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Modern slavery and international development

Future opportunities for policy and evidence in the UK.

To date, tackling modern slavery internationally has been a stated priority for the UK Government, backed by a commitment of £200million aid spending. However, the focus for the UK’s international development policy is shifting, with the UK’s overall aid budget planned to reduce in 2021/22 and Government efforts to be guided by seven new priorities for global action on development: climate change and biodiversity; Covid-19 and global health security; girls’ education; science, research, technology; open societies and conflict resolution; humanitarian preparedness and response; and trade and economic development.

This Modern Slavery PEC Policy Brief sets out the findings from a rapid evidence-based analysis of the links between modern slavery and the UK Government’s seven priorities for international development. It outlines future opportunities for policy and evidence, to inform the UK Government’s planned international development strategy.

Key findings and recommendations

  • Modern slavery results from multiple, overlapping drivers and vulnerabilities which are often also the same root causes of other international development issues. Modern slavery impedes both human rights and economic development. Activity to address modern slavery is therefore important for achieving sustainable development.
  • There is compelling evidence of links between modern slavery and the UK Government’s seven priority international development issues. For example:

- The effects of issues such as climate change, Covid-19, conflict and humanitarian crises increase vulnerability to modern slavery.

- Modern slavery itself is linked to negative outcomes in the seven priority areas, such as poor health and education outcomes and limited societal resilience to crises

  • There are several opportunities for the UK’s future international development strategy to be evidence-led in contributions to addressing modern slavery.

We recommend as a priority:

  • that modern slavery considerations are better integrated into wider UK Government international development policies and programmes (‘mainstreaming’), particularly those focused on climate change and Covid-19;
  • the UK Government should focus international influencing efforts to address modern slavery globally through international trade policy,
  • there is greater focus on ‘what works’ evidence in UK policy and programme choices through impact evaluation and sharing best practice with other countries.

Authors: Olivia Hesketh, Prof Alex Balch.