A Scoping Study carried out by the Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre (Modern Slavery PEC) has found there is a “compelling need” for a new worldwide partnership dedicated to addressing modern slavery and human trafficking, and the protection of those vulnerable to exploitation.
The Study, which was commissioned by the office of Theresa May and funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), reports that the Covid-19 pandemic, armed conflicts and climate change have dramatically increased people’s vulnerability to exploitation and modern slavery, yet there is a widespread sense that international efforts to end modern slavery have lost political momentum.
The Study concludes that establishing a Global Commission could potentially bring about a “step-change” in international efforts to address modern slavery and human trafficking, by providing high-level political leadership, building the evidence and knowledge base, and promoting and facilitating international collaboration.
Former UK Prime Minister Theresa May, who introduced the Modern Slavery Act 2015 as Home Secretary, commented:
“Modern slavery is one of the most serious and yet under-recognised human rights abuses of the twenty-first century. With the number of people forcibly displaced worldwide exceeding 100 million for the first time in history, the world is set to see a significant increase in those vulnerable to modern slavery and human trafficking. And yet the global response remains piecemeal and fragmented.”
The team carrying out the Study met with more than 50 actors working to address modern slavery across the world, including global and regional intergovernmental bodies, international human rights groups, survivor organisations, civil society organisations and businesses. It also conducted a survey of comparable global commissions, a literature review of evidence identifying potential priority areas for intervention, and a wide consultation on how best to embed people with lived experience of modern slavery in the work and governance of a potential Global Commission.
"With the number of people forcibly displaced worldwide exceeding 100 million for the first time in history, the world is set to see a significant increase in those vulnerable to modern slavery and human trafficking. And yet the global response remains piecemeal and fragmented.”Former UK Prime Minister Theresa May
Andrew Hilland, who led the Scoping Study, said:
“The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals envisage the eradication of modern slavery and human trafficking by 2030. Yet none of the stakeholders we spoke with considered the international community was on track to meet this target. There was a strong acknowledgement that we need fresh political leadership to give this effort a new momentum, and that a Global Commission – if done in the right way – could provide that.”
Professor Andrew Thompson, who was UK Research and Innovation’s International Champion from 2018 to 2021, and a member of the Steering Group overseeing the Study, said:
“Modern slavery is a scourge on global society, which violates the most fundamental of human freedoms. But it is not inevitable or inescapable. With the political will and commitment, we can better understand the structural causes of vulnerability to exploitation and eradicate this crime once and for all, making slavery a thing of the past.”
The Study identifies three substantive areas of focus for a Global Commission could focus on to maximise its impact: tackling forced labour in global supply chains; ensuring effective national implementation by states of their international commitments; and promoting more effective engagement of civil society in crisis contexts.
It also sets out principles that should govern the design of any Global Commission: it should have a global membership and leadership particularly including the Global South, be genuinely independent from any government or international organisation, and look beyond the “usual suspects” to include fresh voices from outside the modern slavery sector.
A Global Commission should engage closely with businesses, which could sign up to affirm their high-level commitment to tackling modern slavery, play a role in informing the Commission’s strategy, and exchange information and best practice on tackling modern slavery within their supply chains.
The Scoping Study also recommended that people with lived experience of modern slavery should be central to a Global Commission, including in its planning, governance and day-to-day work.
Andrew Hilland said:
“A central theme in our conversations with people from across the world was that, for a Global Commission to have a widely accepted mandate, it must be truly representative. Meaningful inclusion of voices from the Global South and people with lived experience of modern slavery in any Global Commission is key for its success.”
The Scoping Study recommends that a Global Commission should have two phases: 12-18 months to produce a flagship report, setting out detailed recommendations to states, international organisations and other stakeholders on how to accelerate progress addressing modern slavery, followed by an implementation phase until 2030.
“A central theme in our conversations with people from across the world was that, for a Global Commission to have a widely accepted mandate, it must be truly representative. Meaningful inclusion of voices from the Global South and people with lived experience of modern slavery in any Global Commission is key for its success.”Andrew Hilland, co-author of the report
Murray Hunt, the Director of the Modern Slavery PEC, commented:
“One of the key findings of the Study is that, despite some good work of a number of knowledge sharing platforms, the evidence base needed to support global efforts to address modern slavery remains seriously under-developed.
“Any potential Global Commission should make sure that global efforts on modern slavery and human trafficking are fully informed by the best research and analysis about what works in practice and the complex structural factors which make people vulnerable to exploitation.”
Discussions with potential donors and Commissioners are underway and further announcements will be made in due course.
Frequently asked questions
What is a Global Commission?
A Global Commission is an international initiative to accelerate progress to address specific global challenges. Examples of other Global Commissions include the Education Commission, the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, and the Global Commission on Drug Policy. They are typically led by a group of high-profile Commissioners from across the world, including former heads of governments and ministers, high-profile activists, business leaders, academics, as well as people with lived experience. Typically, their remit is to build global collaboration and political support for addressing particular challenges, as well building and mobilising the evidence base for the best practical solutions to them.
Why was there a need for a Scoping Study?
In February 2022, the Modern Slavery PEC was commissioned by the Office of Theresa May 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 was funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (“FCDO”).
The remit of the Scoping Study was to provide a clear, robust and thought through basis for establishing a Global Commission on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking (“Global Commission”) by examining six key questions:
- What precisely is the need for a Global Commission?
- Where and how would it fit in the existing international modern slavery landscape?
- What would a Global Commission do which would add value to existing international collaborations, including the key evidence gaps it would aim to fill?
- Who would it seek to influence and to what effect?
- How would it best be configured, including to ensure that survivor engagement is embedded in both its governance and work?
- How will it secure stable and sustainable long-term funding?
The Scoping Study was tasked with making practical and achievable recommendations for the establishment of a Commission, including draft Terms of Reference.
Why was the Modern Slavery PEC commissioned to carry out the scoping study?
The Modern Slavery PEC was commissioned to carry out the Scoping Study because it is a recognised expert in the field with a track record of producing high quality evidence on modern slavery. It is a trusted collaborative partner working together with multiple stakeholders across the world, including with people with lived experience of modern slavery. It has the agility to respond rapidly to demands for timely and relevant research.
What is the role of the UK Government/FCDO?
The UK FCDO has funded the Scoping Study, as part of its long-term commitment to strengthening global collaboration on modern slavery and human trafficking. Any potential Global Commission will be independent of any government, including the UK Government.
What is the role of former UK Prime Minister Theresa May?
With funding from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, the Office of Theresa May commissioned the Modern Slavery PEC to carry out the Scoping Study.
Modern Slavery has been a personal priority for the Rt Hon Theresa May MP. As Home Secretary, she introduced the Modern Slavery Act 2015.
The Act provided law enforcement with new tools and powers to apprehend perpetrators, new duties on businesses to publish transparency in supply chains statements, enhanced protections for victims and created the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner role.
Its enactment has resulted in more victims than ever before being identified and supported, and more offenders being prosecuted and convicted. In addition, thousands of companies have published transparency statements and are taking action to prevent slavery and trafficking in their supply chains.
Theresa May is working with the Modern Slavery PEC on whether and how a Global Commission can strengthen and improve our international response.
Who conducted the Scoping Study report?
The Modern Slavery PEC engaged three external consultants to carry out the Scoping Study: Andrew Hilland, who led the Scoping Study, together with Maisie Biggs and Sarah-Jane Kerr (the “Scoping Study Team”).
The Scoping Study Team worked in close consultation with the Modern Slavery PEC’s Senior Leadership Team, and under the supervision of a Steering Group comprising the Rt Hon Theresa May MP, Professor Andrew Thompson, Edward Braham, Ali Kirby-Harris and the director of the Modern Slavery PEC Murray Hunt.
How was the Scoping Study carried out?
The Scoping Study was conducted between February and May 2022. During that time, the Scoping Study Team carried out the following research, evidence gathering and analysis:
- A desk-based survey of the current international modern slavery landscape, and analysis of any significant gaps that a Global Commission could fill.
- Direct stakeholder engagement with more than 50 actors in the international modern slavery landscape, including global and regional intergovernmental bodies, international human rights groups, survivor organisations, faith and civil society organisations, and businesses.
- A rapid literature review of recent evidence identifying priority areas for intervention in the international modern slavery and human trafficking landscape.
- A desk-based survey of comparable global commissions, as well as meetings with key actors in the most directly relevant global commissions.
- A desk-based review of funding models used by comparable global commissions, and meetings with some potential funders of a Global Commission.
- Consultation on how to embed persons with lived experience of modern slavery in the work and governance of a Global Commission, including with survivor leaders and leaders of community-based organisations in the Global South.
Are there any precedents for the kind of Commission the Scoping Study envisages?
In determining the best design of a Global Commission, the Scoping Study Team reviewed the approach taken by eight comparable commissions, which were identified based on their profile, impact and relevance to a potential commission on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking. They comprise the Education Commission, the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, WeProtect Global Alliance, the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, the Global Commission on Drug Policy, the Global Commission on International Migration, the Global Commission on the Future of Work and the Global Commission on Adaptation. The Scoping Study Team also interviewed key actors in some of these comparable commissions to discuss lessons learned.
What role would survivors play in a Global Commission?
In response to feedback from stakeholders, the Scoping Study team decided to take a broad lens beyond the term ‘survivor’ to ‘people with lived experience’, focusing on people with lived experience of modern slavery and/or the social, economic and political vulnerabilities that can lead to modern slavery.
The Scoping Study undertook extensive engagement with people with lived experience, as well as modern slavery stakeholders more generally, to assess how a Global Commission can ensure people with lived experience are embedded in the work and governance of a Global Commission. On that basis, the Scoping Study recommends that the work of a Commission should be planned in consultation with a Panel of Advisers with Lived Experience, who should play a role in planning a Commission’s work. There should also be organic representation of people with lived experience on the main commission, achieved by targeting senior leaders with expertise in the areas required for the commission and who are also qualified by lived experience. The Global Commission’s Executive Board should scrutinise and hold a Global Commission to account for progress against agreed targets, including those on the effective embedding of people with lived experience in the work of a commission.
How would a Commission achieve global representation?
A Global Commission should be designed to facilitate greater international collaboration and multilateral responses to the challenge of eradicating modern slavery and human trafficking. To be truly global, a Global Commission’s membership and leadership should be drawn from all regions of the world and reflect an appropriate balance between the Global South and the Global North. A Global Commission should build and expand on the engagement undertaken for this Scoping Study in its initial phase, incorporating stakeholder views from across all regions into its flagship report. A Global Commission should also engage with stakeholders through public events, which should be held in different regions to facilitate equitable access.
How should a Global Commission be funded?
The Scoping Study recommends that the funding model for the Global Commission should aim to have a mixed model of donor governments and philanthropic/private sector funding from the outset, but with a majority of donor government funding in Phase 1 to get the Commission up and running. So far as possible, the 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.