Group Posing Together

Next Gen Chicago hosts End Trafficking Panel

UNICEF Next Generation (“NextGen”) hosted a panel discussion on human trafficking and modern slavery at the Soho House Chicago on Wednesday. The event coincided with NextGen’s current project focused on child protection and The End Trafficking Project. The panel featured guest speakers Kevin Bales, a Pozen Visiting Professor in Human Rights at the University of Chicago, and Laura Ng, Executive Director of Traffick Free. The discussion was moderated by Casey Marsh, Managing Director of the Midwest Region of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF.

Kevin is also a Professor of Contemporary Slavery at the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation at the University of Hull UK, co-founder of the anti-slavery organization Free the Slaves and lead author of the Global Slavery Index. He served on the Board of Directors of the International Cocoa Initiative, has been a consultant to the United Nations Global Program on Trafficking of Human Beings and has been invited to advise the U.S., British, Irish, Norwegian and Nepali governments on the formulation of policy on slavery and human trafficking.

Through her work at Traffick Free, Laura complemented Kevin’s global perspective on modern slavery with local insight on what human trafficking looks like here in Chicago. Chicago has been dubbed the “national hub of human trafficking” by The New York Times. Traffick Free provides the greater metropolitan area of Chicago with tools and sustainable programs to combat human trafficking and transform the lives of victims and communities. Through an ever-growing partner network of city offices, churches, non-profits, and civic organizations, Traffick Free has worked to increase people’s understanding of human trafficking in local communities.

Attendance at the panel exceeded capacity, with more than 50 guests. Topics of the panel discussion included specific examples of human trafficking cases locally and globally, the underlying causes of human trafficking, the shortfalls of our current enforcement resources, current legislation and regulations that are “getting it right” and what the average citizen can do to help. The panel also explored the relationship between human trafficking and drug trafficking, as well as between human trafficking and homelessness.

There are an estimated 30 million human trafficking victims worldwide, approximately a third of which are children, and the human trafficking industry makes $150 billion every year. While these figures are unacceptable and daunting, Kevin offered the audience some hope: as a percentage of the global population and GDP, human trafficking has never been smaller. Consumer awareness, legislation and enforcement are working in certain industries (e.g. the cocoa industry), regions (e.g. California) and countries (e.g. Brazil). To learn more about human trafficking and how you can help, please visit and

The Anti-Human Trafficking Panel was organized by NextGen Chicago’s Program Committee: Bonner Campbell (co-chair), Kathy Lai (co-chair), Michael Eggert, Kelsey Grabarek, Ben Hewitt, Jonathan Roberts, Cathryn Smeyers, Kyle Turner and Zach Von Ahnen. The Program Committee organizes quarterly educational events, which are free for NextGen members, in order to deepen the dialogue surrounding UNICEF’s global initiatives and to broaden the NextGen community in Chicago. If you are interested in getting involved in NextGen, please contact or visit our website.

Special thanks to the Soho House Chicago for providing the venue, food and beverages.