The end of poverty requires the end of violence

The end of poverty requires the end of violence

Andy Bevan, Scotland Director of the International Justice mission, writes a blog about their work protecting the poor from violence.


While the world has made encouraging strides in the fight against global poverty, the hidden plague of everyday violence silently undermines our best efforts to help those in need. Common violence – like rape, forced labour, land theft and police abuse – has become routine and relentless. The unchecked plague of violence ruins lives, blocks roads out of poverty, and undercuts development.

International Justice Mission (IJM) is a global NGO that protects the poor from violence by partnering with local authorities to rescue victims, restore survivors, bring criminals to justice and strengthen justice systems. As our teams take on individual cases, we begin to recognise where weaknesses exist and, in turn, work alongside the justice system to provide training, resourcing and mentoring. IJM’s model of Justice System Transformation[1] has led to more than 44,000 people being rescued from violence and has enabled once broken justice systems to function in a way that upholds the Rule of Law. Our programmes are currently protecting more than 150 million people and IJM’s teams working around the globe make up the largest international anti-slavery organisation in the world.   

A report published last year suggests that over 40.3 million people live in slavery, with an overwhelming proportion living in South Asia.[2] A recent rescue operation conducted by the police and IJM saw 564 people, including 200 children, rescued from forced labour slavery at a massive brick kiln in South Asia.

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The rescue operation began with a frantic phone call from an escaped labourer sharing stories of shocking abuse. A team of IJM-trained police & government officials and IJM staff entered the brick kiln early one morning, and found hundreds of families toiling under the hot sun. When officials explained that rescue had arrived, many couldn’t believe it was real. One government officer asked the crowd “Who wants to go free?” but he was met with a stunned silence. Slowly, one man raised his hand, then another. Soon dozens of tired hands shot into the air, ready to finally exit into safety.

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During the first days of freedom, local officials and IJM staff stayed with the families and made sure they were fed, received medical care and issued with legally binding release certificates cancelling the false debts keeping them in slavery. Following this, IJM field workers helped the families return to their home villages. For the next two years, IJM staff will meet with the families regularly and connect them to long-term rehabilitation programs and opportunities so they can rebuild lives in freedom. In addition, IJM’s lawyers are currently taking on the case against the slave owners who are facing charges under domestic anti-trafficking laws.

IJM welcomes the recognition within the development community of the need to end violence and build justice systems – particularly seen in SDG 16 - and as a new member of Scotland’s International Development Alliance, we look forward to partnering with the sector in Scotland in the coming years to see these goals achieved.

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[1] IJM’s Justice Review, pages 6-11 -