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Conference slated on forced labor

A former child slave, an anti-slavery activist working to end child and forced labor in the chocolate industry, and the U.S. deputy secretary of labor will join authors and globalization specialists in two debates at MIT about modern-day slavery on Saturday, May 14.

"Forced Labor in the Global Economy," presented by the MIT Program on Human Rights and Justice at MIT's Center for International Studies and the BBC World Service Trust, will be held from 8:45 a.m. to noon in Kresge Auditorium.

"A major purpose of this conference is to raise public awareness about this gross violation of human rights, since many people do not know that forced labor exists across the world and that certain forms of it are just like slavery," said Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Ford International Assistant Professor of Law and Development and Director of the MIT program on Human Rights and Justice.

The debates at will be of interest to student and faculty because so many at MIT "care deeply about decent conditions of work and employment and would like to make globalization more fair and equitable," he said.

Commenting on the need for debate, Rajagopal said, the practice of forced labor is "obviously odious. But there are disagreements about how big a problem it is, how it should be defined and who should deal with it, and by what means and measures."

The Saturday event coincides with today's release of a major report by the International Labor Organization (ILO) on the scope of forced labor in the global economy.

NPR's "On Point" will tape the first MIT debate, which features Roger Plant, head of the ILO special action program to combat forced labor; Regina Abrami of Harvard Business School; and Terry Collingsworth of the International Rights Fund.

BBC World will tape the second debate, which will feature Kevin Bales, president of Free the Slaves; Jagdish Bhagwati, University Professor of Economics and Political Science at Columbia University and author of "In Defense of Globalization"; Jean-Robert Câdet, author of "Restavec: From Haitian Slave Child to Middle-Class American" and adjunct lecturer in French at the University of Cincinnati; and Steven Law, U.S. deputy secretary of labor.

The event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 11, 2005 (download PDF).

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