Plan to end slavery earns Grawemeyer Award

A blueprint for eliminating modern slavery has earned its creator the 2011 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order.

Kevin Bales, president of Free the Slaves, a human rights organization based in Washington, D.C., won the $100,000 annual prize for ideas set forth in his 2007 book, “Ending Slavery: How We Free Today’s Slaves.”

In the book, Bales outlines steps to end the enslavement of some 27 million people worldwide. Slavery and human trafficking are tightly interwoven into the modern global economy, so new political and economic policies must be enacted to suppress them, he says.

Slavery, illegal in every country but still widely practiced, can be stopped within 30 years at a cost of less than $20 billion, a much cheaper price tag than most other social problems, he argues.

Several high-profile organizations already have adopted elements of Bales’ plan.

In 2008, the U.S. Congress passed the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, an anti-slavery law which includes recommendations from his book. The non-profit group International Justice Mission added “the end of slavery” to its goals, while Lexis-Nexis’ charitable foundation gave away hundreds of copies of “Ending Slavery” to the American Bar Association.

“Bales lays out an urgent human challenge, offers ways to make a difference and challenges the reader to become part of the solution,” award jurors said.

Five Grawemeyer Awards are presented each year for outstanding works in music composition, ideas improving world order, psychology, education and religion. Winners of the other 2011 Grawemeyer Awards also are being announced this week.

About Kevin Bales

Kevin Bales has gone undercover to meet slaves and slaveholders as he has worked to expose how modern slavery penetrates the global economy.

Bales is founder and president of Free the Slaves, the U.S. sister organization of Anti-Slavery International. Since 2001, his group has liberated thousands of slaves in India, Nepal, Haiti, Ghana, Brazil, Ivory Coast and Bangladesh.

A consultant to the U.N. Global Program on Trafficking of Human Beings, Bales also has advised governments in Britain, Ireland, Norway and Nepal on slavery. He developed policies on slavery and human trafficking for the West African States, co-wrote a report on forced labor for the International Labor Organization and studied human trafficking in the United States for the National Institute of Justice.

As a member of the International Cocoa Initiative board of directors, he is working to remove child and slave labor from the chocolate industry.

Bales holds a doctorate of philosophy degree from London School of Economics and is professor emeritus of sociology at London’s Roehampton University, where he held a personal chair of social research methods and human rights until 2005.

In 2008, the Association of British Universities named his work one of the top “100 world-changing discoveries.” He has received a Prime Mover fellowship from the Hunt Alternative Fund, a two-year, $60,000 grant awarded to social activists, and a variety of other awards.

His 1999 book, “Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy,” was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, translated into nine languages and made into a documentary that won Emmy and Peabody awards.

His other books include “Understanding Global Slavery” and “New Slavery: A Reference Handbook.”

University of California Press published his Grawemeyer Award-winning book.

Download a high-resolution photo of Kevin Bales