Eradicating Modern Slavery

An assessment of Commonwealth government progress on achieving SDG target 8.7

This report highlights Commonwealth government action, and inaction, to tackle modern slavery. In 2018, Commonwealth governments committed to achieving Sustainable Development Goal Target 8.7. Published in 2020, two years on from this commitment, this report finds that progress has been slow and concrete action is urgently needed to achieve this target by 2030. This report is the result of a partnership of Walk Free and the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI).

A review of 54 Commonwealth government responses reveals that a lack of legislation across many states undermines attempts to deter and convict perpetrators of modern slavery. Almost a fifth of countries have yet to criminalise human trafficking, while two-thirds have failed to make forced marriage illegal. The effectiveness of criminal justice systems across the Commonwealth continues to be compromised by weak enforcement of this legislation.

Restrictive immigration policies also facilitate coercion and prevent workers from leaving an exploitative employer. Discrimination, including harmful traditional practices, plays a significant role in exacerbating the vulnerability of groups to exploitation — for example, caste-based discrimination in India, the exclusion of the Rohingya population from accessing some services in Bangladesh, and the widespread criminalisation of homosexuality across the African region.


We are asking Commonwealth governments to:

Support survivors

By strengthening victim-identification and protection mechanisms, and by providing access to remediation and compensation. Governments should ensure survivor participation in modern slavery efforts.

Ratify and domesticate relevant international instruments

Including the 2014 Forced Labour Protocol, and criminalise all forms of modern slavery with proportionate penalties.

Improve coordination efforts

To tackle modern slavery by developing and resourcing comprehensive national action plans, engaging in cross-border collaboration, and developing bilateral and multilateral agreements on migration and repatriation.

Ensure vulnerable groups, such as migrant workers, children, and women, are protected

By labour laws and empowered through education programs and community empowerment. Adopt and strengthen policies to address the links between climate change, displacement, migration, and modern slavery.

Adopt and strengthen human rights due diligence

Laws and policies to eradicate exploitation from supply chains; identify high risk sectors and develop multi-stakeholder initiatives to mitigate these risks.