The resurgence of slavery is one of the biggest tragedies and consequences of our modern globalised world. In 2012 the ILO estimated that there were 21 million victims of modern forms of slavery worldwide. In many places, the population has grown faster than the economy, leaving many people economically vulnerable. Millions are migrating, moving from impoverished rural areas to cities, and from poorer countries to wealthier ones, in search of work or refuge. Criminals are able to deceive them by posing as legitimate labor recruiters. Human trafficking and modern slavery have a devastating impact on individual victims, who often suffer physical and emotional abuse, rape, threats against themselves and their families, and even murder. But they also have wider negative implications for human development, as it undermines the health, safety and security of every nation that it touches, but until the formulation of the 2030 Agenda a policy approach that locates the fight against them as part of a strategy to promote sustainable and long-term development has been crucially absent.
The SDGs have already generated renewed momentum to combat human trafficking and modern slavery: Pope Francis highlighted the fight against these evils during his Sept. 25, 2016 address to the UN General Assembly and continues to bring global attention to what he calls “a crime against humanity” and “an open wound on the body of contemporary society;” in Dec. 2015 the UN Security Council held its first ever hearing on the issue; many Member States have taken major steps through legislation and actions plans and are pushing for more coordinated and integrated international action; a number of exciting new global partnerships in development have arisen, in addition to long-standing international initiatives. The time is now, therefore, to harness this momentum and ensure that it is well coordinated and complimentary.
The objectives of this high-level event are to convene decision makers from proactive Member States, international organisations, the private sector, faith and civil society groups to discuss enhanced and coordinated action to achieve Targets 5.2, 8.7 and 16.2, including: promote the commitment to end human trafficking, forced labor and modern slavery by 2030 through making it a central focus of multilateral, coordinated and integrated action; ensure there is clear leadership and strategic coordination provided by the UN system to support Member States to deliver on these targets; safeguard that these issues are tackled holistically as issues of human rights, labor rights, criminal justice, and development; show that action against them is smart development policy and secure engagement of major development actors; promote existing and new global partnerships and multi-stakeholder alliances and ensure their work is coordinated and complementary; share best practices amongst Member States and build partnerships between source, transit and destination countries; and leverage support and engagement from the private sector, particularly around supply chain transparency.
The event will feature five panels: a keynote panel, including Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster and Commissioner Kevin Hyland, the UK’s first Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, with the UN Secretary General and President of the General Assembly invited; one describing the scope of the problem and the opportunities for remedy; another on steps toward a solution through building effective partnerships, featuring UN Agencies and International Bodies; a fourth highlighting the responses and thoughts of Member States; and a summary panel, synthesizing what has been heard with a look toward concrete action items for the future.