Its victims are bound to toil for little or no pay, are forced to engage in exploitative sex work, or are married against their will. Its cost is individual freedom and economic stagnation. Its impact is global, and no country is immune.
Modern slavery is a human rights abuse of our own making. Ending it is a choice the world can make.
In 2015, government leaders agreed to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to help achieve fair, inclusive, and sustainable development by 2030. SDG 8.7 calls on all governments to take immediate and effective measures to end forced labour, modern slavery, and human trafficking, as well as child labour in all its forms.
But since then, progress made toward ending these abhorrent practices has been disgracefully marginal. The world must accelerate action to end this crime. We must ensure our leaders do more and hold them accountable to delivering on their commitment.
I subscribe to the belief that if you can’t measure something, you can’t fix it. If we want to achieve SDG 8.7 by 2030, we need to know more about where, why, and how people are enslaved, and what progress we are making in freeing them. We need to know which governments are tackling this crime and what measures they are taking. We need to understand what responses are working and how we can have the greatest impact.
Measurement has long been a core focus of Walk Free’s work. Our Global Slavery Index is the world’s only country-by-country estimate of people living in modern slavery. It is through this work, and our partnership with the International Labour Organization, that we know how and where 40.3 million people are being exploited.
Only with this visibility can we pursue effective strategies to end modern slavery and hold governments accountable for their actions. This report is an important contribution to those efforts. It provides a baseline of current government action and a roadmap for progress and, significantly, it calls for the United Nations and member states to develop indicators to track progress towards the eradication of modern slavery under SDG 8.7. The status quo does not drive the accountability needed to achieve this crucial target – without indicators to report on, and measure progress against, the visibility and pressure on governments necessary to drive change doesn’t exist.
It’s like hoping your team scores a goal… on a field where there are no goalposts. It will never happen.
In this report, we find encouraging examples of governments taking action that has resulted in an increase in prosecutions, the extension of victim support services, and the ratification of ILO instruments.
Overall, however, the measurements in this report underscore that global progress in tackling modern slavery has been hugely disappointing. We know that 47 countries globally have not yet recognised human trafficking as a crime in line with international standards. Nearly 100 countries still fail to criminalise forced labour or, if they do, the penalty for this form of exploitation amounts to nothing more than a fine. Less than onethird of countries protect women and girls from the terrible harm of forced marriage. This is not a situation that any of us should tolerate.
The findings in this report tell us that the world will not deliver on SDG 8.7 by the 2030 target date, forgoing the unique opportunity the Sustainable Development Agenda provides the international community to effect change as part of a global movement.
Accordingly, we must redouble our efforts and mobilise the full power of businesses, faiths, and the global community toward a common purpose: energising and galvanising governments to do more – much more – to end modern slavery in their countries.
We must all hold ourselves and each other to account for ending the misery of our fellow human beings.