On October 25 the Embassy of Liechtenstein, in cooperation the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), held a panel discussion on human trafficking titled “Ending Modern Slavery.” The discussion featured remarks by US Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee who serves as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The event included a panel discussion with Daniel Thelesklaf, Director of the Liechtenstein Financial Intelligence Unit, and Jennifer Cooke, Director of the Africa Program at the CSIS, and was moderated by Shannon Green, Director and Senior Fellow, Human Rights Initiative, CSIS.
The discussion comes at a time when Liechtenstein has been highly engaged on the issue of modern slavery at the United Nations. In July of 2017 the Permanent Mission of Liechtenstein to the UN, along with the United Nations University, published a report titled “25 Keys to Unlock the Financial Chains of Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery.” The report was a product of a conference held by both parties in New Canaan, Connecticut in March of 2017 featuring dozens of prominent speakers and guests exchanging ideas and best-practices on the topic.
For years, Senator Corker has been a major political voice in the US calling attention to the problem of modern slavery. In 2016 he passed legislation authorizing funding for the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery (GFEMS) to support programs and projects that seek to achieve measurable and substantial reduction of modern slavery, partnering with the private sector and foreign governments. In his opening remarks, Senator Corker commented on how the issue of modern slavery became a major mission for him. He assessed that, though there were many global efforts to tackle human trafficking, they lacked international coordination to achieve a greater impact. Thus, the GFEMS aims at fostering global collaboration and especially the exchange of best practices by forging partnerships with governments, NGOs, and the private sector. Furthermore, Senator Corker acknowledged Liechtenstein as an important partner in this endeavor.
During the panel discussion, Daniel Thelesklaf focused on Liechtenstein’s engagement, as well as that of the international community, in penetrating the financial connections to human trafficking in order to stop the money flow. It is estimated in reports that forced labor generates $150 billion a year in revenues with as many as 45.8 million people enslaved today, mostly women and girls. Handling of funds related to human trafficking are a crime and constitute money laundering. In some cases, designated terrorist organizations are involved. Financial institutions involved risk violating a range of existing laws and regulations, especially in the area of anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism. Thelesklaf therefore stressed the need for stronger public-private partnerships among governments, financial institutions, and NGOs, raising awareness among financial institutions, claiming leadership in every area, and sharing data among different actors. “Fighting human trafficking is a task governments and financial institutions can address together. This event was an excellent opportunity to show Liechtenstein's financial center at its best," Thelesklaf stated.
Jennifer Cooke, Director of the Africa Program at the CSIS, highlighted the symbiotic relationship between human traffickers and terrorist groups. They not only overlap in financiers but also in victims. This calls for a holistic approach by the international community, taking into account the realities on the ground: If one sector of the criminal economy is suppressed it manifests elsewhere.
The event was organized through a years-long relationship the Embassy of Liechtenstein has cultivated with CSIS, as well as an engaged relationship with Senator Corker whose staff has visited Liechtenstein in the past and met with Liechtenstein officials in Washington. “Our engagement in DC encompasses a wide variety of issues, not only bilateral, but also global topics in areas the US can play a vital role and where Liechtenstein can contribute best practices,” Kurt Jaeger, Ambassador of Liechtenstein to the US stated.
A video and audio recording of the event can be accessed here.