Human Rights Review

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 315–328 | Cite as

Is Trafficking Slavery? Anti-Slavery International in the Twenty-first Century

  • Wendy H. Wong


Why was Anti-Slavery International (ASI) so effective at changing norms slavery and even mobilizing the support that ended the transatlantic slave trade at the end of the nineteenth century, and why has that success not continued on into subsequent eras? This article claims that ASI's organizational structure is the key to understanding why its accomplishments in earlier eras have yet to be replicated, and why today it struggles to make modern forms of slavery, such as human trafficking, salient political issues. Organizational structure is defined by how an NGO distributes power over agenda-setting (proposal and enforcement power) and its implementation. Those NGOs that centralize agenda-setting and decentralize the implementation of that agenda will be most effective at changing international norms. This paper demonstrates the tractability of that claim with a comparative analysis of ASI past and present to show that changes in organizational structure have led to differences in their effect on international norms, in spite of the fact that slavery in its modern forms persists as a political and social problem.


Slavery NGOs Anti-Slavery International Organizational structure Agenda-setting 


  1. Anstey, Roger T. 1981. “Religion and British Slave Emancipation.” In The Abolition of the Atlantic Slave Trade: Origins and Effects in Europe, Africa, and the Americas, Eds. David Eltis and James Walvin, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, p. 37–61Google Scholar
  2. Bachrach, Peter, and Morton S. Baratz. 1970. Power and Poverty: Theory and Practice. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Bales, Kevin. 2004. Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy. 1st ed. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bales, Kevin. 2005. Understanding Global Slavery: A Reader. 1st ed. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bales, Kevin. 2007. Ending Slavery: How We Free Today's Slaves. 1st ed. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  6. Bales, Kevin, and Peter Robbins. 2001. ““No one shall be held in slavery or servitude”: A Critical Analysis of International Slavery Agreements and Concepts of Slavery.” Human Rights Review 2(2): 18–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Barabasi, Albert-Laszlo. 2002. Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means. New York: Plume.Google Scholar
  8. Carpenter, R. Charli. 2007. “Setting the Advocacy Agenda: Theorizing Issue Emergence and Nonemergence in Transnational Advocacy Networks.” International Studies Quarterly 51(1): 99–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cunneen, Mary. 2005. “Anti-Slavery International.” Journal of Global Ethics 1(1): 85–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dahl, Robert. 1961. Who Governs? Democracy and Power in an American City. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Davidson, Julia O’Connell. 2010. “New Slavery, Old Binaries: Human Trafficking and the Borders of ‘Freedom’.” Global Networks 10(2): 244–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. DiMaggio, Paul J., and Helmut K. Anheier. 1990. “The Sociology of Nonprofit Organizations and Sectors.” Annual Review of Sociology 16: 137–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Drescher, Seymour. 2009. Abolition: A History of Slavery and Antislavery. 1st ed. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gallagher, Anne T. 2009. “Human Rights and Human Trafficking: Quagmire or Firm Ground? A Response to James Hathaway.” Virginia Journal of International Law 49: 789–848.Google Scholar
  15. Hansmann, Henry B. 1980. “The Role of Nonprofit Enterprise.” Yale Law Journal 89(5): 835–901.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hathaway, James C. 2008. “The Human Rights Quagmire of Human Trafficking.” Virginia Journal of International Law 49: 1–59.Google Scholar
  17. Hudson, Bryant A, and Wolfgang Bielefeld. 1997. “Structures of Multinational Nonprofit Organizations.” Nonprofit Management and Leadership 8(1): 31–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. James, Estelle, and Susan Rose-Ackerman. 1986. The Nonprofit Enterprise in Market Economics. Chur, Switzerland: Harwood Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  19. Kaufmann, Chaim D., and Robert A. Pape. 1999. “Explaining Costly International Moral Action: Britain’s Sixty-Year Campaign Against the Atlantic Slave Trade.” International Organization 53(4): 631–668.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kaye, Mike. 2005. 1807–2007: Over 200 Years of Campaigning Against Slavery. United Kingdom: The Printed Word.Google Scholar
  21. Keck, Margaret E., and Kathryn Sikkink. 1998. Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Korey, William. 1998. NGO’s and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: A Curious Grapevine. 1st ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  23. Lake, David A., and Wendy H. Wong. 2009. “The Politics of Networks: Interests, Power, and Human Rights Norms.” In Networked Politics: Agency, Power, and Governance, Ed. Miles Kahler. Ithaca: Cornell. University Press; p. 127–150Google Scholar
  24. Lindenberg, Marc, and Coralie Bryant. 2001. Going Global: Transforming Relief and Development NGOs. West Hartford, CT: Kumarian Press.Google Scholar
  25. Lukes, Steven. 1974. Power: A Radical View. London and Basingstoke: The Macmillan Press Ltd.Google Scholar
  26. McDonagh, Pierre. 2002. “Communicative Campaigns to Effect Anti-Slavery and Fair Trade.” European Journal of Marketing 36(5/6): 642–666.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Miers, Suzanne. 2003. Slavery in the Twentieth Century: The Evolution of a Global Problem. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press.Google Scholar
  28. Nooruddin, Irfan and Sarah Wilson Sokhey. 2009. “Credible Certification of Child Labor Free Production.” Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Toronto.Google Scholar
  29. Podolny, Joel M., and Karen L. Page. 1998. “Network Forms of Organization.” Annual Review of Sociology 24: 57–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Powell, Walter W. 1990. “Neither Market nor Hierarchy: Network Forms of Organization.” Research in Organizational Behavior 12: 295–336.Google Scholar
  31. Price, Richard. 1998. “Reversing the Gun Sights: Transnational Civil Society Targets Land Mines.” International Organization 52(3): 613–644.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Provan, Keith G. 1983. “The Federation as an Interorganizational Linkage Network.” The Academy of Management Review 8(1): 79–89.Google Scholar
  33. Quirk, Joel. 2006. “The Anti-Slavery Project: Linking the Historical and Contemporary.” Human Rights Quarterly 28(3): 565–598.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Quirk, Joel. 2007. “Trafficked into Slavery.” Journal of Human Rights 6(2): 181–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Ruggiero, Vincenzo. 1997. “Trafficking in Human Beings: Slaves in Contemporary Europe.” International Journal of the Sociology of Law 25(3): 231–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Rutherford, Kenneth R. 2000. “The Evolving Arms Control Agenda: Implications of the Role of NGOs in Banning Antipersonnel Landmines.” World Politics 53(1): 74–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Temperley, Howard. 1972. British Antislavery: 1833–1870. London: Longman.Google Scholar
  38. Temperley, Howard. 1980. “Anti-Slavery as a Form of Cultural Imperialism.” In Anti-Slavery, Religion, and Reform, Eds. Christine Bolt and Seymour Drescher, Hamden, CT: Archon Books, p. 335–350Google Scholar
  39. Watts, Duncan J. 2004. Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age. New York: W.W. Norton and Co.Google Scholar
  40. Weissbrodt, David, and Anti-Slavery International. 2002. Abolishing Slavery and its Contemporary Forms. New York and Geneva: United Nations.Google Scholar
  41. Welch, Claude E. 2009. “Defining Contemporary Forms of Slavery: Updating a Venerable NGO.” Human Rights Quarterly 31(1): 70–128.Google Scholar
  42. Welch, Claude E. 2008. “Defining Contemporary Forms of Slavery: Updating a Venerable NGO.” Working paper.Google Scholar
  43. Wilson, Ellen Gibson. 1990. Thomas Clarkson: A Biography. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  44. Young, Dennis R. 1992. “Organising Principles for Inernational Advocacy Associations.” Voluntas 3(1): 1–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Zald, Mayer N., and Patricia Denton. 1963. “From Evangelism to General Service: The Transformation of the YMCA.” Administrative Science Quarterly 8(2): 214–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

Personalised recommendations