Ending Human Trafficking by 2030: The Role of Global Partnerships in Eradicating Modern Slavery

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1 Ending Human Trafficking by 2030: The Role of Global Partnerships in Eradicating Modern Slavery UN Headquarters Conference Room 4 Thursday 7 th April 2016, 3-6:30pm Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to thank his Excellency Archbishop Auza for the invitation and the privilege of being here with you today. My position, as the UK s first Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, was created by the landmark Modern Slavery Act, which received Royal Assent in March of last year. My role is to spearhead the United Kingdom s response to modern slavery and to call to account those who fail to deliver. I was appointed by the British Home Secretary but I am fully independent and report annually to Parliament. My role includes a concerted focus on strengthening international collaboration and working to prevent modern slavery crimes from occurring in the first place, both in the UK and other source countries. I therefore took an active role, working closely with the Santa Marta Group, the Holy See and the UK Government, in pushing for an explicit target to address modern slavery and human trafficking in the Sustainable Development Goals. This was in recognition of the potentially transformative impact that the SDGs could have regarding effective international efforts to combat this crime. 1

2 Human development and slavery have of course always been closely linked. Victims endure experiences that are horrifying in their inhumanity, including violence, rape and extreme abuse. But modern slavery also has wider negative implications for human development. It results in a huge loss of remittances to developing countries, because remittance flows are taken from victims, who are forced to pay off debts, and which become profits for the criminals. And there is the impact on the families and communities left behind. Victims cannot care for their children or the elderly. Many are young, so modern slavery robs communities of those that could economically contribute most to local development. In spite of all of this, to date modern slavery and development have been largely treated as separate policy areas. 2

3 So we really must celebrate the fact that we were able to secure a very strong core target - SDG 8.7, and strong associated targets, including SDGs 16.2 and in the new Goals. This now places the fight against slavery exactly where it should have always been: as part of the strategy to promote sustainable and long-term development. Even more importantly, through the adoption of the SDGs, Member States have now made an unequivocal global commitment to take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour and end modern slavery and human trafficking. We have been brought here today to focus our minds on what this commitment will mean in practice and how it can really be achieved. What it cannot mean is a business as usual approach. Over recent years there have been a wide variety of positive initiatives to try to tackle modern slavery and human trafficking across the globe. But the sad and simple truth is that the anti-slavery movement has so far failed. The statistics available indicate that modern slavery continues to boom as an industry, and criminals continue to view it as a low risk and high reward crime. In reality it hasn t been a fair fight. While modern slavery crime worldwide is estimated to generate over 150 billion US dollars per year in illegal profits, OECD countries spend just 0.08 percent of this amount on anti-slavery development assistance. And what is also clear is that this funding hasn t added up to more than the sum of its parts. 3

4 The picture hasn t been much better when we look at national strategies. Only around 0.2 percent of slavery cases are investigated and prosecuted annually. Significant progress has been made in the UK in recent years. And yet, if we compare modern slavery to other serious crimes, right now across the UK I would estimate that there are between 10 and 12 thousand law enforcement officers focused on counter-terrorism. Thousands more will be focused on counter narcotics. But I would be surprised if more than a hundred were focused on countering modern slavery and human trafficking. And yet if we compare the three crimes, which one ruins and indeed takes far more lives on a daily basis? 4

5 So how should we move forward to meet the SDG commitment? I will offer 3 suggestions to the debate. 1. Firstly, this issue must begin to be addressed with the gravity it deserves. Modern slavery in 2016 is the untold suffering of millions and millions of people across the globe. It is a multi-billion dollar criminal industry. And it is increasingly the trade of choice for international crime groups and terrorist organisations such as ISIS and Boko Haram to fund their activities. And yet the fight against modern slavery is still not mainstreamed into wider development, human rights and criminal justice and national security programmes; for reasons still unclear to me, it is instead often boxed off as a less significant niche activity. But it undeniably deserves the highest levels of consistent political leadership. It deserves to be regularly debated and strategized against alongside counterterrorism and other priority national and international threats. And it deserves the national and international resources required. 2. This brings me on to my second suggestion, and one that has been powerfully made by the UN University. We need additional resources, but crucially we must be more strategic in how we bring our resources to bear on this issue. At present, multilateral efforts against slavery are siloed and fragmented, with little effort made at strategic coordination. 5

6 Each silo within the multilateral system has its own focus, often overlapping, but rarely talking to one another. And we have a similar situation with Member States, with even intrinsically linked major source and destination countries still more often than not unwilling to share data and coordination of activity. There are some positive signs of change, including exciting new initiatives which we will hear about later. But I believe that now is the time for Member States to demand a fit for purpose UN system that delivers strategically coordinated and systemic antislavery and trafficking efforts in order to help them achieve their SDG commitments. This must begin to tackle modern slavery and human trafficking holistically as a human rights, labour rights, development, humanitarian and criminal justice and security issue, rather than simply looking at each factor in isolation. We should focus our efforts on developing a coordinated, inclusive and effective global partnership to end modern slavery and human trafficking. The strong targets we have within the SDGs represent a unique and time limited opportunity for governments, civil society, faith groups and the private sector to truly mobilise around this issue. But this will only be achieved with overarching strategic coordination, public private partnerships and leadership from UN agencies, with the UN being of course a uniquely legitimate global forum. 6

7 3. My final suggestion is that any new strategic international efforts must at their heart focus on how the cycle of abuse can be ended. This means working closely with the private sector to end demand for slave labour, whether witting or unwitting. In the UK the Modern Slavery Act contains a world-leading provision requiring large companies to disclose action they are taking to ensure their UK and global supply chains are slavery free. It also crucially means working much more thoughtfully to tackle slavery at its root and to change and challenge the conditions that allow slavery to persist. Destination countries need to be much smarter at identifying exactly which towns, villages and regions victims have been trafficked from, and then to work in collaboration with source country governments to develop holistic prevention projects that tackle the root causes. I believe that an effective model must focus on first identifying at risk communities, and then on working closely with local agencies, community groups and survivors to build resilience to slavery and trafficking, with a focus on capacity building for locally owned solutions that are sustainable in the long run. This is exactly what I have been focusing on with partners from Nigeria. Nigeria has consistently been a major country of origin either ranking first or second of victims of modern slavery identified in the UK. Indeed, the trafficking of women and girls from Nigeria to Europe is one of the most persistent global trafficking flows. Despite the scale and volume of human trafficking originating from Nigeria, a significant proportion of it is a highly localised phenomenon. 7

8 The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and Nigeria s anti-trafficking agency have together estimated that 94 percent of Nigerian victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation rescued outside of Nigeria are from just one state: Edo State in the south of the country. UK agencies have also indicated that an equally high proportion of Nigerian victims identified in the UK are from Edo. To put this in context, the population of Edo is estimated to represent less than 2% of Nigeria s total population. Through the unique partnership model of the Santa Marta Group I have over the past year been working with agencies and civil society and faith groups in Edo, together with local academics that have identified the causes of the phenomenon and the interventions needed. Together we have developed a needs plan and I am working with the British Government to explore how this can be most effectively delivered. The plan is based around three pillars: First, community engagement and resilience building; Second, the creation of employment opportunities through sustainable development, largely focused on agri-business; And third, local criminal justice capacity building. This third pillar is crucial. Until we tackle slavery at its root, we can at best only ever hope to apply a band-aid solution. This is also true in terms tackling the traffickers themselves. 8

9 To reiterate again, modern slavery is very often serious and organised crime, and must be addressed as such. Unless traffickers and slave masters are relentlessly pursued and punished, victims who may be recovered and supported will simply be replaced with an ever growing supply of vulnerable people and the cycle of abuse and exploitation will continue. And with all anti-slavery and trafficking efforts, we need to become much more professional in applying monitoring and evaluation mechanisms so that we know exactly what works and what doesn t. 9

10 Conclusion So, in conclusion, I suggest that we urgently need sustained national and international political leadership. We need a strategic, inclusive and coordinated global partnership. And we need smart solutions that tackle slavery at its roots, working closely with local communities and the private sector. Through the unanimous adoption of the SDGs, Member States have committed to take action to end modern slavery and human trafficking within the next 15 years. Whilst this is a huge challenge, we must remember that it took William Wilberforce just 20 years to end the British slave trade, and it was less than 30 years more when the global slave trade was abolished. And this was all at a time when slavery was as accepted as birth, marriage and death. Here in 2016, we do talk a very good game on ending modern slavery and human trafficking. But now is the time to stop talking and start doing, as on this issue like no other, we will be judged solely by our actions, not by our words. Thank you. 10

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