Activating the Commonwealth to achieve SDG 8.7
The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by all UN Member States in 2015. Under SDG Target 8.7, all Commonwealth states have committed to ‘take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, human trafficking, prohibit and eliminate the worst forms of child labour including the use of child soldiers, end modern slavery, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms.’ All members are expected to report on their progress, although this is a voluntary mechanism.
CHRI has been leading research and advocacy work on SDG 8.7 within the Commonwealth since 2016. In April 2018, during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in the United Kingdom, CHRI launched its report Creating an Effective Coalition to Achieve SDG 8.7. Our report outlines the complexity of the abuses contained within SDG 8.7: the legacy of colonialism, rapid population growth, poverty, unchecked economic globalisation, conflict, political instability, and weakened governance have created a fertile environment for high levels of forced labour, modern slavery, human trafficking, child labour, and child soldiers. Commonwealth States are forecast to be home to 30.4% of the world’s population by 2050, which will put further strain on limited resources, increasing the number of potential victims. Climate change and the rapid deterioration of ecosystems present a further challenge to tackling these issues, as many Commonwealth States are Small Island Developing States, which makes them particularly vulnerable to the displacement of millions due to rising sea levels and food insecurity resulting from desertification.
Our report also presents eight recommendations to the Commonwealth and Member States as related to SDG 8.7, based on CHRI’s theory of change:
Building on this research, and following the development of an Indicator Framework to supplement the Global Slavery Index, CHRI launched its second report The Commonwealth Roadmap to SDG 8.7 at the House of Lords in the UK in December 2018. The report provides a roadmap for effective action towards eradicating all forms of contemporary slavery in Commonwealth countries and proposes an Indicator Framework to measure progress. Our report also identifies four areas of action that have the ability to accelerate progress to meet the Commonwealth’s ambition of eradicating modern slavery by 2025: social norms, attitudes and behaviours; law and policy frameworks; social and economic assets and safety nets; and robust data collection.
To reinforce our research work with effective advocacy on SDG 8.7, CHRI is in the process of establishing a cross-Commonwealth network of local, grassroots civil society organisations from across the Commonwealth, working on issues of contemporary forms of slavery. The Commonwealth SDG 8.7 Network – called “Commonwealth 8.7” – is designed to be a membership network, which will serve as a knowledge-sharing platform for country-specific and thematic information and best practice across the Commonwealth. The network will also provide a mechanism for NGOs from across the Commonwealth to connect with one another on SDG 8.7 issues, in addition to disseminating news and resources. Furthermore, as a civil society body, the network will provide support for holding national governments and international bodies accountable for the commitments made before, during and following CHOGM 2018 as related to SDG 8.7.
We believe that the Commonwealth has the opportunity and responsibility to play an effective leadership role in achieving SDG 8.7. The Commonwealth has historically been very effective in providing long-term leadership on an issue, as it showed in its work against apartheid in South Africa. CHOGM 2018 provided a chance for the Commonwealth to take the lead on SDG 8.7 as a convener and catalyst for Member States’ efforts and to position itself as a forum for shared learning on best practice. It was also an opportunity to obtain firm commitments from Member States on SDG 8.7, which cuts across all four of CHOGM 2018’s pillars (fairness, sustainability, security and prosperity).