29 June 2020

Guest Speaker: Mr. Matt Friedman, Chief Executive Director (CEO) of The Mekong Club

Host: Mr. Tony Lugg, Chairman of TAPA Asia Pacific



Today, there are over 40 million of modern slaves worldwide, of which 30 million are in the APAC region. Each year, 9.2 million new slaves enter modern slavery, resulting in 25,200 new slaves per day or one new slave every 4 seconds! Unfortunately, 64 percent of modern slavery is associated with supply chains, with an annual revenue of USD 150 billion generated.

COVID-19, with its combination of health, safety and economic risks, creates an environment that increases further exploitation, human trafficking and modern slavery. In this episode, Friedman share the impact of this crisis on modern slavery and remind us of the risks supply chains face until we can get our operations back to normal.

In several recent media stories, it was reported that 103 people died in botched smuggling efforts – 39 Vietnamese died in a container bound for the UK and 64 in Mozambique in another case. In the Vietnam case, the victims were found dead in a refrigerated container truck. The driver was bribed to transport them across the border. In the Africa case, a similar outcome followed.

Often, these trafficking crimes involve fabrication of paperwork, corruption, and bribery. Friedman will highlight the tools and technologies available to prevent these issues and to reduce the vulnerability of modern slavery risks. This can help companies to avoid any legal issues or reputational damage arising from these situations.

  • 0:03:25 – Implications of COVID-19 on modern slavery. The World Bank estimates half of a billion people will enter into poverty, increasing their chances of being vulnerable to modern slavery circumstances.
  • 0:07:53 – Vulnerabilities and process of modern slavery. Most organisations are lacking supply chain visibility and are unable to identify these risks within different parts of the supply chain.
  • 0:11:44 – Case study analysis and how debt is created for these workers. People are smuggled and trafficked within supply chains on a day-to-day basis but this crime is often unreported.
  • 0:15:35 – Types of intervention and risk management strategies available. Friedman offers an understanding of modern slavery risks, and how reviewing company policies and conducting regular spot-checks can help to mitigate these risks.
  • 0:23:26 – What can companies do to address these issues? Blockchain and artificial intelligence technologies are tools available to increase supply chain visibility and reduce oversight.
  • 0:29:03 – How adopting security standards are essential measures to put in place? TAPA standards outline control measures and monitoring of containers and trucks that can help to reduce exploitation.
  • 0:33:45 – Are private sectors addressing the slavery issue enough? Only 0.2% of modern slaves are helped by the world each year. Organisations should start to contribute and address modern slavery risks that go beyond business risks.


About the Speaker

Mr. Matt Friedman

Chief Executive Director (CEO), The Mekong Club

Matt Friedman is an international human trafficking expert with more than 29 years’ experience as a manager, program designer, evaluator and frontline responder. He is currently Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of The Mekong Club, an organization of Hong Kong-based private sector business leaders who have joined forces to help fight human trafficking in Asia. Mr. Friedman was previously Regional Project Manager at the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP) in Thailand, an inter-agency coordinating body that linked the United Nations system with governments and civil society groups in China, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. Prior to this, he worked for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Thailand, Bangladesh and Nepal where he designed and managed country and regional human trafficking programs. Mr Friedman also offers regular technical advice to numerous governments and corporation working to stop slavery, and is the author of eleven books.

Email: matt.friedman@themekongclub.org

The Mekong Club Website: www.themekongclub.org


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