A Call To Action

This blog post was written by Liluye Guest, Blog Post Writer, Karin vonKrenner, who is a . Her website is: kvkrenner.com.

We are facing an escalation of conflict around the world. Each one being defined as “legitimate” for various political reasons. Daily, we are blasted by social media and news with war updates and conflicting claims of successful battles won. But, we must ask ourselves deeper questions. What does “winning” mean and what are the actual costs of war?

Historically, in addition to immediate loss of life, wars are associated with an increased vulnerability to human trafficking. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), there is a clear correlation between conflicts and human trafficking, with conflict-affected regions experiencing dramatically increased instances of trafficking. UNICEF reports that children and women in conflict zones are particularly targeted. An estimated 28 million children are forcibly displaced due to global conflicts, exposing them to the increased risks of trafficking and other abuses. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) research also supports the effects conflicts have in increasing population displacement and human trafficking. Women and girls are disproportionately affected, comprising up to 71% of trafficking victims who are often subjected to unimaginable horrors. Consistent facts and research underscore a clear link between conflict and the increased vulnerability to human trafficking.

In the shadows of conflict-ridden politics, amidst the echoes of despair and the stench of death there is additionally the haunting silence that comes from environmental destruction. A consequence often overlooked in the political discourse of conflict. The scars of war on the environment cut deep, searing through the very fabric of life.

A narrative of war is steeped in the dark complexities of collateral damage. For example, South Sudan, a nation marred by prolonged conflict, stands as a stark testament to the intertwining web of environmental degradation and the harrowing plight of human trafficking.

In South Sudan, once fertile lands lay barren, ravaged by the relentless ripples of conflict. The destruction of agricultural lands and contamination of water sources, exacerbated by war, left communities teetering on the broken edge of starvation and desperation.

The combined devastation bore devastating tolls on families, shattering their means of sustenance and livelihoods. Among the hardest hit were children—innocence overshadowed by the bleakness of circumstances. Families grappling with extreme poverty and food insecurity faced agonizing choices. For some, the only glimmer of hope lay in relinquishing their children to strangers promising safety and provision—a decision no parent should ever have to contemplate. A fate no child should ever be exposed to.

UNICEF’s distressing report highlights the grim reality: in South Sudan alone, there are a staggering number of children who fell prey to traffickers, lured by false promises of a better life. The destruction of their once vibrant communities not only robbed these children of their homes but also exposed them to the ruthless exploitation that is the hallmark of human trafficking. Forced labor, sexual abuse, and enslavement became their nightmarish reality, a fate sealed by the environmental devastation inflicted by war. 

Statistics paint a chilling portrait—a world where war, vulnerability and exploitation converge. According to the ILO, an estimated over 152 million children worldwide are currently victims of child labor. They were forced or coerced into these circumstances due to poverty stemming from environmental degradation due to conflicts.

The story of Sarah echoes so many others. Sarah is a young girl from an African conflict-affected village. She is emblematic of the tragedy that unfolds when environmental destruction and human trafficking intersect. Once surrounded by the vibrant hues and hum of her community, Sarah’s world crumbled beneath the weight of conflict’s relentless onslaught. Fields turned barren and water sources became tainted, leaving her family teetering on the very edge of survival.

With tears flowing from her mother’s eyes, Sarah was given to a stranger. An “angel” of hope promising refuge, food, and protection for her child. In a story repeating across the world, this act of desperation would plunge Sarah into the abyss of exploitation and horror. Separated from all she knew and loved, Sarah would find herself hopelessly ensnared in the dark web of drugs and human trafficking.

The environmental destruction that had shattered her world paved the way for her exploitation—a tragic testament to the long-term repercussions of war.

The tale of Sarah serves as a haunting reminder and a call to action that must resonate across the globe. We must confront the realities of human trafficking that are borne from the increased environmental devastation caused by wars. We must immediately address sustainable interventions to restore ecosystems, empower communities, and safeguard the vulnerable. We must plant seeds of change and grow a future where the bombs of war no longer blast the futures of innocent lives. We must demand policies where the resilience of humanity triumphs over the temporary politics of war. We are out time. In a critical climate crisis, our world can no longer support the additional human ruin and environmental degradation of wars.

Amidst the frayed tapestry of global conflicts, the cries of the most vulnerable reverberate across continents, entwined in the macabre dance between environmental devastation and the insidious grip of human trafficking. Sarah’s tale serves as one human thread in this dark weave, a stark fact on the profound impact of conflict-induced by environmental destruction. Globally, conflict torn areas witness the repetitive stories of unstable infrastructure, toxic water, deforestation, chemical pollution, and poisoned food. Destructions that could take generations to repair.

Even when the bombs stop falling and the fighting stops, waves of destruction continue. Legacy munitions, toxic soils, governance vacuums, and broken legal systems all contribute to continued human and environmental damage. Impacts that are now compounded by climate change.

Across the world similar stories unfold, echoing both the sorrow and resilience of those ensnared in the complex web of exploitation from wars.

In the verdant landscapes of South America, Maria’s story carries hauntingly similar chords. Coming from a region scarred by conflicts and environmental upheaval, Maria’s young dreams were the collateral damage of war’s aftermath. The lush forests that once embraced her home were crushed under the relentless march of conflict-related deforestation. Her family found themselves pushed from their indigenous world by war into a cycle of displacement and poverty. Starving and no longer able to withstand the ceaseless hardships, Maria’s parents made the agonizing choice to send her away with promises of a better life—a decision they would come to rue.

Separated from her roots and all she knew, Maria’s journey forced her into the heart of human trafficking’s treacherous terrain. Exploited and robbed of her innocence, Maria became a statistic—another victim ensnared in the sinister web woven by environmental devastation and conflict-induced vulnerabilities.

Across the world in Europe, Dimitri’s story unravels. Another young life scarred by conflict and environmental upheaval. Hailing from a region burned by war, Dimitri’s future was lost in the ashen remnants of his community. With livelihoods obliterated and opportunities vanishing, Dimitri, like many others, found himself adrift in a sea of despair. Forced into the clutches of drug runners and traffickers who preyed on the vulnerabilities bred by environmental degradation and economic turmoil, Dimitri’s life took a dark turn. Stripped of his autonomy and community, Dimitri disappeared as another casualty of the nexus between conflict, environmental devastation, and human trafficking—a poignant testament to the devasting impact of war on civilians, their communities, and futures.

The tragedies of Sarah, Maria, and Dimitri deeply underscore the urgency for comprehensive interventions that transcend borders. A need to tirelessly advocate for policies that address the intricate linkages between environmental degradation, conflict, and human trafficking. An unwavering effort to provide education, shield the vulnerable, and foster resilience in communities ravaged by the aftermath of war.

In the midst this darkness there are glimmers of hope, however. Beacons of resilience and compassion illuminating the path forward. Organizations like Liluye,  the International Justice Mission, UNICEF, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are working tirelessly to provide support and protection to vulnerable populations, advocating for policies that address the intricate linkages between environmental degradation, conflict, and human trafficking.

As the world grapples with the stark realities of environmental degradation and the enduring impacts of conflict, the tales of Sarah, Maria, and Dimitri must serve as our rallying cry. An unassailable demand for global solidarity and peaceful action. By weaving a compassionate tapestry of resilience and fostering sustainable interventions to restore ecosystems and empower the marginalized, we support the promise of a future where innocence is preserved, and the echoes of war no longer dictate the futures of the vulnerable.

We do not need a call to arms. We need a call to action!

© Karin vonKrenner 2023

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *