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In this TED Talk, Kevin Bales states that there is an estimated number of 27 million slaves (2010) worldwide, more slaves than during the entire Transatlantic Slave Trade. He defines modern slavery like “classic slavery”, meaning that a slave is forced to work without pay under the threat of violence and is unable to walk away. He says there are three intertwined reasons for today’s high number of slaves: our current population explosion, extreme poverty and vulnerability of many in the Global South, and the absence of adequate laws to protect these people. But he also sees a positive side to this namely that this high number is the smallest fraction of the global population to ever be in slavery and so is the annual profit they generate. Thus, slavery is at the edge of our global society and could easily be abandoned. So the question is: do we want to live in a world without slavery?

Quote from the video:

If there is one thing that every human being can agree on, I think that is that slavery should end. And if there is a fundamental violation of our human dignity, that we would all say is horrific, it is slavery. And we’ve got to say: what good is all our intellectual and political and economic power if we can’t use it to bring slavery to an end? And if we can’t do that, there is one last question: Are we truly free?

Why I recommend this video

Bales confronts the audience with some numbers that have the potential to help people think differently – especially those people who still argue that we need cheap work forces (“slaves”) to keep the economy running. He raises good questions in his talk that invite to discuss about. I think it is a good introduction video for an audience that approaches the topic from a slightly different perspective than only the human rights perspective.

About the speaker

Kevin Brian Bales CMG (born 1952) is Professor of Contemporary Slavery at the University of Nottingham, co-author of the Global Slavery Index, and was a co-founder and previously president of Free the Slaves (Source: Wikipedia).