After decades of isolation, Burma is quickly becoming the place to be. Today, President Obama became the first U.S. sitting President to visit Burma and last Friday, multi Emmy-award winning singer songwriter Jason Mraz announced he will headline a historic MTV EXIT concert there on December 16th to raise awareness and increase prevention of human trafficking. The free, live concert will be held at the Yangon People’s Square, which lies at the base of the 2,600 year-old Shwedagon Pagoda, one of the country’s most iconic and auspicious sites.
Launched in 2004, MTV EXIT is a public awareness campaign that uses the power of music and entertainment to educate young people about human trafficking. In addition to concerts, MTV EXIT and their partners use advertisements, hotlines, PSAs, music videos, documentaries, and youth training to reach at-risk communities. To date, MTV EXIT has produced 30 concerts across Asia, reaching tens of millions of people.
The United Nations estimates that at any one point there are 20 million victims of human trafficking worldwide, more than half of these victims are in the Asia – Pacific region. Human trafficking is the illegal trade of women, men and children involving force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of exploitation. It is also one of the largest criminal industries in the world today, grossing an estimated $32 billion a year through forced labor, forced prostitution, debt bondage, and other forms of enslavement. In Burma, citizens are at risk of being trafficked within the country, across its borders, and internationally.
At an MTV EXIT media event in Burma to announce the concert, U.S. Ambassador Derek Mitchell spoke on a panel moderated by Phyu Phyu Kyaw Thein, Burmese pop singer and MTV EXIT Celebrity Ambassador. He was joined by Burma’s Police Brigadier General SoeMyaing, AusAID Counsellor Michael Hassett, Nick Grono from Walk Free, MTV EXIT CEO Simon Goff, and OhnmarEiEi Chaw, UNIAP’s Program Coordinator for Burma. Ambassador Mitchell reaffirmed the U.S. Government’s commitment to combat human slavery, saying “Human trafficking offends the conscience of everyone.” He also urged the young people of Burma to “be alert, be educated, and be empowered to make safe choices.”
USAID has a long history of countering trafficking in persons (C-TIP) around the world and has been a dedicated supporter of the MTV EXIT campaign for six years. This year, the Agency released its Counter-Trafficking In Persons Policy to reinvigorate and focus Agency efforts to combat trafficking on concrete, measurable principles and objectives. We also announced Challenge Slavery, a C-TIP campus challenge that calls on university students to develop creative technology solutions to prevent trafficking, enable victims to escape from traffickers, and help survivors recover. Please join the community online and work with us to end trafficking.
On December 16th, the people of Burma will join the growing list of communities that won’t accept human trafficking as the reality today. The concert will be broadcast nationally and will air across MTV’s international network, available in more than half a billion homes. Raising awareness about human trafficking is key. If freedom comes from knowledge, then we all have the power to end modern slavery.