By Melissa Jane Kronfeld & Megan Legband
Nick Grono, among the most inspiring and tireless leaders in the abolition movement, began his life in West Germany, but grew up in suburbs of Australia. At age 11, Nick joined his father, a ship’s captain, on a boat sailing from England to Australia via the West Indies, through Tahiti and Fiji, among other islands along the way. On his journey, he discovered a starkly different world than the one he knew and for the first time he saw communities filled with vulnerable people suffering from a lack of development and opportunity.
Armed with a passion for the oppressed, Nick earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Sydney and a Masters in Public Policy from Princeton University. After a successful career as a lawyer, Grono was appointed as the Chief of Staff and National Security Advisor to Australian Attorney-General, and later as the Deputy President and Chief Operating Officer of the International Crisis Group.
Nick currently serves as the first Chief Executive Officer of the newly launched Freedom Fund, a philanthropic initiative designed to bring strategic and financial resources to the fight against modern slavery that grew out of the Clinton Global Initiative.
Nick has been featured in major publications such as The New York Times, The Huffington Post and The Guardian, as well as testifying as an expert witness before the United Nations Security Council at its hearing on Trafficking in Persons in Situations of Conflict. He is a passionate advocate for freedom, and provides a highly experienced perspective on the abolitionist movement from both the public and private sector.
Check out what happened when we caught up with Nick to talk about the fight to #EndSlaveryNow!
What is one fact that every person should know about slavery?
That it still exists.
How did you first learn about modern slavery & what did you decide to do about it?
I went for another sailing trip from Australia to England with my father when I was sixteen. While we were on that trip, we stopped off in Fiji and did an Indiana Jones-type pirate film with Tommy Lee Jones before he was quite as well-known as he is now. The film is called Savage Islands, and it was actually about blackbirding, which was historical slave-trading in the Pacific. Retrospectively, you could say that that’s the first time I was in any substantial way engaged with the issue of slavery.
The way that I really got engaged with the issue was working with an organization called the International Crisis Group, where we worked to prevent conflict. In 2006, I went out to Northern Uganda, and I saw victims of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). I saw child soldiers and women who had been enslaved as porters and sex slaves, and those survivors had been hugely and deeply traumatized by the atrocities committed by Joseph Kony and the LRA. That was where I first came to grips with one of the real manifestations of modern day slavery.
What is the most critical obstacle preventing us from having a slave free world?
It’s political will, and the fact that this is not sufficiently prioritized by government. Slavery is illegal in its various forms in every country, so the fact that it exists means the laws aren’t being enforced effectively.
What is the most important lesson you have learned while fighting for freedom?
You need to listen to those that are closest to the crime. Listen to those on the front lines, the community organizations, the survivors. We cannot begin to tackle slavery without understanding how it happens, and learning how we can support communities sustainably.
Why do you believe the Millennial generation will be the one that can end slavery?
One, because millennials are a highly engaged, technically savvy population who can find a bunch of ways that the products that we all use like smartphones or fashion are tainted by slavery.
Two, because millennials are very active in responding to things that resonate with them. We need a movement of activists, of consumers, of citizens who are appalled by slavery, and millennials are the very type of highly engaged community we require. Slavery is the kind of issue to which millennials respond.
What does a slave free world look like to you?
At its most basic, a slave free world means that people are not coerced to work. I think it’s really important when we talk about slavery that we understand it exists on a spectrum. Labor exists on a spectrum from highly coercive to free and fair. We have to stamp out the most extreme exploitation where people are deprived of their liberty. Freedom is a fundamental human right, and people should not be deprived of independence and forced to work. So, to me, a slave-free world means that this most basic of human rights is respected.
What is one thing every reader can start doing right now to help end slavery?
Every reader can stand up and say that they are committed to ending slavery: that it was not abolished 200 years ago, and that they are dedicated to stamping it out. That would be a huge step forward.
Profiles In Abolition is an in-depth look at the influencers, innovators & thought leaders in the modern anti-slavery movement. An accompaniment to Millennial Magazine’s ongoing 10-part series exposing modern slavery – a project of the Nexus Global Youth Summit (catch up with Part One, Part Two & Part Three) – Profiles In Abolition will examine a diverse & inspiring array of advocates whose critical voice must be heard.
Want to learn more from the world’s leading luminaries in the fight to #EndSlaveryNow? Sign up for the Nexus Anti-Slavery Speaker Series, a weekly conference call with the men and women on the front lines of the modern abolition movement! This call is open to the public and everyone is welcome to listen in! Click here to register for free. Then learn more about modern slavery by following Nexus on Twitter, Instagram & Millennial Magazine!