01 Mar 2024

EU member states must do better to protect human rights

Walk Free urges all EU member states to recall their positive duty to protect against human rights abuses by businesses and pass the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD) – as they already agreed to do.

European parliament
Photo Credit: Laura Zulian Photography via Getty Images.

Modern slavery is on the rise

Walk Free’s Global Estimates of Modern Slavery, developed in partnership with United Nations agencies, shows that from 2016 to 2021, the number of people in forced labour globally increased from 25 to 28 million.

This means that global supply chains, including businesses operating across the EU, are entangled in exploitation. Products of modern slavery saturate our society, demanding immediate action.

We are the custodians of the world’s leading dataset on modern slavery. We have proven that the issue is getting worse. We echo others’ views that the CSDDD is an imperfect but nonetheless essential opportunity to address a rising issue head-on.

Inaction will be detrimental to human rights

The failure to pass the CSDDD is unacceptable, and an embarrassment to a global superpower which claims to care about human rights.

The EU spent years negotiating the CSDDD, only to risk it being diluted, undermined, or altogether scrapped due to a minority of politicians turning their backs on the recent agreement to pass this legislation.

Vulnerable workers around the world have been forgotten in the wake of political manoeuvrings by powerful countries that claim to care for people and planet.

Human rights are not negotiable, and they are not for sale. 

That’s why the CSDDD is so important.  It would require large companies to investigate their value chains for human rights (and environmental) abuses, and take action to remediate and prevent their occurrence.

Call to action for European leaders

European leaders could improve the lives of millions of workers with this transformative legislative framework. 

We call on the EU to uphold its values of sustainable development and the protection of human rights, and vote to pass the CSDDD.

“Leaders are acutely aware of the increasing vulnerability faced by people in global supply chains and their worsening impacts on the planet.  With EU supply chains spanning the globe, this legislation remains an opportunity to address the growing issue, head-on,” Founding Director of Walk Free Grace Forrest said.

“While there is a lot of noise about this legislation, at its core, it is about EU businesses not relying on the exploitation of people and our natural resources.

“This is a simple call-to-action to practically address rising vulnerability to modern slavery. Inaction on this will be impossible to explain to future generations.”