Study Finds Limited Progress in Eliminating Slavery Globally

Study Finds Limited Progress in Eliminating Slavery Globally

Governments are falling behind in their commitments to achieve the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goal of eradicating modern slavery by 2030, a report from the Walk Free Foundation finds.

The report, Measurement, Action, Freedom (188 pages, PDF), assesses the responses of a hundred and eighty-three national governments to SDG 8.7, rating their ability to identify and support survivors of various forms of slavery, establish effective criminal justice systems, strengthen coordination and be held to account, address underlying risk factors, and secure slavery-free government and business supply chains. While average scores have improved since 2015, the analysis found that the pace of change falls far short of the progress needed to achieve the goal by 2030.

According to the report, an estimated 40.3 million children and adults are being exploited for their labor, held in debt bondage, trafficked, or forced into marriage, while nearly a hundred countries do not criminalize forced labor or, if they do, penalize it with nothing more than a fine. What's more, only thirty-one countries have ratified the International Labour Organization's 2014 Forced Labour Protocol, while rates of victim identification remain low despite the efforts of a majority of those countries to provide training to police, immigration officials, border guards, and labor inspectors.

Acknowledging that current anti-slavery and -trafficking efforts are insufficient, the report's authors call on all governments to increase their identification of and improve assistance for victims; ratify the ILO's 2014 protocol; strengthen existing legislation to ensure that all forms of exploitation are criminalized with severe penalties; empower women and girls by providing universal primary education; and strengthen national laws to protect labor rights in both the formal and informal economies.

"Today, Walk Free joins with other leading anti-slavery organizations to call on UN member states to develop indicators to track progress towards the eradication of all forms of modern slavery under SDG 8.7," said Andrew Forrest, founder of the Minderoo and Walk Free foundations and a 2013 signatory to the Giving Pledge. "Measurement, Action, Freedom should provide a startling wake-up call for all governments and the United Nations. The world requires a far more aggressive rate of change to achieve SDG 8.7 and end the suffering of millions; but without government accountability, this report reveals the motivation is clearly not there. This is simply not good enough and until the private sector and public sector work together in tackling the issue, it will likely remain the norm."

"Victims and survivors must be at the center of all our efforts because this crime affects them the most," said Sophie Otiende, a program consultant at HAART Kenya, which works to stop human trafficking. "The more modern slavery is seen and understood, the better the world can respond. Government measurement guided by UN indicators is therefore critical. This problem will never go away unless governments are willing to stand up and identify it. They have a responsibility to create legal and social frameworks to protect vulnerable people. This can only be done with evidence-based practice from data that we collect and study."

"Measurement, Action, Freedom." Walk Free Foundation Report 07/17/2019. "New Data Reveals Widespread Failure by Governments in Tackling Modern Slavery." Walk Free Foundation Press Release 07/17/2019.