The Walk Free Foundation, chaired by Australian philanthropic leader Andrew Forrest AO, will today call on all Commonwealth nations to enforce 10 measures that will end modern slavery by 2030.
Launching the Foundation’s Towards a Common Future report, Mr Forrest said the ten-point plan was a clarion call and a moral imperative for the Commonwealth.
“We falsely believe that human slavery happens beyond our borders and that ending it is beyond our control,” Mr Forrest said.
“The truth is that ordinary people everywhere in the world, including the UK, unwittingly come into contact with victims of modern slavery every day – we might walk past a little girl trapped in a forced marriage, a hotel cleaner that has had her passport confiscated, or touch this crime through the clothes and products made through illegal forced labour that we use every day.”
“Given the strength and moral standing of the Commonwealth, we cannot stand idly by while over 40 million people remain victims of modern slavery around the world. This report highlights the important steps Commonwealth countries are taking to fight this heinous crime, but we can and must do more if we are to meet the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”
The launch of the report at Australia House in London highlights the UK’s strong leadership on this issue. In 2014, it became the first country to develop a modern slavery strategy and then in 2015 to legislate on corporate action with the 2015 UK Modern Slavery Act. The UK’s role as Commonwealth Chair-in-Office for the next two years will be crucial.
Despite the progress that has been made, there are significant challenges and gaps in Commonwealth government responses which need to be addressed in order to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 8.7 – ending forced labour, modern slavery, human trafficking and child labour by 2030.
While most Commonwealth countries have legislation covering all forms of exploitation under SDG 8.7, stronger steps need to be taken on implementation, collaboration and research.
“The responsibility to address this rests with every government,” Mr Forrest said. “This is not a developing-world issue. Every society is susceptible to the key drivers that allow modern slavery to flourish.
“Business has a very key role to play in leading and collaborating with government to eliminate slavery in industry head on. This Commonwealth Summit must galvanise support and welcome business into the conversation, igniting a will for change within each individual and challenging those who remain wilfully ignorant.”
The report uses new Walk Free data to examine the extent to which the Commonwealth is strengthening legislation, putting victims first, improving regional coordination, addressing risk factors and removing slavery from the economy.