Taipei, December 10, 2011
On International Human Rights Day, December 10, 2011, Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang, Executive Director of BPSOS and co-founder of Coalition to Abolish Modern-day Slavery in Asia (CAMSA), accepted the 2011 Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award from Republic of China President Ma Ying-Jeou. Below is Dr. Thang’s acceptance speech.
Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang, Executive Director of BPSOS and co-founder of Coalition to Abolish Modern-day Slavery in Asia (CAMSA).
His Excellency Ma Ying-Jeou, President of the Republic of China,
His Excellency Wang Jyn-Ping, Chairman of the Legislative Yuan,
Dr. Huang The-Fu, President of Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, and
First, I would like to congratulate the Taiwanese people for the 100th anniversary of the Republic of China, an important milestone to be proud of. I would like to thank President Ma and Speaker Wang for taking time off their busy campaign schedule to be here.
We are humbled for being selected by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy for the 2011 Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award. This humility reflects our recognition that our achievements of the past 32 years have depended on the contributions and sacrifices of so many others, including organizations, individuals and champions.
Our proudest achievement started almost seven years ago, when in early 2005 we had the privilege of hosting a delegation from the Republic of China. This joint delegation of government officials and NGO leaders came to the United States to examine our model to combat human trafficking. In return I visited Taipei later that year and have since witnessed Taiwan’s emergence as a leader in the global fight against modern-day slavery.
This fight officially started twelve years ago with the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, also referred to as the Palermo Protocol. The United States was among the first countries that passed national laws to implement it. We were among the pioneers in those early days that launched what would become a nationwide anti-trafficking in persons (anti-TIP) movement. We have shared this experience with government agencies and NGOs in countries such as Russia, Ukraine, China, Japan, India, Canada, the Philippines... and Taiwan of course.
Never have I seen any government with such determination and political will like Taiwan. Never have I seen a country that has made so much progress in such a short time. In 2009 Taiwan passed its anti-TIP law. In April 2010 we partnered with Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation to establish the Coalition to Abolish Modern-day Slavery in Asia (CAMSA) in Taiwan. We have since partnered with Legal Aid Foundation and other NGOs to rescue victims, assist the government with law enforcement, and recommend amendments to the anti-TIP law.
While this law is yet to be expanded to protect domestic helpers and workers in the nursing and home care industries, the progress made so far has not gone unnoticed. In 2010 the US Department of State recognized Taiwan’s anti-TIP efforts with a Tier 1 ranking. This year, Taiwan was again in Tier 1; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in announcing the Department of State’s annual assessment of the global efforts to fight human trafficking, specifically mentioned Taiwan as a shining example and commended the Director General of the National Immigration Agency, Dr. Li-kung Hsieh, for his leadership role.
It is time for Taiwan to apply this leadership role to the global abolitionist movement, way beyond the country’s territorial boundaries. The US Department of State has commissioned a well-respected think tank to study Taiwan’s best practices for replication worldwide. For the past three months I have toured Canada to inform the public, national and provincial government officials, and NGOs of the Taiwan experience.
It is no coincidence that the vast majority of Tier 1 countries have a democratic system of governance. In my belief, her democracy has enabled Taiwan’s effective anti-TIP approaches. Abolishing modern-day slavery demands both good policies from the top and the involvement of civil society from the grassroots. I continue to be amazed by the degree of collaboration and partnership between government and NGOs in Taiwan. I continue to be amazed by the voluntary involvement of Taiwanese citizens and non-citizens. They have actively participated in the rescue and protection of victims, assisted law enforcement in prosecution, and connected NGOs with vulnerable populations. That is the secret behind Taiwan’s success story. I would like to recognize Ms. Yuching Fu, a Vietnamese woman who is the Coordinator of CAMSA in Taiwan. She and her Taiwanese husband have tirelessly helped foreign spouses and defend the rights of migrant workers. Even their 12-year old daughter Karen has volunteered to help out in between school and homework. I also would like to recognize outstanding champions such as Ms. Hong-yin Wang, Prof. Sandy Yeh, Ms. Shun-jou Tsai… Taiwan is blessed with so many others like them.
I believe that forever expanding democracy is the only effective strategy to eventually eliminate modern-day slavery and other forms of human rights abuses and social injustice.
President Ma, Chairman Wang, TFD President Huang, and distinguished guests,
I would like to pay tribute to the uncountable individuals, mostly anonymous, who tirelessly fight for those who cannot defend themselves; the NGOs, small in number but effective in action, that are at the frontline; and to both the Executive Yuan and Legislative Yuan of this great country for making the fight against human trafficking their national priority. You all are the heroes in this new, global abolitionist movement.
On behalf of all of us at Boat People SOS, I thank you for allowing us to contribute our small part to your great endeavour.