The Cornwall G7 summit is "a critical opportunity to demonstrate the political will to rebuild the global economy free from modern slavery". Read the open letter to G7 heads from leaders in the anti-slavery sector.

Need for coordinated action by G7 leaders on forced labour

Leaders representing half the global economy meet together this week as countries across the world are struggling with the Covid-19 pandemic and its far reaching aftermath. It is imperative that we build back better, greener, and fairer. Yet there are an estimated 25 million people in the world in forced labour, 16 million of whom are in the private economy, and recent evidence suggests that the number may be rising as a result of both the pandemic and climate change. Addressing forced labour in G7 economies and supply chains should be a pillar of building back better and improving a values-based global economy.

Forced labour permeates global supply chains of commodities, goods and services. According to the 2018 Global Slavery Index, forced labour taints over $350bn of goods in technology, apparel, seafood, medical supplies, cocoa, cotton, palm oil, coffee and sugar industries annually. Companies and financial institutions profit from unchecked forced labour, and while they face significant challenges in identifying risks of forced labour in complex and multi-layered supply chains, they also need further incentives from governments to overcome those challenges. It is estimated that profits from modern slavery exceed $150bn per year, moving through the global financial system and spurring massive corruption and organised crime. The use of forced labour is also connected to serious environmental destruction and unsafe, unregulated migration.

There is rightly considerable concern about the human rights situation that is leading to state-sponsored forced labour in China. This requires a coordinated and urgent response. Forced labour also exists throughout the world, including in every G7 nation, with vulnerable people forced into work through debt bondage, deception or menace. We must be united in committing to address these challenges at home and abroad. Tackling forced labour is the right thing to do and promotes inclusive economic development and contributes to the educational and economic advancement of women and girls.

As the first meeting of the G7 since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the upcoming Summit in Cornwall provides a critical opportunity for the G7 to demonstrate the political will to rebuild the global economy free from modern slavery by making commitments to align policies and to resource coordinated action against forced labor.

G7 nations should create a race to the top to eliminate forced labor. G7 governments should begin by using their considerable purchasing power to set the highest standards for public procurement. G7 nations should also harmonise reporting standards and enforcement regimes and collaborate on shared challenges, including through sharing information and intelligence and coordinating enforcement and due diligence.

This is a critical moment for the G7 to elevate and act on this issue and we recommend adopting a series of concrete steps to give momentum to achieving the United Nations sustainable development goal of ending forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking by 2030, and ending child labour in all its forms by 2025.

Yours sincerely,

Kristen Abrams, Senior Director, Combatting Human Trafficking, the McCain Institute for International Leadership at ASU

Kevin Bales, Professor of Contemporary Slavery, University of Nottingham

Ambassador (ret.) Luis C.deBaca, Senior Fellow in Modern Slavery, Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, Yale University

Catherine R. Chen, CEO, Polaris

Julie Francoeur, Executive Director, Fairtrade Canada

Nick Grono, CEO, The Freedom Fund

Christian Guy, CEO, Justice and Care

Yuka Iwatsuki, President and Co-founder, Action against Child Exploitation

Carolyn Kitto, Director, Be Slavery Free

Genevieve LeBaron, Professor of Politics and International Relations, University of Sheffield

Senator Julie Miville-Dechêne, Co-Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group to End Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking; Senate of Canada

Keisuke Motoki, Head of the Board, Kamonohashi Project

Katherine Mulhern, CEO, Restitution

Jasmine O’Connor OBE, CEO, Anti-Slavery International

Philippe Sion, Managing Director, Forced Labor & Human Trafficking, Humanity United

Alex Thier, CEO, Global Fund to End Modern Slavery

Kevin Thomas, CEO, Shareholder Association for Research & Education

Dame Sara Thornton, UK Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner

Andrew Wallis OBE, CEO, Unseen

Sharon Waxman, President and CEO, Fair Labor Association

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Justine Currell

As I came to understand more about the issue, including through a visit to an Unseen safehouse, I knew I needed to do more to stop this abuse and exploitation.

For the last five years of my Civil Service career, I was the Modern Slavery Senior Policy Advisor in the Home Office and led on development of the Modern Slavery Act, including the transparency in supply chains provision and business guidance.

I joined Unseen to lead the development of the Modern Slavery & Exploitation Helpline, and Unseen’s work with businesses. I am regularly called upon to present at national and international conferences and use my experience of working with Ministers to influence other governments internationally to take action to address modern slavery and, in particular, business supply chain issues.

In my spare time I enjoy keeping fit, music, reading and travelling.

Andrew Wallis

What ultimately compelled me to act was a report on how people from Eastern Europe were being trafficked through Bristol airport to the USA. Kate Garbers, who went on to be an Unseen Director, and I wrote to all the city councillors, MPs and the Police Chief Constable challenging them on the issue. The challenge came back to us: this city needs safe housing for trafficked women. And so Unseen began.

But we never wanted Unseen to be just about safe housing. We wanted to end slavery once and for all, and that remains our driving focus.

I chaired the working group for the Centre for Social Justice’s landmark report “It Happens Here: Equipping the United Kingdom to Fight Modern Slavery”. This is now acknowledged as the catalyst behind the UK’s Modern Slavery Act of 2015. It was a great honour to be awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours that year. On the other hand, I’ve also been described as “the loveliest disrupter you could ever hope to meet”.

This job has taken me from building flat-pack furniture for safehouses, to working with businesses to address slavery in supply chains, to delivering training, raising awareness and advising governments around the world.

When not at work, I enjoy travelling, spending time with my dog Harley, cooking, supporting Liverpool and Yorkshire CC, music (I’m a former DJ) and endurance events such as the Three Peaks Challenge and Tribe Freedom Runs – which I vow never to do again. Until the next time.