Joint Statement on Modern Slavery ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2022
COVID-19 ravaged communities, livelihoods, and increased vulnerabilities to contemporary forms of slavery. Armed conflicts, such as the current crisis in Ukraine, have also driven displacement and further exacerbated slavery and human trafficking. In June 2022, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) will take place for the first time in four years, and the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), the Commonwealth 8.7 Network, and our allies have a unique opportunity to pressure governments to take this issue seriously.
How bad is it? According to the 2018 Global Slavery Index, approximately 40 percent of people experiencing modern slavery reside in Commonwealth Countries. Yes – that’s 1 in every 150 people in the Commonwealth. To make matters worse, of the approximately 40.3 million people living in modern slavery, 71% are women and girls, and one in four victims is a child – and we know these figures only rose alongside COVID-19 restriction measures.
At the previous CHOGM in 2018, States called for effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking, and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour in all its forms by 2025, including the unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers. They also encouraged ratification and implementation of outstanding international agreements, the development of national strategies, and they agreed to take action to end child sexual exploitation online. But they’ve fallen behind, and currently won’t fulfil their SDG 8.7 targets by 2030.