LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A blueprint for eliminating modern slavery has earned its creator the 2011 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order.
Kevin Bales, president of Free the Slaves, a human rights organization based in Washington, D.C., won the $100,000 annual prize for ideas set forth in his 2007 book, “Ending Slavery: How We Free Today’s Slaves.”
In the book, Bales outlines steps to end the enslavement of some 27 million people worldwide. Slavery and human trafficking are tightly interwoven into the modern global economy, so new political and economic policies must be enacted to suppress them, he says.
Bales says, “We’re all deeply honored by this award. That Ending Slavery would win the Grawemeyer Award is exciting for three reasons: first, unlike all other awards, the Grawemeyer honors an idea, and this award marks the coming of age of the idea that slavery can be brought to an end. Second, it shows that Americans are making this idea their own in the first step to turning ideas in to action. Third, we now understand how ending slavery in communities can bring stability and economic growth, increased education and health, and a decline in corruption – in a word, ending slavery significantly promotes world order.”
Slavery, illegal in every country but still widely practiced, can be stopped in our lifetime at a cost of less than $11 billion, a much cheaper price tag than most other social problems, he argues.
Several high-profile organizations already have adopted elements of Bales’ plan.
In 2008, the U.S. Congress passed the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, an anti-slavery law which includes recommendations from his book. The non-profit group International Justice Mission added “the end of slavery” to its goals, while Lexis-Nexis’ charitable foundation gave away hundreds of copies of “Ending Slavery” to the American Bar Association.
“Bales lays out an urgent human challenge, offers ways to make a difference and challenges the reader to become part of the solution,” award jurors said.
Since 2001, Bales’ group has helped liberate thousands of slaves in India, Nepal, Haiti, Ghana, Brazil, and Uganda. The book draws on the experiences and lessons learned by Free the Slaves teams and local grassroots partners around the world.
A consultant to the U.N. Global Program on Trafficking of Human Beings, Bales also has advised governments in Britain, Ireland, Norway and Nepal on slavery. He developed policies on slavery and human trafficking for the West African States, co-wrote a report on forced labor for the International Labor Organization and studied human trafficking in the United States for the National Institutes of Justice.
In 2008, the Association of British Universities named his work one of the top “100 world-changing discoveries.” His 1999 book, “Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy,” was translated into nine languages and made into a documentary that won Emmy and Peabody awards.
Five Grawemeyer Awards are presented each year for outstanding works in music composition, ideas improving world order, psychology, education and religion.