Monday, July 30, was the United Nations World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, and Meeting Professionals Against Human Trafficking (MPAHT) marked the day by becoming a signatory to The Code — short for The Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism.
We’ve written before about this events and hospitality industry-driven initiative to raise awareness of and combat the sexual exploitation of children, and MPAHT’s participation in The Code provides another opportunity to shine a light on this important cause.
Long-time event professional Sandy Biback founded MPAHT in Toronto in 2017 to create awareness of human trafficking in Canada in the events industry. “For many Canadians, human trafficking evokes images of distant countries and people smuggled across borders, but human trafficking is actively happening every day in cities across Canada,” reads an MPAHT press release announcing the The Code signing.
When we interviewed Maritz Global Events President David Peckinpaugh about how his organization came to be so deeply committed to this cause, he voiced a similar realization. It hadn’t occurred to him, he said, that human trafficking was happening in his backyard until he was shown a photo of a trafficked child in a hotel with the St. Louis arch in the background. (You can listen to an interview with Peckinpaugh here.)
“MPAHT was formed … to work with conference and event planners and venues to help understand exploitation and what we as meeting professionals can do to help stem the tide,” Biback said in the release. “We have formed coalitions with other groups, have helped spread awareness and education to the world of conferences and events, and know that we are making a difference, with a much longer road ahead of us.”
Biback was joined at the signing by member representatives of MPAHT, including event sponsor Hilton Hotels, the advocacy group Beyond Borders, and ECPAT Canada President Nicole Merrick, the Canadian representative of ECPAT International, which established The Code in 1996.
“The unfortunate reality is that human trafficking is often linked to travel and tourism,” Merrick said in the release. “This dedicated group of professionals [MPAHT members] is perfectly positioned to make a real and effective difference in the fight against child sexual exploitation.”
As a member of The Code, MPAHT’s goal is to educate meeting planners, venues, and suppliers about the issue, provide tools and training on how to recognize the signs of human trafficking and how to appropriately handle such situations, and encourage the inclusion of a contract clause stating a zero-tolerance policy of sexual exploitation in children.