Monday, March 28, 2011

Comment on what caught Liza's eye this week:

Liza, I wanted to respond to you question regarding whether we are all now diplomats. I don’t disagree that “Diplomacy is beginning to be redefined into how we as individual diplomats are helping solve global problems.” But I would caution that this new era of individual diplomacy and this “global environment that [has] altered the practice of traditionally diplomacy,” has resulted in a world where misinformation is spread even at the highest levels. Consider the following statements:
U.S. Department of State: “Trafficking is now considered the third largest source of profits for organized crime, behind only drugs and weapons, generating billions of dollars annually” (Department of State).

United Nations: “The reality is that human trafficking is a huge global problem. It is the third largest criminal activity in the world after armaments and drugs” (United Nations).

Checking the facts: The assertion that human trafficking is “the third largest” source of profits for organized crime, behind only drugs and weapons is an unfounded declaration thrown around and perpetuated by a variety of sources. A declaration of fact from the U.S. State Department and United Nations obviously carry weight, which likely goes a long way in explaining how this belief has been carried on. However, the foundation for this notion is not substantiated in either of these documents. Both the State Department and the United Nations documents offer no citations for this statistic.

The earliest reference I could find to support these statements goes back at least ten years to Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Harold Koh (in the State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1999) and Senator Sam Brownback (Republican-Kansas)(Story Repeated). Yet again, no substantiating information is provided for this contention in either of these public statements.

The lack of a reliable foundation for claims regarding human trafficking and organized crime has resulted in even more groundless and erroneous statements. The Harvard Journal of Law & Gender has gone even beyond claiming that ‘human trafficking’ is the third largest criminal enterprise, making a grand intellectual leap to assert that the “illegal sex industry” specifically is the third largest organized criminal activity. Similarly, assertions that the “trafficking of women and children” are the “third most lucrative” endeavor for organized crime have also been made. Other sources have even gone so far as to make speculative declares that human trafficking has overtaken arms trafficking, to become the second largest source of profits for organized crime.
Human trafficking is an important yet complicated issue, which requires more than blanketed unsubstantiated statements that obscure the reality of the situation. In this instance even credible sources have repeated a baseless claim, which illustrates the dangers of individual diplomacy in a globalize world; from the comments of Brownback to the statements of the State Department and the United Nations.
If anyone can find substantiating information for these comments I would be happy and amazed.

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