Why We Need a Global Fund Model to Fight Modern Slavery

6 September 2018
Research Innovation

Modern slavery is a crime of economic opportunity that is present in every country, driven in part by a supply of vulnerable populations and a demand for cheap goods and services. With more than 25 million people enslaved globally (according to the Global Estimates, 40.3 million people are in slavery globally, of which 15.3 million are in forced marriage) modern slavery exists at the intersection of global trends such as migration, organized crime, illegal migration, national security and global business operations.

People walking at dusk. Unsplash/Jehyun Sung

Tackling modern slavery promises reverberating impacts: Eliminating slavery from supply chains equalizes the market; children who are not forced to work remain in school longer, contributing over the long term to the formal economy; and migration can be safe when people are not traded as commodities.

Despite the positive consequences of eradicating modern slavery, efforts to date have been fragmented, uncoordinated and under-resourced, and they struggle to match the scale, profitability and complexity of the problem. According to the latest estimates, up to $400 million in development assistance is allocated annually to fight modern slavery. This stands in stark contrast to the more than $150 billion in criminal profits trafficking generates each year.

The reality of these challenges and the need for global action was the impetus for creating the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery (GFEMS)—an international, public-private partnership designed to develop a coherent, global strategy to coordinate anti-slavery efforts across industries, sectors and borders. This strategy is designed to end modern slavery by making it economically unprofitable through a framework for action that includes:

  • Increasing resources: Scaling funding and global commitment to be commensurate with the size of the challenge requires partnerships and investment from both the public and private sectors.
  • Engaging governments: Facilitating government ownership of anti-slavery strategies through co-owned and co-funded budgeted action plans that align with key government objectives.
  • Engaging the private sector: Identifying and promoting proactive business sector efforts to create market-based solutions to slavery.
  • Funding transformative programmes and technologies: Funding efforts that demonstrate clear and substantial impacts on prevalence.
  • Ensuring robust assessment of impact: Developing and deploying cost-effective measurement activities of community and industry prevalence reduction and return on investment.

Building on this framework, GFEMS will catalyse reductions in the prevalence of modern slavery by funding organizations working in three focus areas to achieve our theory of change:

  • Effective Rule of Law: Raising the cost of slavery by ending impunity through effective criminalization and judicial punishment for all forms of trafficking.
  • Business investment: Proactively engaging companies to create and capture value by eliminating forced labour from supply chains at local, national and international levels.
  • Sustained Freedom: Engaging with vulnerable populations and ensuring survivor freedom through recovery, reintegration and economic opportunity.

As the Alliance 8.7 community knows well, it is difficult to achieve any of these goals without reliable data and evidence—historically a time-consuming and costly activity. In an effort to identify the most impactful models and strategies to replicate and scale, GFEMS will invest in innovative, cost-effective tools, technologies and approaches for achieving and measuring prevalence reduction and return on investment. GFEMS has already begun piloting new methodologies in several countries, which we will feature in future columns.

Our prevalence measurement practice will address three key questions, which will be answered through broad-based collaboration to ensure insights are incorporated into future intervention designs:

  • What is the baseline prevalence in a target community or industry, and what is the reduction in prevalence over time?
  • What are the key drivers of prevalence and what approaches are most effective against these drivers?
  • Which strategies and programmes yield the greatest value-for-money?

GFEMS is committed to disseminating any relevant data and insights to the field at large to benefit all stakeholders, directly and indirectly.

As the Alliance 8.7 community knows well, it is difficult to achieve any of these goals without reliable data and evidence—historically a time-consuming and costly activity.

We have already seen signs of interest in a global-fund approach to ending modern slavery by way of early donor contributions and partner commitments. In the past six months, GFEMS has secured an initial contribution of $25 million from the United States and a matching contribution from the United Kingdom, as well as a $25 million commitment from a private donor. As our ongoing collaboration with groups like Marriott International shows, our goal is to ensure that GFEMS’ strategy is compelling to governments, civil society and the business sector alike.

This willingness to partner has been encouraging. GFEMS is building new partnerships and leveraging existing initiatives to build a coherent global strategy and foster collaboration across borders and sectors, making modern slavery economically unprofitable. Integral to this fight are new ways for sharing knowledge and learnings, such as Delta 8.7. We are excited to contribute this platform and the dialogue it ignites.

The Global Fund to End Modern Slavery is a public-private partnership that seeks to catalyse and coordinate a coherent global strategy to end modern slavery by making it economically unprofitable. GFEMS’ strategy includes increasing resources, engaging government and the private sector, funding transformative programs and technologies, and ensuring robust assessment of impact across all partners and programs.

This article has been prepared by the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery as a contribution to Delta 8.7. As provided for in the Terms and Conditions of Use of Delta 8.7, the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of UNU or its partners.

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