WASHINGTON, D.C. – The McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University today hosted its inaugural Human Rights and Democracy Summit. The virtual event focused on ending forced labor and defending democracy. Speakers included U.S. Secretary of Labor Martin Walsh, United States Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai, U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), McCain Institute Executive Chairman Ambassador Josette Sheeran, private and public sector leaders working to eliminate forced labor, journalists and activists from Russia, Turkey, and Venezuela, and more.
“Defending human rights and democracy is at the core fo the McCain Institute’s work,” said McCain Institute Executive Chairman Ambassador Josette Sheeran. “With democratic norms and human rights under attack around the world, this conversation could not be happening at a more important time.”
Galvanizing Cooperation Among Democracies to End Forced Labor
The first half of the summit was entitled Galvanizing Cooperation Among Democracies to End Forced Labor. The right to fundamental freedoms, justice and dignity is at the very core of democracy. The perpetuation of slavery, through forced labor, child labor, human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation, of nearly 25 million people is an affront to democratic values. The McCain Institute was joined by the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery and Humanity United to host this conversation with civil society and government leaders from democracies taking steps to eliminate forced labor from their countries and global supply chains.
Participants included: Secretary Martin Walsh, U.S. Department of Labor; Ambassador Katherine Tai, United States Trade Representative; James Kofi Annan, Founder and President, Challenging Heights; Hon. Heidi Hautala, Vice President, European Parliament; Pamela Mar, Executive Vice President, Fung Academy; Senator Julie Miville-Dechêne, Senate of Canada; Leonardo Sakamoto, President, Repórter Brasil; Ambassador Josette Sheeran, Executive Chairman, McCain Institute for International Leadership; Philippe Sion, Managing Director, Forced Labor and Human Trafficking, Humanity United; Alex Their, CEO, Global Fund to End Modern Slavery.
“We have to do more to make all labor exploitation unprofitable, unacceptable and bad for business. This means holding governments and businesses accountable using all available tools from research, trade, diplomacy, to multilateral action,” Said U.S. Labor Secretary Martin Walsh “Together we can build a coalition to stop labor abuses throughout the global supply chain and we can lift up and empower workers in vulnerable populations”
“We know there currently are over 25 million workers worldwide including women and children who are forced to work against their will in harsh conditions,” said U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai. “Their voices must be heard and we are energized to work alongside your organizations, other governments, multilateral institutions, the private sector and survivors to address what is a gross violation of human rights and an unconscionably unfair trade practice.”
“If labor exploitation and labor trafficking are global issues, the fight against them needs to be global too,” said Leonardo Sakamoto of Repórter Brasil, a panelist in today’s forced labor discussion. “This is not a fight we will win alone, this is a worldwide fight.”
The Perils of Defending Democracy: Perspectives from Around the World
The second half of the summit was entitled The Perils of Defending Democracy: Perspectives from Around the World. Democratic norms and human rights are under attack around the world and human rights defenders are at grave risk. This panel convened journalists and activists from Russia, Turkey, and Venezuela to share the threats they face, their first-hand experiences, and their expectations of the U.S. government.
Participants included: U.S. Senator Chris Coons; Barış Altıntaş (Turkey), co-director of the Istanbul-based Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA); Roman Badanin (Russia), John S. Knight Senior International Fellow at Stanford University, and the founder and editor-in-chief of Agentstvo; Carla Angola Rodríguez (Venezuela), anchor, reporter and editorial vice president for EVTV; Paul Fagan, Director of the Human Rights and Democracy programs for the McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University.
“I’m so grateful that the McCain Institute has convened these important conversations on the very real threats facing human rights defenders,” said U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.). “We’ve seen that when we share ideas and we work together, democracy can remain the strongest form of government to defend against authoritarianism, to fight corruption and to respect human rights.”
“I believe murder is the most serious crime in the world, even more so when a journalist or activist is killed, because the purpose of this crime is to intimidate all citizens of the country,” said Roman Badanin John S. Knight Senior International Fellow at Stanford University, and the founder and editor-in-chief of Agentstvo. “I believe that international pressure can really affect the actions of these regimes, like Vladimir Putin in Russia.”
Click HERE to watch the full event.