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A big week in New York for the anti-slavery movement

September 23, 2016

The fight against slavery continues to pick up momentum. That was a clear message from New York this week as world leaders descended on the city for this year’s United Nations General Assembly.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May demonstrated her commitment to lead an international campaign against modern slavery by holding a small convening on to discuss next steps. I was honoured to represent the Freedom Fund at this event. The other participants were the Prime Minister of Australia, the President of Nigeria, the Prime Minister of Norway, the President of Slovakia, the Deputy PM of Malaysia, the Director-General of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, the UK Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, and a survivor and NGO activist. All participants made clear their commitment to fight slavery and shared views on how to advance the movement. The UK Prime Minister’s press release on this convening, and on her new high level taskforce on slavery, can be found here.

The next day, at the Leaders Summit on Refugees, President Obama highlighted the vulnerability of refugees to slavery. The same day, Prime Minister May also focused on modern slavery in her address to the General Assembly. Both called upon other leaders to tackle this and related evils.

This year’s Clinton Global Initiative meeting, held during UNGA week, also marked three years since the Freedom Fund was first announced by President Clinton. CGI showed a film on the achievements of the Fund since then during a plenary session hosted by Chelsea Clinton.

On Monday, the US State Department formally announced the signing of an MOU with the Freedom Fund. Ambassador Coppedge, the Department’s Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, welcomed the agreement, noting, “I am delighted to join forces with the Freedom Fund, which combines innovative community-based projects fighting trafficking on the ground with top-level research and global initiatives. Our agreement is an important vehicle for effective public-private partnership, bringing to the table some of the leading private sector players in this field.”

And finally the ILO’s Alliance 8.7 was launched at at the Ford Foundation, with a cast of foreign and development ministers and high level UN officials. The objective of the Alliance is to galvanise political support and strengthen multi-stakeholder action on SDG 8.7.  The Alliance will assist all UN member States to eradicate forced labour, modern slavery, human trafficking and child labour by accelerating timelines, conducting research and sharing knowledge, driving innovation, and increasing and leveraging resources.

So it was a busy week, and a highly productive one for the anti-slavery movement. It’s deeply encouraging that we are beginning to see some political leaders put anti-slavery efforts high up their international agendas. We fully intend to build on this momentum.

Written by
Nick Grono