What We do

Contemporary forms of slavery

Strengthening the Commonwealth to achieve SDG 8.7
Eradication of Contemporary Forms of Slavery

Tens of millions of people – women, men and children - are held in conditions of contemporary forms of slavery across all regions of the world, as those exploiting them continue to expand their increasingly sophisticated operations. The International Labour Organization estimated in 2016 that 40.3 million people were held in modern slavery, and it is estimated that 40% of those enslaved are within the Commonwealth. Although modern slavery affects people and communities who are vulnerable - for example, women and girls from the Global South who also live in poverty - modern slavery can affect people of any age, gender or race.

Since 2016, CHRI has urged all Commonwealth states to adhere to their commitment to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8.7 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.

This commitment has received public support from Commonwealth governments who, in the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting Communiqué, called for ‘effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking, and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour in all its forms by 2025, including the unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers.’

CHRI’s programme supporting the achievement of SDG 8.7 and the eradication of contemporary forms of slavery focuses on awareness raising, research, advocacy, network building and knowledge sharing, and capacity building.

Commonwealth 8.7 Network

In July 2019, CHRI launched the Commonwealth 8.7 Network, an international member-driven network with over 60 national and local civil society organisation members who share a common vision to eradicate contemporary forms of slavery and human trafficking. The 8.7 Network serves as a knowledge-sharing platform for country-specific and thematic issues and good practice, and works collaboratively and through partnerships to raise awareness, build capacity, provide support to survivors, and advocate for change to laws and policies.

In 2019, the Commonwealth 8.7 Network was awarded the Commonwealth Secretary-General’s Innovation for Sustainable Development Award.

Awareness Raising, Research and Publications

CHRI has produced the following research reports and publications relating to contemporary forms of slavery:

Creating an Effective Coalition to Achieve SDG 8.7’ was launched in April 2018 during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London. It calls upon the Heads of Commonwealth Governments to take effective measures to eradicate all forms of contemporary slavery.

This report outlines the complexity of the violations and abuses encompassed 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 a further strain on limited resources, increasing the number of potential victims. The report presents eight recommendations to the Commonwealth Member States related to the achievement of SDG 8.7:

  • Convene governments, parliamentarians, officials, business leaders and civil society in a new framework of annual meetings with a focus on SDG 8.7 commitments
  • Ratify relevant international legal instruments, particularly the 2014 Protocol to ILO Convention 29, and implement robust monitoring mechanisms
  • Support measures to enhance understanding of the nature and causes of those abuses within SDG 8.7, among Commonwealth governments as well as the people
  • Support the development of nationally specific targets and indicators within the broad 8.7 target, and the strengthening of domestic legislation, and of national action plans, and act as a repository for legislative templates and best practice
  • Better enforcement of domestic legislation and national action plans
  • Involve non-governmental bodies in the project for achievement of SDG 8.7
  • Raise public awareness of the abuses contained within SDG 8.7, the factors that allow them to occur and the ways citizens can contribute to their eradication through creating Commonwealth-wide public information campaigns and providing toolkits to Member States for designing SDG 8.7-related awareness campaigns
  • Collect, evaluate, and report on data relevant to the achievement of SDG 8.7.

Building on the above research, and following the development of an Indicator Framework to supplement the Global Slavery Index, CHRI launched The Commonwealth Roadmap to SDG 8.7’ in December 2018. This 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. The report identifies four areas of action that can 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. 

Research and Monitoring

Working in partnership with the Minderoo Walk Free Foundation, CHRI is currently developing a Commonwealth Portal of SDG 8.7 Indicators. Alongside the Global Slavery Index’s 104 indicators, CHRI has added an additional 48 indicators, in consultation with others, including the Walk Free Foundation and the International Labour Organization.

The indicators cover different elements of SDG 8.7 on contemporary forms of slavery, including:

  • existing legal and policy frameworks
  • the available social and economic assets and safety nets
  • social norms
  • availability of data / information

These indicators are the basis of comprehensive research, leading to the publication of a report, which will provide a comprehensive assessment of government progress in achieving SDG 8.7 across the Commonwealth. We aim to release this report at the time of the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Rwanda in 2020.

Advocacy and Capacity Building

CHRI undertakes advocacy at international level with Commonwealth institutions as well as the UN, including raising awareness of human rights issues and contributing to international standard setting processes. This includes regular engagement at Human Rights Council sessions, as well as engagement in UPR processes, and with relevant Special Procedures.

As part of CHRI’s focus on building capacity of stakeholders and CSOs in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to understand, navigate and use the UN human rights mechanisms as a tool to support their advocacy for change at national and regional level, CHRI supported representatives from Pacific Island CSOs to attend sessions of the UN Human Rights Council, engage with human rights mechanisms and inter-governmental agencies, liaise with international NGOs, promoting awareness of human rights issues in the region.

As part of this broader programme, in September 2019, CHRI brought civil society representatives from Fiji and Vanuatu to the 42nd session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva, to highlight issues of contemporary forms of slavery, in particular the sexual exploitation and trafficking of women and girls in the Pacific, through meetings, dialogues, written and oral statements to the Council, as well as a CHRI organised side-event. See the oral statement by Ms. Turenga Nakalevu (Homes of Hope, Fiji) and the side event, which was supported by the office of the Special Rapporteur for contemporary forms of slavery, entitled Human Trafficking in the PacificSee also our article published by the Commonwealth Secretariat.

In September 2017, the Commonwealth Secretariat and CHRI, in partnership with the governments of Australia and the UK, held a panel discussion on "Ending Modern Day Slavery - Achieving Goal 8.7: Sustainable and inclusive development through eradication of forced labour, ending modern slavery and human trafficking, and securing the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour". This side event was held in parallel to the 39th Human Rights Council session in Geneva.

COVID-19 and contemporary forms of slavery

Victims and survivors of contemporary forms of slavery and human trafficking are facing increasing vulnerability as a result of the outbreak of COVID-19 and the lockdown and other measures that governments have imposed in their efforts to control the pandemic. See our full statement on COVID-19 and contemporary forms of slavery here.