The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

2011 Grawemeyer winner

November 30, 2010

Kevin Bales, President of Free the Slaves, has won the 2011 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order. The prize is worth $100,000 this year.

The press release describes the award-winning ideas from Ending Slavery, the most recent book published by Bales with University of California Press:

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…

“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.

Since 2001, Bales’ group has liberated thousands of slaves in India, Nepal, Haiti, Ghana, Brazil, Ivory Coast and Bangladesh.

The Chronicle of Higher Education covered the story, as did the local Louisville Courier Journal and other news outlets. This is from the local paper:

[Bales] estimates that modern slavery puts tens of billions of dollars worth of products into the global economy each year. And while every country has laws against slavery, some don’t enforce them or provide few resources to fight it.

Bales’ ideas for suppressing it involve a mix of tightening government enforcement on illegal trafficking; enacting new policies for businesses that identify when slavery is connected to global supply chains; and adding more grassroots efforts to help free groups of slaves — and then help them get basic skills to avoid such traps again.

Bales said individuals can also help by buying Fair Trade goods and choosing socially responsible investment options.

“There’s no magic bullet,” Bales said. “But there is a box of magic bullets,”

Bales was trained as a sociologist at LSE, but IR theorists interested in norm construction, human rights, and/or scholarly activism will want to check out the award-winning book, as well as other scholarship Bales has produced on this topic.

Disclosure: I chair the Department Committee that overseas the administration of this prize. This entails soliciting external book reviews, chairing a first-round screening committee, bringing together a panel of experts to evaluate and rank a set of semi-finalists, and making sure that the information gleaned from these processes is advanced to a Final Selection Committee.

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Rodger A. Payne is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Louisville. He serves on the University’s Sustainability Council and was a co-founder of the Peace, Conflict, and Social Justice program. He is the author of dozens of journal articles and book chapters and coauthor, with Nayef Samhat, of Democratizing Global Politics: Discourse Norms, International Regimes, and Political Community (SUNY, 2004). He is currently working on two major projects, one exploring the role of narratives in international politics and the other examining the implications of America First foreign policy.