|Source: Freedom Collaborative
The anti-trafficking sector last week welcomed the release of the 2023 Global Slavery Index (GSI), the world’s most comprehensive dataset on modern slavery at a country level. The index, produced by Walk Free, presents a detailed picture of modern slavery as it exists across industries worldwide, indicates the actions governments are taking and the risks populations face, and offers an analysis of trade flows and data on specific products. This new edition of the report finds that, against a backdrop of COVID-19, the climate emergency, and ongoing conflicts across the world, 10 million more people have been forced to work or marry since 2016. A widespread assault on democracy and rights, and major economic and social impacts, have caused significant disruption to employment and education, leading to extreme poverty and forced and unsafe migration. However, in many wealthy countries, efforts to combat modern slavery have stagnated and in some cases hard won progress has reversed. Since its launch in 2013, the GSI has been instrumental in engaging governments and the private sector in addressing modern slavery. Exploitation is now recognised as a systemic element within the global economy, and has become a mainstream topic as part of discussions on governance, sustainability, and corporate due diligence. Although most G20 countries are not doing enough to ensure that modern slavery is not involved in the production of imported goods and within supply chains, a narrative shift has occurred over the past decade, placing much greater responsibility on state authorities and businesses for combating human trafficking, forced labour and exploitation. In recent years, the UK and Australia have introduced Modern Slavery Acts, which require companies to report on modern slavery risks in their supply chains, the U.S. has banned several companies from importing goods across its borders due to the risk of forced labour, and some Gulf States have started to reform the kafala sponsorship system to better protect the rights of migrant workers. While all these responses are arguably flawed and require improvement, data contained within the GSI, and the spotlight it places on individual countries, put civil society and campaign groups in a much stronger position from which to advocate for rights holders. The GSI allows all stakeholders to understand the size of the problem, existing responses, and contributing factors, so they can build sound policies that will end modern slavery or do effective advocacy work and hold governments accountable for their anti-slavery actions, says Walk Free.Walk Free made substantial methodological improvements to the 2018 edition of the index, including a significant increase in the number of survey data points, and changes to its approach to estimating prevalence in countries without survey data. The 2023 report continued to refine this methodology to provide the most accurate modern slavery prevalence, risk and government response data, including new data sources for measures of vulnerability, and a stronger scoring system for assessments of government action.The new report also puts greater emphasis on survivor expertise, and features essays and articles by survivors on topics including disrupting the cycle between conflict and modern slavery, the impact of pandemic control measures on modern slavery, and modern slavery and gender. Extensive reviews made by Lived Experience Expert Groups led to edits to the conceptual framework underpinning the study, which outlines what constitutes a strong response to modern slavery, and also to the method of analysis.Modern slavery is often hidden from view, it disproportionately affects the most marginalized, and many victims do not self-identify, which means that quantifying the number of victims is challenging, says Walk Free. Measuring and monitoring this problem is therefore crucial in exposing and ultimately resolving it, as well as assessing its scale and the effectiveness of policies. The information contained within the GSI enables stakeholders to refine their thinking on how to better respond to modern slavery, as well as how to predict and prevent modern slavery in the future, the authors say.