Assessing the case for a global commission on modern slavery

Assessing the case for a global commission on modern slavery

Assessing the case for a global commission on modern slavery

Scoping study examining the case for establishing a Global Commission on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking.

The Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre (Modern Slavery PEC) has been commissioned by the Office of the Rt. Hon. Theresa May MP to conduct a scoping study examining the case for establishing a Global Commission on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking (the “Scoping Study”). The Scoping Study has been funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

Between February and May 2022, the Scoping Study Team directly engaged over 50 actors in the international modern slavery landscape, including global and regional intergovernmental bodies, human rights groups, survivor organisations, civil society organisations and businesses. It also carried out a desk-based surveys and literature review of recent evidence to determine any significant gaps that a Global Commission could fill, and the best potential ways of establishing and funding it. It also carried out a consultation on how to embed persons with lived experience of modern slavery in the work and governance of a Global Commission.

Key findings:

  • There is a compelling need for a Global Commission on Modern Slavery. Current global efforts in relation to modern slavery and human trafficking are not on track to bring about the necessary transformation in the effectiveness of the laws, policies and practices to address it.
  • Vulnerability to exploitation has dramatically increased as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, armed conflicts and climate change, with the number of people forcibly displaced worldwide now exceeding 100 million for the first time in history. The scale of such vulnerability to exploitation means that all countries of the world are affected, whether countries of origin, transit or destination.
  • Yet, just as vulnerability to exploitation has increased, there has been a loss of international political momentum behind efforts to address it. The issue has slipped down the global political agenda, international action is fragmented and the evidence base remains underdeveloped.

Stakeholder views

Actors working in the modern slavery sector agreed that political momentum towards addressing it has stalled due to a lack of high-level political leadership, inadequate levels of funding, other global issues dominating the political agenda. They generally welcomed the idea of a Global Commission and identified four broad potential functions:

  • Providing high-level political leadership by bringing together figures of international renown to galvanise action by states and other actors.
  • Collating research and best practice on effective policy responses.
  • Promoting international collaboration between different parts of the modern slavery landscape.
  • Tackling forced labour in global supply chains, catalysing state action on corporate accountability.

The International Modern Slavery Landscape – desk-based survey and analysis

The international modern slavery field has a stark power imbalance: funds and decision making almost exclusively flow from the Global North. If a commission is to be truly global, it must ensure all regions have the power to influence decisions.

  • Given civil society organisations’ substantial experience, expertise and influence, they should be embedded in the configuration of a Global Commission.
  • The sector is predominantly focused on forced labour, which risks overlooking other types of exploitation that vulnerable communities are affected by.
  • Pre-exploitation systemic causes of modern slavery are less represented in the work than post-exploitation issues.
  • A Global Commission should closely cooperate with existing initiatives and draw lessons from them on how to be most effective.

Review of literature

The literature review of recent evidence revealed five priority areas for intervention:

  • Crisis. Covid-19 and the mass movement of refugees resulting from recent armed conflicts have significantly increased vulnerability to modern slavery.
  • Climate change. Responding to climate change will require the strengthening of social protection mechanisms, creation of safe migration opportunities, and a heightened focus on particular geographies and indigenous communities.
  • Structural causes. The complex and multi-dimensional causes of modern slavery necessitate moving beyond a purely criminal justice response, and focusing on broader societal issues including poverty, inequality and discrimination.
  • Labour exploitation in supply chains. Voluntary guidelines and unenforced reporting requirements are increasingly considered ineffective, and more governments are now introducing binding forms of corporate regulation.
  • Implementation and evaluation. A greater focus on monitoring, evaluating and learning is required to better understand “what works” in tackling modern slavery.

The need for a Global Commission

On the basis of the mapping of the international modern slavery landscape, the views of stakeholders, and the rapid literature review, the Study recommends establishing a Global Commission on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking, focused on three features:

  • providing high-level political leadership
  • building the evidence and knowledge base
  • promoting and facilitating international collaborations.

The Scoping Study has identified three potential areas of focus:

  • Tackling forced labour in global supply chains
  • Effective national implementation by states of their international commitments
  • More effective engagement of civil society in crisis contexts, making the issue of modern slavery and human trafficking is an integrated part of crisis response

The design of a Global Commission

The Scoping Study has identified six principles to guide the design of a Global Commission: globality; independence; centrality of lived experience; international collaboration; long term ambition; and looking beyond the “usual suspects.” Applying these principles, the Scoping Study recommends that a Global Commission should be designed along the following lines:

  • Formation and purpose. A Global Commission should be co-convened by a small number of supportive governments from different regions of the world, and an appropriate international organisation. It should have two phases: 12-18 months to produce a flagship report, followed by an implementation phase until 2030.
  • Commissioners. The optimum number of commissioners would be between 20 and 25, drawn from four broad categories: political, business, civil society/international NGOs, and research; with good regional and gender balance.
  • Governance. A Global Commission should have an Executive Board that plays a decision-making role, comprising Commissioners, other policy, business and research expertise, and people with lived experience.
  • Secretariat. A Global Commission could either be independent or hosted by a suitable organisation with the infrastructure to provide all the required functions.
  • Partnerships and engagement. A Global Commission should consider relationships with wide range of partners, including academics, businesses and civil society.
  • Research. A Global Commission should combine some research capacity within the secretariat team with commissioned research.
  • Monitoring and evaluation of impact. A Global Commission should monitor and evaluate its impact on an ongoing basis.

Embedding lived experience

The Scoping Study established that people with lived experience of modern slavery should be meaningfully embedded in the establishment and work of the Global Commission. This includes establishing a Panel of Advisers with Lived Experience, complemented by more organic representation of people with lived experience on the Commission, achieved by targeting senior lived-experience-leaders with expertise in the areas required for the Commission. The costs of establishing and maintaining the Panel of Experts with Lived Experience should be considered core to the operation of the Commission.

Funding a Global Commission

The funding model for a Global Commission should aim to be a mixed model of donor governments and philanthropic/private sector funding from the outset, but with a majority of donor government (from more than one) funding in Phase 1 to get the Commission up and running. It should aim to transition to a majority of philanthropic/private sector funding in Phase 2 (2024-2030). So far as possible, a Global Commission should seek to avoid approaching existing modern slavery programme-level donors and should seek to increase the resources available in the modern slavery and human trafficking space.

Read full report here.