Using the law to defeat modern slavery

by Nick Grono
Tuesday, 24 February 2015 19:21 GMT

A migrant walks barefoot after arriving by boat at the Sicilian harbour of Pozzallo, February 16, 2015. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

There are more 36 million people enslaved today around the world

Every country has declared slavery illegal.

Yet this crime persists today, with more 36 million people trapped in conditions of modern slavery around the world: women and girls held in sex slavery in Thailand; children coerced to work as domestic servants in Haiti; Nepali men tricked into debt bondage on World Cup construction sites in Qatar; girls and women sold into slavery by ISIS as a tactic of terror.  

Yet despite the many names and faces of modern slavery, they all have one thing in common: the extreme exploitation of highly vulnerable human beings.  Illegal deprivation of liberty, in any form, is a grotesque abuse of human rights.

Strengthening national and international legal tools is a key strategy in the fight to reduce modern slavery. 

And that is why the Global Law Summit - a high profile international conference discussing the world's most pressing legal issues - will feature a discussion on the current legal landscape with respect to modern slavery and human trafficking. 

This Summit will bring together practitioners, business leaders, public sector decision makers and government officials from around the world to discuss, debate, and innovate across markets and jurisdictions.  This forum is not only an exciting opportunity to exchange ideas, but also highlights the importance of legal interventions and tools needed in the fight against modern slavery.

I am honored to be participating on the panel on modern slavery with a distinguished group of speakers including the Right Honourable Brenda Marjorie Hale. Baroness Hale is aBritish legal academic, barrister, judge, and Deputy President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.  

French Minister of Justice, Christiane Taubira will deliver remarks related to France and the wider European perspective and Monique Villa, CEO of Thomson Reuters Foundation and Founder of TrustLaw and Trust Women will speak on the contribution of the corporate and financial sectors in tackling human trafficking and slavery.The 

newly appointed UK Anti Slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland, to discuss recent changes to legislation in the UK, aswell as, landmark cases against human traffickers.

As CEO of the Freedom Fund, the world's first private donor fund dedicated to ending modern slavery, I will focus my comments on the legal tools needed to effectively fight slavery. At the Fund we identify and invest in the most effective frontline efforts and interventions to end modern slavery.  

We allocate capital to the most effective interventions, using a hotspot approach. Hotspots are geographic areas known to have the highest concentration of slavery. We target our efforts and bring together the best organisations working on the ground against slavery, and use our expertise and resources to help them achieve the greatest impact possible.

India is home to an estimated 14 million people in bondage and slavery, which is why it was chosen as the Freedom Fund's first hotspot.  

Increasing access to legal support and harnessing the power of the law is a key strategy in our hotspot approach. Despite being illegal, forced and bonded labour is widespread, and commercial sexual exploitation and child labour thrive - often with impunity for perpetrators and limited legal recourse for victims. Victims often require legal assistance

from NGOs and independent lawyers. This assistance is wide ranging, from ensuring claims are registered by the police through to briefing public prosecutors or pursuing other remedies for victims. However, legal resources and capacity are extremely limited and there is huge scope to scale up the fight against trafficking through the use of strategic legal initiatives.

The Freedom Fund is partnering with with Thomson Reuters Foundation to produce Putting Justice First: Legal Strategies to Combat Human Trafficking in India. 

This report will make key rrecommendations on legal strategies to combat trafficking and improve legal outcomes for such victims. The full report with be released in May, and will document how important access to legal support and enforcement of the law is in the fight to combat modern slavery.

By enhancing the rule of law and making better use of existing legal instruments, we can significantly enhance the risks and costs to perpetrators responsible for horrendous crimes - and thereby make a big measurable impact in the fight against slavery. 

Nick Grono is CEO of the Freedom Fund, a philanthropic initiative designed to bring financial resources and strategic focus to the fight against modern slavery.