A new scoping study, commissioned by the Office of Theresa May, will examine the case for establishing a Global Commission on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking to help strengthen international co-operation in addressing this issue.
Modern slavery is one of the great challenges facing the world today, affecting millions across the globe, yet it’s not adequately addressed by existing laws and policies. Even though it crosses international borders, the global response remains piecemeal and fragmented.
The current pandemic has dramatically increased the number of people vulnerable to modern slavery, at the same time as demonstrating the necessity of collaborative multilateral responses to global challenges.
The case for a new Global Commission on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking therefore needs urgent examination, both to respond to the lessons from the pandemic and to an even more urgent need for strong and sustained global leadership.
The Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre (Modern Slavery PEC) has been commissioned by the Office of Theresa May to conduct the scoping study, funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).
The scoping study will examine the precise nature of the need for a Global Commission, how to make sure that any such Commission would complement and amplify the collaborative work already done, and how it could add value and address key evidence gaps.
How to ensure that people with lived experience of modern slavery are meaningfully embedded in the work of any Global Commission is a high priority for the study.
The study will also look at how such a Commission would best be configured, including the best ways of embedding lived experience in its governance, as well as how it could secure stable and sustainable long-term funding.
The project will engage key collaborative partners in the international landscape of organisations working to address modern slavery and human trafficking throughout the world, including global and regional intergovernmental bodies, international human rights bodies, survivor organisations, faith and civil society groups and business.
The study will gather views from people of all backgrounds and regions, including from people with lived experience and from the Global South.
The former Prime Minister, Theresa May, said: "Modern slavery is a crime that transcends borders and to which no country is immune. That is why the only way to tackle it is through a co-ordinated, international, response so I am delighted that the UK government has provided funding for a scoping study on establishing a new global commission to tackle the problem.
"Modern slavery hides in plain sight. It is in our towns and cities, our fields and factories. Across the world it is estimated that there are over 40 million men, women and children in modern slavery today.
"The Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre will look at key evidence gaps in the existing system and ascertain how a Global Commission on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking could complement and strengthen our international response.
"They will be seeking views from a wide range of organisations and intergovernmental bodies and I hope that as many as possible will take part so that together, we can defeat this barbaric crime."
Murray Hunt, Director of the Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre, said: “Evidence clearly shows that the pandemic has significantly increased vulnerability to modern slavery and human trafficking around the world. It has also demonstrated the necessity of global collaboration to solve these great challenges.
“We are therefore delighted to have been asked by the Office of Theresa May to conduct a scoping study to assess the need for a new Global Commission on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking.
“To have truly transformative potential, any Global Commission must be built on a careful and rigorous assessment of the need for it and of fundamental questions such as what it will do, what it will look like, and how it will be funded.
"We look forward to working with organisations and people already doing outstanding work in this area, including people with lived experience, to help us answer these questions and to make sure that a Global Commission would complement and amplify that collaborative work."
The Scoping Study aims to publish its report around May/June 2022.
Project team: Andrew Hilland, Maisie Biggs, Sarah Kerr (consultant).
Frequently asked questions
1. Why is there interest in the need for a Global Commission?
Modern slavery is one of the great global challenges facing the world today that requires a collaborative global response. It affects millions in all countries across the world, yet it is not adequately addressed by existing laws and policies. Even though it crosses international borders, the global response remains piecemeal and fragmented.
The pandemic has dramatically increased the number of people vulnerable to exploitation, so there is now an even more urgent need for strong and sustained global leadership.
A number of global collaborations on modern slavery and human trafficking already exist, but there is a growing sense that global efforts to achieve the SDG 8.7 target of eradicating it by 2030 might not be enough. A Global Commission under strong and sustained leadership would have the potential for giving modern slavery a renewed focus and amplifying the current efforts to bring about the transformative change required.
Compared to other major global challenges of our time (climate change, pandemics), global collaboration on modern slavery remains relatively weak at the political level and not well connected to the production of research and evidence.
Stronger global collaboration and leadership is required to ensure that modern slavery laws and policies are fully informed by the best analysis and data about what works in practice and by the lived experience of those most directly affected.
2. Why is there a need for a Scoping Study?
If a Global Commission is to be established and be able to deliver on its potential promise, it has to be built on independent high-quality evidence and analysis of the need for it. Only through an inclusive and collaborative study involving people and organisations from across the world can we authoritatively answer the following 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 be seeking 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?
3. Why is the Modern Slavery PEC carrying out the scoping study?
The Modern Slavery PEC has been 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.
4. What is the role of the UK Government/FCDO?
The UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) is funding the Scoping Study, as part of its long-term commitment to strengthening global collaboration on modern slavery and human trafficking.
It looks forward to the findings and recommendations of the Scoping Study.
Any potential Global Commission will be independent of Government.
5. What is the role of former UK Prime Minister Theresa May?
With funding from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, the Office of Theresa May has commissioned the Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre to carry out a scoping study on establishing a Global Commission of Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking.
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 will now work with the Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre on establishing whether and how a new commission can strengthen and improve our international response.