Free the Slaves Executive Director Bukeni Waruzi and 33 other anti-trafficking leaders are asking the Group of Seven industrialized nations to step-up and coordinate action against forced labor worldwide. Earlier this year at the G7 Summit in the U.K., world leaders pledged in their annual communiqué to clean-up global supply chains. This week’s letter, published by anti-trafficking groups as G7 trade ministers prepare to gather, provides five concrete paths of action to honor that pledge.
We are writing to provide recommendations for how the G7 can build upon the commitments it made in Cornwall, 2021, to address forced labour in global supply chains and in the digital economy. We were pleased to see forced labour highlighted in the Carbis Bay G7 Communiqué as an important issue warranting collective action by G7 countries.
Forced labour is pervasive across industries and supply chains, and can be found across the globe. There are an estimated 25 million people in the world being exploited in forced labour and human trafficking, and evidence suggests this number could be growing as a result of a number of global challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Egregious examples of state-sponsored forced labour and horrific human rights abuses within China have been well documented. Traffickers make an estimated $150 billion from this crime, which also is linked to corruption, environmental degradation, discrimination, instability and dangerous, unregulated migration.
As Trade Ministers, you were tasked in the Carbis Bay G7 Communiqué to “identify areas for strengthened cooperation and collective efforts towards eradicating the use of all forms of forced labour in global supply chains.” Below are five specific recommendations of efforts and commitments G7 countries could make to advance efforts to eliminate forced labour and human trafficking from global supply chains.
- G7 members should harmonize minimum legal and regulatory standards to address forced labour across the G7 and adopt new legislative frameworks as necessary. Such harmonization should include all members prohibiting the import, export or internal sale of goods and merchandise made or transported wholly or in part by forced labour, and mandating companies operating in their jurisdiction conduct human rights and environmental due diligence in their operations and supply chains, in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Increased accountability for and partnership with private sector actors to take aggressive steps to eradicate forced labour from within their own supply chains will be essential.
- G7 countries should affirm that any future trade agreement, trade preference program or other trade tools employed by a G7 country must contain provisions specifically prohibiting the use of forced labour and require minimum compliance standards, including due diligence criteria, for the elimination of human trafficking and forced labour which include prohibiting and punishing these acts. G7 nations should also provide support to lower income trading partners to help achieve these standards and facilitate trade free of forced labour.
- G7 members should commit to recognizing any forced labour-related import, export or internal sale prohibition of one G7 country as prohibited in all G7 countries. To support the principle of mutual recognition of forced labour prohibitions, G7 members should commit to creating and strengthening mechanisms for robust information and data sharing as well as the development of common criteria and methods based on best practices.
- Building off commitments made by G7 leaders in Cornwall, 2021, G7 nations should further commit to use domestic means, including public procurement policies, and multilateral institutions to prevent forced labour in global supply chains, including within the digital economy. Members should look to previously agreed upon principles for guidance, such as the right to work and freedom of association found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- The G7 should commit new financial resources to addressing human trafficking and forced labour, including the commitment of resources to assist people who have been victimized by forced labour or human trafficking in global supply chains. Members should develop specific recommendations on best practices for assisting those who have been harmed, including for rehabilitation and remediation purposes, which should be designed with the meaningful participation of affected workers and survivors. Specific attention should be paid to any harmful and unintended consequences that result from government or private sector actions to address forced labour, including the displacement of people employed by businesses sanctioned for forced labour.
“Eradicating the use of all forms of forced labour in global supply chains,” will be a significant undertaking, and we believe these five provisions, if implemented, would enable serious progress. It is also important to highlight that while forced labour within global supply chains is a significant issue, it is one part of the larger issues of human trafficking and modern slavery. We strongly encourage you to advocate within your respective governments for all ministries – including trade, development and labour ministries – to play an active role in fighting modern slavery within their respective purviews.
The G7 can play a critical role on these important issues, and we look forward to working with each of you to realize the goal of ending forced labour. To that end, we’d like to request a meeting to discuss these suggestions and other commitments you may be planning in detail.
Senior Director, Combatting Human Trafficking, the McCain Institute for International Leadership at ASU
Ambassador (ret.) Luis C.deBaca
Senior Fellow in Modern Slavery, Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, Yale University
Executive Director, Solidarity Center
Campaign Manager, Fair World Project
Executive Officer, ACRATH
Catherine R. Chen
Executive Director, Survivor Alliance
CEO, Max Havelaar, France
Luke de Pulford
Executive Director, Freedom United
CEO, The Freedom Fund
CEO, Justice and Care
Peter Hugh Smith
Chief Executive, CCLA Investment Management
President and Co-Founder, Action against Child Exploitation
Co-Director, Be Slavery Free
Acting CEO, Baptist World Aid Australia
Senator Julie Miville-Dechêne
Co-Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group to End Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking; Senate of Canada
Dr. Nyagoy Nyong
CEO, Fairtrade Global
Jasmine O’Connor OBE
CEO, Anti-Slavery International
Managing Director, Forced labour & Human Trafficking, Humanity United Action
Deputy Secretary General, Human Rights Now
CEO & Founder, Bluenumber, Inc
CEO, GoodWeave International
CEO, Global Fund to End Modern Slavery
CEO, Shareholder Association for Research & Education
President, The Human Trafficking Legal Center
Andrew Wallis OBE
Executive Director, Free the Slaves
President, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights
Senior Lecturer, University of New South Wales