Three years after passing anti-slavery legislation, Britain’s Prime Minister is calling on countries to follow in the UK’s lead and work towards eradicating human trafficking and exploitation from supply chains.
The UK has developed a set of principles with the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia “to prevent forced labor in both the public and private sector.”
“By working together, the UK and its partners can use their US$600 billion of purchasing power as a lever to prevent forced labor in both the public and private sector,” the report states.
The principles include: steps to prevent and address human trafficking in government procurement practices; encouragement given to businesses to address human trafficking in supply chains; operate responsible recruitment policies and practices and strive for harmonisation.
“Denying people their freedom and fundamental human rights through modern slavery is a global tragedy. We as governments, businesses and citizens must do all we can to stop it,” Victoria Atkins, Britain’s minister for crime, safeguarding and vulnerability says in statement.
“The UK and our partners are going further, showing leadership and setting out these new principles designed to drive out slavery from the supply chains of the goods and services we all use,” Victoria Atkins says.
Modern slavery costs the UK economy US$5.6 billion a year, in 2015 the British government introduced the Modern Slavery Act. However in May 2018, a damning parliamentary report exposed flaws in how the Home Office was dealing with the crime, claiming it didn’t understand who the perpetrators or victims were.
The report published by the Public Accounts Committee accused the government of ignorance because it didn’t know how much public money had been spent on tackling modern slavery and wouldn’t know if it was doing a good job because there is no data or strategy behind the Modern Slavery Act.
“This crime is complex and a piecemeal approach will not cut it,” Meg Hillier, chair of the committee said, calling for British government to “get a grip on what works and what doesn’t.”
“Government cannot hope to target resources in an effective manner until it properly understands the scale and nature of the challenge,” Meg Hillier said.
“The Home Office has no means of monitoring progress or knowing if its Modern Slavery Strategy is working and achieving value for money.” The report concludes.
READ MORE: Damning Report Exposes UK Gov’t Failure to Tackle Modern Slavery
‘First of its Kind’
Britain passed the Modern Slavery Act in 2015, described a the time as a “first of a kind”. The Act included a clause compelling businesses to publicly express what they are doing to eradicate slavery from their supply chains.
In 2016, anti slavery campaigners called upon the British government to do more to encourage all businesses to disclose how they intend to eradicate slavery from supply chains.
READ MORE: British Businesses Must Do More to Stamp Our Modern Slavery in Supply Chains
According to the law, specifically Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act all businesses operating in the UK with a global turnover of more that US$47.3 million must publish annual statements to reveal the steps taken to eradicate slavery in the supply chains of their own organization.
By April 2018, half of all UK firms were still failing to comply with Section 54 and publish an annual statement on the precautions taken to tackle slavery in their supply chains.
According to a report by Transparency in supply chains (TISC) only 9,627 if 18,939 firms hadn’t published their yearly anti-slavery statement.
Three months later iIn July 2018, Kevin Hyland, UK anti-slavery commissioner at the time, called on the government to implement a state run registry for companies to detail how they are addressing slavery and human trafficking in supply chains.
A coalition of 35 parliamentarians, companies and human rights organizations published a joint statement calling for the British government to help the 16 million people thought to be working as modern slaves in the private sector.
In the same month the government commissioned and independent review of its Modern Slavery Act.
By August 2018, Britain’s agricultural sector was under the spotlight for not adhering to the law and making a concerted effort to fight modern slavery.
The agricultural sector has the fourth highest proportion of victims of forced labour worldwide and in the UK, only 19 percent of businesses were complying with the modern slavery law.
Fast forward to September 2018 and the British government has finally announced what steps it is taking to tackle modern slavery in global supply chains.
Forced labor is estimated to affect 25 million people across the world and almost four years after making modern slavery illegal, Britain wants other countries to adopt the same principles to prevent human trafficking in government supply chains.