinics have a thrust geared to the underserved, thereby giving future lawyers practical experience in helping to reduce the burdens of people who normally do not have access to good lawyers. The School – headed by Dean Douglas Ray, has adopted a holistic approach to human rights issues as these violations intersect many legal and social constructs. STU is committed to environmental study and recently instituted an LL.M. in Environmental Sustainability.
"It was for this reason that we created our Center for Global Justice and Dialogue. This building will be an integral part of the St. Thomas University School of Law and an important resource serving our law students, the South Florida community, the nation, and the world," added Monsignor Casale. The Center will house three central programs that advance St. Thomas University's commitment to social justice. The Institute for Law and Public Service, the Institute for Intercultural and Sustainability Research and our world-renowned Graduate Programs in Intercultural Human Rights and Environmental Sustainability will call the Center home. Through its research mission, it will provide a forum for rigorous problem- and policy-oriented analysis of issues of global and national significance. Designed primarily to be an academic think tank, it will identify, study and develop solutions to pressing issues facing the planet.
"I commit the participants in the Center for Global Justice and Dialogue to continue to work on the issue of human trafficking. Using our trove of data and the scholarship of our talented faculty, involving our students, and gathering world leaders at the Center, we will continue to be a force in this area and others plaguing the Global Community," said the institution's President. "It is still a long road but we are on the right track."
SOURCE St. Thomas University