A Journey in Activism

A Journey in Activism

Anne Gallagher is a true veteran in the field of anti-trafficking, with a record of engagement on this issue that goes back to the late 1990s when she was working at the United Nations Human Rights Office in Geneva. At that time, she was asked by Mary Robinson, the-then High Commissioner for Human Rights, to lead her Office’s response to human trafficking, an issue that was still on the margins of international attention and concern.

Over the next few years Anne led a coalition of United Nations agencies in the fight for a legal framework around trafficking that placed the rights of victims front and centre. She participated in the drafting of the UN’s Trafficking Protocol and spearheaded the development of the UN Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Human Trafficking. These two documents have since provided the inspiration and template for new national laws on trafficking in most countries – including Australia. Anne then moved into the field, spending more than a decade working with governments in South East Asia to help them build systems to prevent trafficking, prosecute perpetrators and protect victims.

Anne is currently Director-General at the Commonwealth Foundation, a position that makes her unofficial ambassador for the 2.4 billion citizens of the Commonwealth. In what she refers to as her ‘spare time’ she continues her focus on advocating for those who are caught in exploitation or at most risk of harm. After a term as the first-ever woman President of the International Catholic Migration Commission, she was recently appointed Chair of Girls Not Brides – the global partnership of more than 1500 organisations working to end child marriage. When taking over as Chair, Anne reflected on how her experiences had shaped her approach to advocacy around issues such as human trafficking and child marriage:

Over more than three decades of working on issues of human rights, justice and equality, I’ve come to understand that strong legal frameworks are essential, but they are not enough. Advocacy is at least as important, but it can’t be the only focus. The provision of support and assistance to individuals and communities that have been marginalised is a critical pillar in any response, but it cannot shoulder the entire burden … we must bring all these aspects together. We need to unite people and organisations towards a common purpose. We need to embrace collaboration and understanding in order to reach across even the deepest of divides.

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