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At a glance: United States of America

New music video illustrating tragedy of human trafficking will premiere at UN

© Erin Feinberg
Rap sensation Akon and composer Peter Buffett have collaborated to create music out of their common musical appreciation and humanitarian vision.

NEW YORK, USA, 24 March 2009 – In observation of the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery, the United Nations is hosting a cultural evening and concert entitled 'Breaking the Silence, Beating the Drum'.

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The 25 March concert is one of a number of events to be held at the New York headquarters to commemorate the lost lives and liberties of over 100 million Africans exploited during two centuries of transatlantic slave trade. Performers include South Africa's Ladysmith Black Mombazo, Brazil's Gilberto Gil and Jamaica's The Marley Brothers. Taped testimonials from Nelson Mandela and Mohammed Ali will also be screened.

The American composer Peter Buffett wrote a new song for the event as a reminder to the world that millions of people are still being bought and sold as slaves, and that millions of children are exploited for labour, sex and forced marriage every year.

"If we did end the transatlantic slave trade, then we can end this too," said Mr. Buffett. "It shows, actually, that there's hope. But it's far from over."

Ultimate alchemy

Mr. Buffett, a life-long composer, will perform with Akon, a world-famous hip-hop star of Senegalese descent. The two musicians joined forces in 2007 to record and perform the song 'Anything'.

"We were a match in a way I just never expected," said Mr. Buffett of his collaboration with Akon. "Musically, vocally, it just really worked. So it was very easy for me to ask him again."

Their new song, 'Blood into Gold', urges an end to complacency about trafficking – a multi-billion dollar global industry.

"What slavery and human trafficking is really doing is turning blood into gold. It's a kind of ultimate alchemy in the darkest way," said Mr. Buffett.

The 'girl effect'

Beyond musical talent, Mr. Buffett has extensive philanthropic experience with the NoVo Foundation - NoVo is funded by investor Warren Buffett and is chaired by his son and daughter-in-law, Peter and Jennifer Buffett. The foundation is particularly concerned with improving and empowering the lives of girls.

"What I would consider to be feminine qualities: collaboration, partnership, nurturing, complexity, time taken to listen, were all values that we wanted to insert into our giving," he explained. "We really found that investing in an adolescent girl almost anywhere in the world is probably the most efficient investment we could make."

NoVo is supporting grass-roots programmes world wide that are aimed at enriching young girls' lives. It has partnered with Nike to commit $100 million to realizing the 'girl effect' – the belief that the most effective investment in change is investing in the education, financial independence and health of adolescent girls. And ending exploitation and trafficking is fundamental to this social catalyst.

UNICEF's work

UNICEF is committed to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which requires parties to "take all appropriate national, bilateral and multilateral measures to prevent the abduction of, the sale of or traffic in children for any purpose or in any form."

Since 2005, UNICEF has worked to end the selling of young children as jockeys for camel racing in Saudi Arabia and other nations. In 2006, UNICEF organized the first-ever workshop in the Arab world on combating child trafficking.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has announced that 25 March, the second annual International Day of Remembrance, is a day for: "Everyone, everywhere, to beat the drum to proclaim that black or white, man or woman, we are one people. When musicians play, they pay attention to each other while playing their own parts. We must follow their lead."




Composer philanthropist Peter Buffet talks about his new song, 'Blood into Gold'.
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