By Andrew Kovach, Cleveland Council on World Affairs
The scourge of human trafficking impacts communities around the world. Billboards around Cleveland stating “It Happens Here Too” reflect the fact our community is no exception to human trafficking activity. The Cleveland Council on World Affairs (CCWA) has addressed this issue through people-to-people exchanges that promote awareness around the global impact of human trafficking.
Renee Jones, President & CEO of the Renee Jones Empowerment Center (RJEC), has dedicated more than 20 years to supporting human trafficking survivors through the community center. Renee is one of many professional resources CCWA connects with international visitors to discuss and address the global dimensions of this issue. “Human Trafficking is a global tragedy that must be fought on an international level. RJEC believes through strategic partnerships [that] work together to develop solutions, we can produce changes globally,” says Renee.
Inspired by meetings with our visitors doing similar work in countries such as Oman, Ukraine, and Uganda, RJEC launched the Global Initiative in 2020, a professional development center to create long-lasting relationships from the international delegations that goes beyond just a single meeting. “[This] will build strong strategic partnerships that continue after their visit to make an impact on problem solving [and] develop ways to empower survivors. I believe this will grow into a very powerful network for global change on TIP,” added Renee.
The Global Initiative will take things a step further to continue sharing information on trends, new programming, and opportunities among NGOs. “I felt we could accomplish more together to address this issue globally if we had this capability. This year RJEC developed the Global Initiative to make this vision a reality.”
Despite current travel restrictions, there are still avenues to engage resources through exchanges. Many Global Ties members around the country have used the past year as an opportunity to leverage the connections of international exchange alumni. Engagement with local resources, likewise, ensures the longevity of our partnerships. CCWA supported Renee’s Global Initiative by contacting IVLP alumni with whom who she had previously met, showing that even small efforts can go a long way in extending the multiplier effect of exchanges.
Thanks to new virtual public diplomacy programs, and the efforts of local resources such as Renee Jones, international dialogue is continuing around one of today’s most pressing topics.