241 – Ambassador-at-Large John Cotton Richmond: Looking Forward

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Happy National Human Trafficking Awareness Day!

Dr. Sandie Morgan and Ambassador-at-Large John Cotton Richmond discuss the current status of anti-human trafficking efforts in the United States. They ask the hard questions of what we need to do better and how we need to change in the future to have a greater and more positive impact on human trafficking and the people that have fallen victim to it.

Ambassador John Cotton Richmond

John Cotton Richmond serves as the United States Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and leads the Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. Ambassador Richmond comes to the highest position in the federal government dedicated to combating human trafficking, after a distinguished career in the global battle for freedom. He co-founded the Human Trafficking Institute that exists to decimate modern slavery at its source by empowering police and prosecutors to use victim-centered and trauma-informed methods to hold traffickers accountable and ensure survivors are treated with respect and care.
Prior to the Institute, Ambassador Richmond served, for more than ten years, as a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit where he was named one of the “Federal Prosecutors of the Year” by the Federal Law Enforcement Foundation. He investigated and prosecuted numerous victim-centered labor and sex trafficking cases throughout the United States.
Ambassador Richmond’s work to combat human trafficking has earned numerous honors, including: the David Allred Award for Exceptional Contributions to Civil Rights, twice earning the Department of Homeland Security’s Outstanding Investigative Accomplishments in a Human Trafficking Award, as well as twice receiving the Department of Justice’s Special Commendation Award.

Key Points

  • We cannot take the trafficker out of the conversation. When we do this we are treating human trafficking as if it’s a naturally occurring phenomenon we can’t do much about. This leads to some level of blame being placed on the victim.
  • When we change from passive language to active language when describing human trafficking, we are holding the trafficker responsible and keep them a part of the conversation.
  • Collect data on prevention efforts can be very difficult because one is trying to prove that by their action something didn’t happen. However, in order to grow and mature as a movement, we need to start putting systems in place to measure our efforts.
  • As we move forward in this movement, it is important we open spaces for survivors to take leadership roles, and guide us with the experiences that they’ve had.
  • Labor trafficking can be very difficult to identify when left to law enforcement alone. Ambassador Richmond proposes strategies that would utilize administrative forces to help identify cases and. funnel them to law enforcement.
  • Covid-19 has caused a lot of chaos and put a lot of people in a vulnerable situation. The question we need to ask ourselves is not where are we going in this situation, but how do we adapt to these changing circumstances?
  • There is a place for everyone at the table of conversation. It’s alright for all of us to be different and focus on different aspects of this issue because when we come together and collaborate, it allows us to tackle the issue as a whole.


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Dave [00:00:00] You’re listening to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast; this is episode 241 Ambassador-at-large John Cotton Richmond: Looking Forward.


Production Credits [00:00:10] Produced by Innovate Learning, Maximizing Human Potential.


Dave [00:00:30] Welcome to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast. My name is Dave Stachowiak.


Sandie [00:00:35] And my name is Sandie Morgan.


Dave [00:00:37] And this is the show where we empower you to study the issues, be a voice, and make a difference in ending human trafficking. Sandie, today we have with us a returning guest who has been just a tremendous leader in this space throughout his career. I’m so glad to welcome back to the show, John Cotton Richmond. He is the United States ambassador-at-large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and leads the Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. Ambassador Richmond comes to the highest position in the federal government dedicated to combat human trafficking, after a distinguished career in the global battle for freedom. He co-founded the Human Trafficking Institute that exists to decimate modern slavery at its source by empowering police and prosecutors to use victim-centered and trauma-informed methods to hold traffickers accountable and ensure survivors are treated with respect and care. Prior to the institute, Ambassador Richmond served for more than 10 years as a federal prosecutor in the US Department of Justice’s Office for Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, where he was named one of the “Federal Prosecutors of the Year” by the Federal Law Enforcement Foundation. He investigated and prosecuted numerous victim-centered labor and sex trafficking cases throughout the United States. Mr. Ambassador, welcome back to the show.


Ambassador Richmond [00:01:58] It’s great to be back with you today.


Sandie [00:02:00] I remember when we first met at the human trafficking summit at the Underground Railroad Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio.


Ambassador Richmond [00:02:09] I remember that as well. It was a great conference. It was great to hear so many different perspectives, including yours. And it’s been fun to watch your career progression and all the contributions you’ve made to the anti-trafficking movement since then.


Sandie [00:02:22] Well, I think it reminds us as well that this movement is maturing. And so, we need to stop. It’s 20 years now. And yet the State Department kudos to you for the fabulous approach to celebrating that the document that you created, the events to celebrate that. And now we’re moving into the next decade. So, let’s talk about what that movement is going to look for. What do we need to let go of? What do we need to prioritize? How do you see that?


Ambassador Richmond [00:03:02] It has been a great year to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the UN Protocol to Eliminate Trafficking in Persons as well as the United States Trafficking in Persons Act, really seminal pieces of legal framework that have guided us over the last 20 years. I think anniversaries are a great opportunity to look back to celebrate what’s gone well, to also be honest about how we improve it and then pivot and look forward towards the future and what we need to accomplish. I love the framing of your question, though, which is what do we need to let go of? What do we need to strive for? When I think about let go of one thing that comes to mind is a topic you and I discussed several times. I think we need to let go of the tendency to delete the trafficker from the conversation. I see so often that we keep talking about human trafficking as if it’s a naturally occurring phenomenon. As if it’s just an inevitable result of circumstances that people are in. And I think that does great harm to this work. Specifically, it does harm to survivors, because what we’re really doing in that circumstance is blaming them. It’s about them choosing to go back into the life so that what they’ve chosen to do instead of what the traffickers have done. You know, back when I used to be a prosecutor, the definition of trafficking is all about what the trafficker did. It’s what were the traffickers’ activities? How did the trafficker choose the means of coercion and what was the traffickers’ exploitive purpose? But too often in these conversations, all the questions get reversed and we’re asking, what did the victims do? What did the victims intend? What was the victim’s purpose? And that turns the inquiry on its head. I think one of the things that we need to do if we’re going to be successful is, we need to make sure the traffickers didn’t create this crime and they shouldn’t be blamed for it. The other challenge of not including the trafficker in the sentence is I think we create a fatigue problem and people just feel exhausted if we have to eliminate all poverty and all discrimination and racism, income inequality, and everything else in order to stop trafficking, people might just give up. If trafficking is a naturally occurring phenomenon, people might not feel like they can make a difference. But the reality is, if we think about this as an activity that is the result of an individual’s decision to commit the crime, we actually can think about ways to make a difference. So, I think one thing we need to let go of is this mentality to delete the trafficker. When it comes to strive for, I think we need to think about impact and measurement, I think far too often this movement has been driven by anecdote and emotion that can be really powerful. I’ve been a part of some of those stories, but I think to really mature, we need to think about how do we measure, how do we make sure that it’s not just activities that we’re doing, but where those activities are actually generating change? And as we look towards the next 20 years, I think that could be an incredible, incredible advantage if we’re able to do that.


Sandie [00:05:59] Wow. I need to respond to your first statement really personally because I entered this space because of my concerns about family violence, domestic violence, child abuse, those kinds of things. And in that space, we matured and came to understand that many of our victims also were victims of other forms of exploitation, including human trafficking. But when I saw, the same pattern emerged in the human trafficking victim approach that had happened in domestic violence. Instead of saying that Mary’s husband, John, beat her, we said Mary was a battered woman and we’ve done the same thing now in the trafficking space. And now Mary is a trafficked woman, and I am right there with you. I’m going to try and change my language so that I talk about what happened to this person instead of defining this person by their experience. Thank you for that. Great reminder.


Ambassador Richmond [00:07:15] Know, it’s really insidious in some ways because we take the actions that the trafficker did, and we now make it an identity statement about the victim. And of course, we know traffickers are always trying to use identity as one of their coercive strategies, changing people’s names, calling them by something else, telling them that that they don’t matter. And we don’t want to contribute to that. We want to flip the script and actually use their name and remind them of their identity, that they actually have inherent value the traffickers can’t take away. And I think language matters in that regard. And what we’ve done at the State Department, even within our Trafficking in Persons report that comes out every year, is we try to move away from passive language where the passive voice is used to hide or obscure the trafficker. So, we’re trying to weed out phrases like people were subjected to trafficking and say that traffickers exploited them, or traffickers force them to work like something more clear and more direct, where the traffickers have to own the agency that they truly have.


Sandie [00:08:17] That’s outstanding. As a professor, I’m constantly asking my students to write in the active voice because passive cloaks what is actually happening and who the agent is, and who the receptor is. OK, so strive for there’s so much we can unpack with this impact and measurement. You and I have had so many conversations about prevention, and prevention is especially hard to measure. So, when you ask us to strive for more impact and measurement, I’m inspired by that challenge and a little frustrated because we know in our history you can’t manage what you can’t measure. So how can we approach all four P’s in measurement? It seems like we know right now we have a dip in prosecution so we can go after that. But we don’t know what’s happening in prevention.


Ambassador Richmond [00:09:28] It’s a really thoughtful question and I would love to consider a world in which we could think of different rulers for different purposes. So, when we think about measurement, one of the first questions we have to ask is not just what are we going to measure, but how are we going to measure that is what ruler should we use, what increment of measure? So, for instance, if we’re going to use the measurement ruler of prevalence, that might be an effective ruler when we’re thinking about the key of prosecution so we can measure our prosecution efforts. Have we seen a decline in the prevalence of trafficking based on those efforts over a period of time? But the ruler prevalence may not be very effective for the P of protection. That is, we may be doing a much better job of using trauma-informed approaches, and really thoughtful victim-centered strategies to care for survivors. But traffickers may have moved on or trafficking someone else. That is, our care for survivors may not effectively reduce the prevalence of trafficking, but it’s still the right thing to. So how would thoughtful people think about measuring protection efforts and whether they are successful, and I think we need to come up with some of those measurements. It has to be more than just like how many nights does the average survivor spend in a shelter because different survivors need different interventions. So, I may need to be in a shelter for a long time. Some may not need to be in one at all. One of the things that that we’re thinking a lot about is this idea that it needs to be individualized in our protection services. Every survivor is different. We often think about studies when we talk about vulnerable populations. But traffickers never target populations. They target people. Every person responds differently. And so, I think we’re challenged around measurements in the area, I think for growth. But when it comes to prevention, you’re right, there we have a challenge of trying to measure a negative. If our prevention efforts are successful, then trafficking didn’t occur. So how do you measure something that didn’t happen? And there I would suggest that the ruler might be designed around the intervention. So, for instance, one prevention strategy that I’m spending a lot of time on is the kafala or the sponsorship system in the Gulf countries, making sure that we can dismantle the kafala system because we know that it makes it so much easier for traffickers to operate. We could measure whether or not that system is being pulled apart, whether there’s a new system being put in place, ending the kafala system itself, won’t end trafficking. But it will certainly make it far more difficult for traffickers to operate. Another prevention example might be around recruitment fees and trying to shift to an employer-paid recruitment fee model around the world. We can measure whether countries are adopting that approach, whether we’re holding recruitment agencies accountable, whether they’re making sure that individual workers are not required to pay fees to third parties or to employers themselves. So, I think there may be some targeted ways around measurement, but I think we need to consider different rulers for different P’s.


Sandie [00:12:34] That is so inspiring. And I’m already writing down little notes for how to tweak some of the things we’re trying to do locally. I think you will be encouraged by a local project that’s emerged on at least early identification. And some of our medical personnel here in Orange County have started working on a screening tool for labor trafficking of children and immediately began to understand that the same ruler to use your language doesn’t work in an agricultural area or in an industrial area. And I think we’ve done one size fits all and we can’t keep doing that. We have to be more specific and they teach us that. Right. Smart objectives, be specific. All right. I could spend our whole time together on one or two of these questions, but in keeping with our theme of moving forward and inspiring us for 2021, what are we doing right?


Ambassador Richmond [00:13:39] I appreciate that most of the conversations I have, what we’re doing wrong, what we need to improve. But it is helpful to stop and think about what are we doing well? One thing I think we’re doing well, or at least better, not certainly sufficient, but we’re getting better at we’re getting much better at engaging survivors in these conversations. We’re getting much better at moving beyond merely asking survivors to tell their stories and having them talk about their opinions, having them shared their insights, whether it’s in formal settings like the presidentially appointed US Advisory Council that helps guide the federal interagency on issues related to trafficking in persons and how we can improve. Or whether it’s individual NGOs that are starting to create Survivor Advisory Councils. We’re seeing survivors take up leadership roles in organizations where they’re not just advising or consulting, but they’re employed, and they’re employed at the top levels. I think all of these signs are positive as we get more and more survivors who have expertise in their own experience but may also have policy expertise, they might also have expertise about how we can do a better job. So, I think that’s an area where we’re certainly not finished improving, but we’ve made some real improvement. I think we can be very pleased about that. Another example of what we’re doing right is our engagement, both with foreign assistance and with our diplomacy internationally. This year, a great example, as we saw in Namibia, move up to tier one, the highest here in the United States to report. And that really came because of their hard work and efforts to improve their program. But it was assisted by US foreign assistance over the last five or six years. And a consistent engagement, and I think it’s a bright spot, is the first country in Africa to be on tier one since 2012. We’re incredibly excited about that. Really proud of the hard work that Namibia has done. And then just one other thing I think we’re doing, doing much better at doing right, perhaps, but still need to improve, and that’s focused on forced labor in supply chains. We’ve seen a lot of attention, a lot of focus to enforcement actions on forced labor and supply chains. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Trade has done an outstanding job issuing and in increasing the number of withhold release orders that are issued. And these are orders that basically say any goods made with forced labor or prison labor cannot be imported into the United States, that we don’t want the products that people are buying in stores around the United States to be tainted with forced labor. We don’t want citizens of the United States and purchasers here to be inadvertently complicit or benefiting from any type of forced labor regime. And we’re seeing a lot of focus on that. It’s causing businesses to stand up, realizing that there’s an additional risk in their supply chain and they need to take action to deal with it. So, we’re excited about that is as an example of what we’re doing right.


Sandie [00:16:36] That is so timely in two weeks, I’m interviewing someone from Customs and Border Patrol about all of that kind of activity and I’m learning a lot more. And that made me have a conversation with our Western regional DOL Director, Paul Chang. And so, he said, well, if you’re talking to Ambassador Richmond, ask him this. So, I think this is a good time for me to ask this question, because one of the problems that I’ve experienced in working with federal task forces is we keep trying to get more labor trafficking cases, but we haven’t figured out the right toolbox to make that happen. So, his question to you is, what roles do you see the U.S. Department of Labor playing in human trafficking enforcement, namely, of course, labor trafficking. Currently, it’s a very minor role. And if we try and use like wage and hour division, it’s an administrative agency tasked with enforcing the nation’s most comprehensive labor laws. But it can’t enforce labor trafficking, which is criminal. So, the case has to be referred to a criminal law enforcement agency to prosecute, which sounds good on paper, but in practice, it’s hindered labor trafficking prosecutions. Do you have any vision for changing the structure of how labor trafficking investigations are structured?


Ambassador Richmond [00:18:15] This is a really thoughtful question that Paul poses when we think about the challenges around identifying labor trafficking cases, I think we should first just be clear that this is an area that the United States has to improve. The number one recommendation in the US TIP report, for the last five years, the United States has been to increase labor trafficking prosecutions and we haven’t seen an increase. And I don’t think it’s for a lack of interest or will. These are much more difficult cases to identify. And so more than changing the structure. What I would look towards is how do we engage departments of Labor around the world in a meaningful way. We talk a lot about labor officials identifying cases, seeing indicators of forced labor. But the reality is we haven’t seen many countries in the world where that’s been an effective strategy for this generation. So, what can we do differently? I think one is we could think about using the fact that the wage and hour division is an administrative body and not a criminal law enforcement agency to our advantage. If they were a criminal agency, they would need search warrants to gain access to facilities, administratively wage and hour could show up at any time. And they can observe indicators of trafficking. Whether it’s document retention, whether it is not payment of wages, whether it is abusive environments within a workplace, that they may not be able to determine if trafficking exists, but they can certainly identify indicators and then refer those cases to the criminal investigation units that can go in based on that administrative information, get the search warrants, begin to do the interviews, issue the subpoenas, and hopefully gather the evidence to identify cases almost like a funnel. We want a broad funnel, whether its cases being identified initially by Department of Labor or hospital personnel, staff or schoolteachers or neighbors, all of that used to be funneled down to the trained experts in human trafficking that can actually do those investigations, do a trauma-informed interview, have some experience in what’s going on, and hopefully generate some stronger cases.


Sandie [00:20:21] That is our marching order here in Southern California, where labor trafficking is really being emphasized at every level because we have, especially during COVID began to understand how prevalent it actually is in our own country. So, let’s kind of move to the things that are gaps. And you’ve mentioned a few things, but is there a priority for how to fill some of the gaps?


Ambassador Richmond [00:20:52] You know, I think there can be we can always identify gaps, but we have to pick what we’re going to focus on. So, I would look towards tried-and-true interventions that we know can make a difference, something that can deliver return quickly to help stabilize some of these survivors so that we could do the broader systemic work. So, one strategy around the P of prosecution that has been effective when it’s really tried around the world is the specialized units. If it’s a specialized labor trafficking unit would be a game-changer in terms of identifying labor trafficking cases, specialized sex trafficking unit, specialized just human trafficking units in general. In many countries, they’ll say they have a specialized unit, but it’s really just a unit on paper. Or maybe there are a few officers assigned to it, but those officers are already swamped with other cases and trafficking really becomes an added task to an already burdened portfolio. What we need are specialized units where trafficking is their primary task, not their added task. So, whether it’s law enforcement officers, prosecutors, or courts, I think continuing to develop more specialized units that can actually take on cases would definitely fill a gap, certainly might be the solution, or at least part of the larger solution to the challenge of getting forced labor cases. When I think about the P of protection, I think a massive gap right now is still restitution in the United States. We’re seeing, although restitution is mandatory, courts are mandated under law to order it. In every case, it’s only about 40 percent of the time that judges are ordering restitution. We need to make sure that those restitution orders are consistently being applied as the law requires. And then we have the hard work of getting the defendants to pay that restitution. The other protection challenge, I think, that still concerns me is I worry about punishing survivors of trafficking for what happened to them. And when I talk to friends, they always look at me oddly thinking that that can’t happen. But I am far more worried that a trafficking victim is going to get prosecuted than a trafficker is going to get prosecuted. So, we want to make sure that victims are never penalized for the unlawful acts their traffickers compel them to engage in. We have to make this promise of protection a reality. If we focus in on those two gaps, restitution and no punishment of victims, I think that will be a huge and important victory. And then around the gaps around prevention, I think prevention education is important. Maturing that making sure that that we’re doing it thoughtfully, ethically. I think I already mentioned the reforms around the kafala system in recruiting these really promising prevention strategies as well. So, I think we need to prioritize. Obviously, the most acute thing is we need to make sure that victims are separated from their traffickers so that they can begin the road to dealing with their trauma and traffickers can begin their road to accountability. And from there, we need to continue to identify more gaps as we move forward.


Sandie [00:23:56] Those are good goals. And I hope that our listeners are trying to figure out where they fit in supporting one of those. And I had a really unusual experience and opportunity this year to work with your office and the president’s interagency task force by serving on the Public-Private Partnership Advisory Council to End Human Trafficking. And in that time, I had a little bit more face to face conversations with the issues around scarcity and the battle to make sure my agenda gets more resources. And I began to think about how we leverage private sector and government collaboration. And in addressing, I have this sense that resource scarcity is a mindset, not a reality. And I would love to hear your response to that idea.


Ambassador Richmond [00:25:03] I love that you bring this up. A scarcity mindset as opposed to an abundance mindset is prevalent in the anti-trafficking space and it really drives joy away. Right? It’s the sense of if someone else’s project is getting funded, then my project. isn’t. As if all the resources are being divided up like slices of a pie, and if someone else gets a big slice, that means I’m going to get less of the slice and it makes people frustrated, makes them angry. As I used to hear as a kid, the phrase comparison is the thief of joy. I think it’s really true. When we start comparing things one to another, we breathe the seeds of envy, we breathe the seeds of contempt. And I think we fail to recognize that other projects are important. So, if someone is working on a protection project and running a shelter and an awareness campaign gets funded in the area, that should be celebrated, even if it’s not the project they’re working on or if a specialized unit gets funded, that doesn’t mean that shelters are not important. This sense that we’re all in this together. I agree with you. If you live in a scarcity mindset, it means that you are going to ultimately be frustrated and cranky and probably not the person others want to spend time with at the meeting. What we want to do instead is live in an abundance mindset that we know that we want to be awesome at our work when we work really hard at it. We want to cheer on all the other people in the field who are doing perhaps different approaches, maybe even some that we don’t think are the best approaches. But cheer them on, make sure that we’re diversifying our resource base, that we’re not just looking to one funder, whether it’s government or one philanthropic donor. We’re diversifying that base. We’re trying to build a stable organization that can actually do this work and do it with a sense of joy because I think that’s important.


Sandie [00:26:51] That is such good advice. Diversify resource base, which I think really speaks to the purpose of the public-private partnership to begin to build stronger private sector government collaboration. And I see how important that is at a local level and at an international level. So many times, we don’t try to do something because we’re waiting for a grant. And I’m not going to wait for a grant. I’m going to find another way and find other resources. And when I find new partners, they bring their resources. So, if I’d have gotten that grant, I would never have invited those people to the table. And those people may be my new partners and they may be local and actually produce a much stronger outcome. So, I’m encouraged by that opportunity. And I’m going to have in 2021 a mindset of abundance. Thank you.


Ambassador Richmond [00:27:56] And thank you for your service on that Public-Private Partnership Advisory Council. Not only did you serve, but you cochaired it. And I know it was a lot of work and a big report, but I’m so grateful for all the work you put into that.


Sandie [00:28:10] I learned so much I felt like I went back to school and got another Ph.D. It was great. OK, so even with this positive framing for the future, this idea of abundance, we have suffered greatly in the human trafficking space, especially for our survivors with covid-19. And that experience has forced us to find new ways to investigate. It has forced us to figure out new resources for survivors who were doing well and had finished whatever kind of program they were in and now fall back through the cracks because of housing and loss of jobs. How will our experience with covid-19 change the future of how we combat human trafficking?


Ambassador Richmond [00:29:09] That is a million-dollar question, Sandie. And I think the reality is we’re living in this in real-time and so we don’t know. But I will say this. We’re not condemned to our circumstances. We have agency. We get to choose what’s happening. We know that vulnerable are becoming more vulnerable. We know that all these shut down orders and the virus is actually increasing the number of people who are vulnerable to trafficking. We know that traffickers are capitalizing on the chaos of this moment. We know that all these things are happening around us. And so, the question for us is, is not sort of where this river of chaos sort of taking us as if we’re drifting, but we get to actually put a rudder in the water, put oars in the water and start adapting to these circumstances and influencing where we’re headed. So, I think we have to do more than just identify all the problems if we’re going to sustain in this space, we have to use our agency. We need to think about perhaps it’s harder to investigate cases now, but what new tools could investigators use? How can they not just explain why it’s difficult but adapt to the situation? Perhaps caring for survivors can’t be done in-person the same way we used to do it. But are there other ways we can address these needs? Are there perhaps even ways that we could adapt that would be preferable to some folks? When it comes to prevention instead of having to gather people in a room for a seminar, perhaps there could be a video seminar. There are ways to adapt. But the reality is we are not in desperate need right now of people who can explain why things are confused, complicated, and difficult. We’re in great need right now of people who can adapt and take action in the midst of that confusion.


Sandie [00:30:53] Very wise words. I love the fact that you said put your oar in the water to change direction. And I’ve been working with some of our Gap scholarship students here at Vanguard University who lost housing, lost jobs, and have faced a sense of hopelessness about the future. And as I would talk to some of my colleagues in this space, they often responded with a very glib, well, we’re all in the same boat mentality. And I thought about that more and more. And some of our survivors are not in the same boat. They’re in a rowboat without oars. And so, we have to think about the individuals and go back to a victim-centered approach. We can’t just make generalizations. Well, covid-19 resulted in that. And so now we can’t do this. And I find myself challenging people with the vision for a more positive response. And it was very exciting for me to have somebody call and say, we want to bless your Gap scholarship students this year and we’re going to buy Christmas presents for them. And I thought, oh, my gosh, people did not forget in our normal patterns where we were, we have resource scarcity in normal delivery things. That’s not the end-all and be all. And people are the answer. And so all of my students got Christmas presents. I’m so excited about that because it inspires me with the hope that we are not in a place of fatigue. People still care about this.


Ambassador Richmond [00:32:50] And I think that’s right. I think they and they want to help. They care and they want to help. They just need some guidance on what to do. On how to bend this metaphor a bit more. If someone’s in the boat without oars, how do we get them or how do we help? How do we lash our boats together? How do we move together? But we want to do more than just sort of drift. We want to do more than just sort of say the circumstances will take us where they will. We want to exercise the privilege of choice and to make sure that we are all making as best choice as we can to help everybody else.


Sandie [00:33:21] So one of the biggest lessons I’ve been trying to understand is what collaboration really looks like. I’ve spent a lot of time doing task force evaluations, and I understand that there are some ways to measure collaboration. We suggest measuring how people value each other, how they trust each other, and how dense the local networks are, because the more density, the stronger the safety net is in that space. But I still run into the reality of competition, and I would love your insight. You brought together different people, different nations, different philosophies to bring them to work together. How can I do, or my listeners do a better job of moving from that competitor perspective to real sincere collaboration?


Ambassador Richmond [00:34:27] Collaboration is so important. It’s really foundational to everything we’re going to do. If we’re to be effective, we’ve got to work together. Sandie as I’m thinking about your question, tell me, how do you see the competitor aspect present itself? What types of ways do you see people competing with each other instead of collaborating?


Sandie [00:34:44] I think I think you identified it really well earlier. They see this as a pie and if you get a bigger slice, they get a smaller slice. And so, it’s a zero-sum game mentality. And I just want to make a bigger pie.


Ambassador Richmond [00:35:01] And I think we can use one of the things images I love is when we think about instead of slicing up a pie, it’s really like lighting candles. If you take one candle that’s lit and you light a candle next to it that is not lit, the flame of the first candle is not diminished in the least. Instead, now you have two flame. And if you light a third candle, neither of the flames of the first two candles are diminished. You just expanded the number of flames out there. This is what I think about scarcity or abundance. I try to frame this around, lighting candles instead of slicing pies. One way is to make sure we’re talking about the same thing. We’re talking about collaboration. When some people talk about collaboration, they may be talking about concerted action. That is, everyone decides to do the same thing. At the same time, they’re, in a sense, operating in unison. Other times, collaboration might look like, hey, we’re still going to do separate things, but let’s share information with each other just to make sure that we know what’s going on. And there might be places of overlap from time to time, places of intersection. There might be different types of collaboration. And if someone’s anchored in the idea that it has to be concerted action and someone else thinks information sharing is sufficient, they might, with those different definitions, feel conflict. They may feel like there’s not sufficient collaboration. I think as we collaborate, we need to recognize that there are real differences that we want to be maintained. It may be best that someone’s focused on forced labor and foreign  national victims in the United States and they’re not thinking about domestic minor sex trafficking. Another group might be focused on domestic minor sex trafficking and not forced labor of foreign national victims. It’s OK for groups to have a focus. It’s OK for groups not to be doing the same thing. But we want to make sure is it as a collective, as a whole that all the bases are being covered, that we’re making sure that that there’s a way to care for everyone. We don’t need everyone to conform to one-to-one identity to only do it one way. So, I think understanding that collaboration, I’ve shared before, as you and I have talked, I don’t think collaboration is our goal. I think collaboration is our tactic to achieve our goal. Our goal is to stop traffickers, protect victims in these systems. We’re not going to get there without collaborating, but just collaborating also isn’t sufficient. And so, I think as we think about competitors versus collaborators, one last side to share is that we all just need to take ourselves a little less seriously. I think far too often people who are working on these issues end up with a bit of a savior complex. They’re the one that cares the most and their way of doing things matters the most. And it comes across as a bit arrogant and that inflexible where they’re really not listening to other people. They’re just waiting to respond to whatever is being said. And if we can take a learner approach instead of an expert approach, we could take an approach where we’re really listening to different voices from different philosophical approaches to how to deal with this problem. I think we’ll be able to collaborate more effectively.


Sandie [00:38:02] Wow. OK, hashtag learner approach for 2021, that’s going to go on my desk. Thank you, Ambassador Richmond. Is there anything you would want to discuss for looking forward to 2021?


Ambassador Richmond [00:38:19] Yeah, I think in 2021 I want to think about this idea of how we sustain hope, how do we make sure that as we’re going forward, we’re doing all three of the P’s. We want to make sure that and I know that you’ve also got the fourth-year partnership, but the P’s of prosecution, prevention, protection, and of course partnership and all of them are essential. None of them should be diminished or deleted. I think we have a paradigm that has served us well, even if we have not followed it as faithfully as we want. So, for instance, on the prosecution, we’ve seen a massive decline in prosecutions globally, a 38 percent decline in trafficking prosecutions around the world in the last five years. And meanwhile, we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of victims identified. Governments reported identifying the most victims ever in 2020, 118,000. So, we have a long way to go because if you consider 118,000 victims identified versus the 24.9 million estimated victims in the world, that means that we’re identifying less than half of 1% of the victims on the planet. We have a long way to go. We do not want a situation in which 99.5% Of the victims in the world are never identified, never get services, and never get separated from their traffickers. We’ve got to reverse that.


Sandie [00:39:44] Wow. 99.5% haven’t been identified. I’ve been really considering how to marshal eyes and ears in communities globally. And I did an interview recently with some folks from Arise Foundation that are trying to find a new ruler for prevention by measuring the religious women organizations in remote communities and how they might be a protective factor or a preventive factor. And I believe that to find that 99.5%, we have to have a global awakening of identifying and valuing our human right for freedom and dignity. So, sustaining hope for me is to empower people on the ground right where they are. And I think about my own community here in Orange County. Our task force began to meet in 2004. We’ve got over 16 years of awareness events. We don’t need any more awareness events. We need to learn how to replicate what we’ve done and create similar opportunities in places where no one has been there to do those. Those kinds of things sustain hope. It is particularly difficult for me to think about sustaining hope when I think of so many people that are trapped and the kafala system, the brick kilns, children on cocoa plantations. So, I am more and more convinced that we have to build stronger relationships across the different sectors. My last question for you is really based on a quote from someone who has inspired me for much of my life, Kathryn Booth, co-founder of the Salvation Army, who worked with women, particularly, who had been commercially sexually exploited. She made a statement that has become a question for me. If we are to better the future, we must disturb the present. If we are to better the future, we must disturb the present. What do you want to disturb in 2021?


Ambassador Richmond [00:42:35] What a powerful quote, you know, when I think about what to disturb in 2021, I think people would call it different things. They might call it apathy. Others might call it the acceptance of the status quo or the way we do things or activities that are consistent with past practices. I’d want to disturb all of that, disturb this sense of trafficking is going to always be with us and there’s not much we can do about it. We’ll keep doing the things that we have been doing in the way that we have been doing now. I think if we’re going to make progress as we move into 2021, we have to disturb the status quo. We have to disturb our own expectations that we’re going to do things next year pretty much the way we did them this year. I’m inspired by a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer that I heard years ago, and he said to, quote, We are not simply to bandage the wounds of the victims beneath the wheels of injustice. We are a drive a spoke into the wheel itself. I just love that idea of we’re not just supposed to care and do and do some triage. We’re supposed to get to the root of the problem, to the heart of it, and really bring healing. Frederick Douglass said a slightly different way. He said, quote, It’s not light that we need, but fire. It’s not the gentle shower, but the thunder. We need the storm the whirlwind the earthquake. Like that motivates me. I think what we need is strategic action that can generate hope because I think the world needs hope delivered by the truckload. Together, we can make a difference and we can decimate trafficking. But it’s going to have to come by disturbing the status quo.


Sandie [00:44:25] So we’re forecasting for 2021 a storm?


Ambassador Richmond [00:44:30] That would be tremendous, that we’re not going to just say, hey, Kopitar, people are all doing less. No, this is the time to double down, this time to go out there and really engage the victims of trafficking are not having a great year. They’re not quarantining and watching Netflix miniseries. They’re not able to shelter in place. They are still at risk. They’re still being harmed. And the number of responders able to help should not be diminished.


Sandie [00:44:56] OK, so if you are at home working remotely, I want to challenge you to figure out how you can be part of driving a spoke in the wheel. There are lots of new ways that we’ve learned to do things. Figure out what you can do, go back through some of the latest podcasts, and listen in to see what other people are doing. We can’t change the apathy, the status quo, unless we have a storm of people. So, I remember vividly watching the D-Day movie D-Day and seeing how they stormed the beaches. And I think that’s the vision I want to have for January National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. And you have inspired me, Ambassador Richmond, to not just hunker down and survive this next season, but to thrive and challenge the status quo. Thank you so much for being part of the Ending Human Trafficking podcast.


Ambassador Richmond [00:46:10] Thank you, Sandie.


Dave [00:46:11] And thank you so much to you both. Mr. Ambassador, thank you so much for your service. We are inviting you now to take the next step, go online, and download a copy of Sandie’s book, The Five Things You Must Know: A Quick Start Guide to Ending Human Trafficking. It will be a great starting point for you that will teach you the five critical things Sandie has identified that you should know before you join the fight against human trafficking. It’s absolutely free. You can get access by going over to Endinghumantrafficking.org. That’s also the very best place to get access to the resources and links we’ve mentioned in this conversation today. It’s also a great resource for the anti-Human Trafficking CERT program here at Vanguard University. We will be hosting the very next Ensure Justice conference coming up in early 2021. If you’d like to be part of helping us to make that storm happen. March 5th and 6th, 2021 is a great starting point for you. Ensurejustice.com is where to go for information and to register. And we look forward to having you be a part of that conversation as well. Thank you so much for your time today. We’ll see you back in two weeks. Thanks, Sandie.


Sandie [00:47:22] Thanks, Dave.


Dave [00:47:23] Take care, everybody.

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