25 Feb 2019

Calls for more targeted research on modern slavery to better inform responses in Asia and the Pacific

In December 2018, over thirty participants representing 19 organisations came together for an anti-slavery workshop in Bangkok, Thailand.

Photo Credit: Sasha Nazira.

Members of the Asia Pacific anti-slavery movement have identified the need for more targeted research on the issue in their region.

At a workshop in Bangkok, Thailand in December 2018, participants emphasised the need for more detailed statistics on the prevalence of modern slavery at a local and sectoral level, to complement existing national estimates.

Facilitated by Minderoo Foundation’s Walk Free initiative, End Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT) International, and Thomson Reuters Foundation, the workshop brought together local, regional and international anti-slavery stakeholders.

Walk Free produces the world’s leading estimate of modern slavery on a country-by country basis. To help compliment this, the workshop facilitated local and regional experts expressing their data needs through a discussion of the key issues effecting Asia and the Pacific region.

Participants identified that targeted research specific to the Asia Pacific would better inform the design and implementation of interventions and highlight areas of focus for the region. 

The workshop revealed that certain forms of modern slavery are known of anecdotally but are under-researched. For example, forced surrogacy was identified as an emerging issue in the region, resulting in part from the criminalisation of surrogacy in several countries. Another area flagged for exploration was the sexual exploitation of boys. Limited information exists on the issue, with sexual exploitation traditionally seen as a female experience.

To tackle these concerns, Walk Free will continue to support and partner with grassroots organisations such as the Freedom Fund, which provide clarity on nuanced areas of slavery study with a specific local and sectoral focus.

Participants also discussed the crucial need for further research to determine whether existing anti-slavery programs are effective, sustainable and cost efficient. Program evaluations need to extend beyond the initial rollout phase, however a lack of donor interest has made this difficult to implement.

The workshop also covered how child exploitation has been exacerbated by the accessibility of the internet and smart devices, resulting in traffickers and offenders using increasingly technology-driven business models. Participants called for further policy development to address these issues.

The regional workshops form part of Walk Free’s wider effort to engage and collaborate with anti-slavery stakeholders internationally. The next workshop communicating the findings of the 2018 Global Slavery Index will be held in Ethiopia in April 2019.

For more information on modern slavery in Asia and the Pacific, please see Walk Free’s resources