World Day Against Trafficking in Persons: Still a long way to go to achieve SDG Target 8.7

World Day Against Trafficking in Persons: Still a long way to go to achieve SDG Target 8.7

London, July 30 - Today is World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. As we observe this day, we note that contemporary forms of slavery, including human trafficking, continues to be a heinous crime impacting women, men and children across the world. From the 40.3 million people held in modern slavery, approximately 40% live within the Commonwealth. In other words: 1 in every 150 people in the Commonwealth are living in modern slavery.

The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) sees this day as a reminder of the progresses made towards the eradication of modern slavery, but also of the continuing  challenges and the steps needed to ensure that no one is subjected to modern slavery and human trafficking.

In June 2022, over 100 anti-slavery organisations from all over the world, came together to  endorse a Joint Statement on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking which was presented to States before the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) last month in Rwanda. In the 2022 CHOGM Communiqué, Commonwealth States reiterated their commitment to end modern slavery, including human trafficking, by 2025 as well as ratify and implement relevant international conventions. Even though States originally called for ‘effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking’ at the 2018 CHOGM, they have done little over the past four years to ensure this happens.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed Commonwealth Governments’ progress in combating human trafficking, by exacerbating the risks of vulnerable individuals to become victims of trafficking and by obstructing the adequate identification of victims. The current crisis in Ukraine and other conflicts have also put millions of people, mainly women and girls, at risk of exploitation and trafficking. And climate change, a global threat that disproportionately impacts Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and vulnerable communities within Commonwealth countries, exacerbates poverty and inequality, provokes displacement, and increases vulnerability to become a victim of exploitation.

There was much more that could have been highlighted at CHOGM 2022, including the need to align national legislation with international norms, to improve cross-border collaboration and data-sharing on modern slavery, and to ensure that all responses to modern slavery are informed by the meaningful participation of survivors. As highlighted by the UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, States must criminalise trafficking using the definitions under international law, facilitate cross-border cooperation, and ensure informed participation and empowerment of victims.

It is important that States acknowledge the key role that civil society plays in the eradication of human trafficking, and foster collaboration and partnerships. Civil society networks, such as the Commonwealth 8.7 Network, can be useful allies to ensure State policies, programmes and practices are relevant and address the hard realities faced by victims, survivors and communities.

To achieve their commitment to eradicate contemporary forms of slavery including human trafficking, CHRI urges Commonwealth Member States to:

  1. Commit to redoubling efforts to meet SDG Target 8.7, including reiterating the need for timely, proactive and effective measures to end human trafficking - even in challenging times -, and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, and by 2025 end all forms of modern slavery, including human trafficking.
  2. Ratify and implement relevant outstanding international human rights agreements, including the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and align national legislation with international norms, ensuring all forms of exploitation are criminalized, laws are enforced and penalties are appropriate.
  3. Improve cross-border collaboration and data-sharing on modern slavery and human trafficking, including strenghtening international cooperation agreements and collaborative initiatives with member states, international organisations and civil society.
  4. Ensure all responses to modern slavery and human trafficking, including their design, implementation and monitoring, are informed by the meaningful participation of survivors, and survivors are provided opportunities to engage in such efforts on their terms.
  5. Strengthen the evidence base on human trafficking, including supporting efforts to share good practices.
  6. Address risk factors, by tackling systemic inequality and discrimination that increases the vulnerability of certain groups to modern slavery, taking into account intersectional factors (including gender, age, race, and disability) and harmful traditional practices, by strengthening legal frameworks and providing education and training.
  7. Promote and strengthen partnerships between the State and civil society organisations to achieve the elimination of trafficking in persons.

For more information contact:

CHRI London Office