This publication highlights Commonwealth government action, and inaction, to tackle modern slavery. In 2018, Commonwealth governments committed to achieve Sustainable Development Goal Target 8.7. Two years on, 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 call to action
Walk Free and CHRI call for modern slavery to be set firmly on the agenda for the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), rescheduled for June 2021.
It is imperative that governments must move from commitments made in 2018 to deliver concrete action to eradicate modern slavery in the Commonwealth by 2030.
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.