Principles to guide Government action to combat human trafficking in global supply chains

  • Joint Statement
24 September 2018

The latest estimates suggest that 25 million people are in forced labour worldwide; 16 million in the private economy. Every day, in every region of the world, people are exploited in a multitude of industries including agriculture, electronics and apparel, among many others. Given the global nature of supply chains and the workforce that powers them, coordinated government action is critical in the fight to eradicate human trafficking, modern slavery and forced labour1 from our economies and to achieve the vision of Sustainable Development Goal 8.7. Together with the private sector, civil society, survivors, and international organizations, governments can implement policies and practices that raise awareness, incentivize innovation and action, and foster collaboration among key stakeholders.

On September 19 of 2017, the Governments of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the United States, among others, endorsed a Call to Action to End Forced Labour, Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking, through which we committed to taking steps to eliminate slavery from our economies. The principles below provide a framework on which all countries can build a strategy to take effective action to prevent and eradicate human trafficking from public and private sector supply chains.

These principles are intended to align with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and other frameworks2 and to complement the responsibilities governments have to protect human rights, enforce labor laws, protect fundamental principles and rights at work, regardless of worker migration status, and prevent and combat corruption–all factors that can help to prevent human trafficking.

As a group of countries with a combined central government spend of more than $600bn USD in 2017, we recognize that we have significant financial leverage and policy options at our disposal that can help to prevent human trafficking in global supply chains. In that context, we commit to take action to implement the principles below by advancing policies that are consistent with their objectives.

Although these principles stand as broad overarching objectives that all governments should work toward, it is recognized that governments may deploy varying practical measures drawn from their laws, policies, and practices and appropriate to their contexts to achieve the objectives3. To that end, our governments commit to meet annually as appropriate to coordinate our efforts, and invite other interested Parties to join.

Principle 1: Governments should take steps to prevent and address human trafficking in Government procurement practices

Analyze, develop, and implement measures to identify, prevent and reduce the risk of human trafficking in government procurement supply chains. Additionally, governments can: provide tools and incentives and adopt risk assessment policies and procedures that require their procurement officers and contractors to assess the nature and extent of potential exposure to human trafficking in their supply chains; and take targeted action, including adopting appropriate due diligence processes, to identify, prevent, mitigate, remedy, and account for how they address human trafficking.

Principle 2: Governments should encourage the private sector to prevent and address human trafficking in its supply chains

Work in partnership with business, workers and survivors to set clear expectations for private sector entities on their responsibility to conduct appropriate due diligence in their supply chains to identify, prevent, and mitigate human trafficking. Governments can also provide tools and incentives to the private sector to encourage meaningful action and public reporting of their efforts, including through programs, policies or legislation.

Principle 3: Governments should advance responsible recruitment policies and practices

Advance responsible recruitment practices, including by implementing policies that incentivize and support responsible practices, and by supporting initiatives such as the "Employer Pays Principle". Governments can also contribute to the growing knowledge base of promising practices for protecting workers from fraud and exploitation in the recruitment process.

Principle 4: Governments should strive for harmonization

Make reasonable efforts to share information and work with other committed governments to align existing and proposed laws, regulations and policies to combat human trafficking in global supply chains.

1Whether called human trafficking, forced labor, or modern slavery, the issue is the exploitation of human beings for the purpose of compelled service through force, other forms of coercion, or fraud. For a definition of "trafficking in persons", see the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children.

2Other frameworks include the ILO's Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (fundamental worker rights), the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles Concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy, the UN Convention against Corruption, as well as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct.

3 These principles are not legally binding and do not affect states' existing obligations under applicable international and domestic law, but rather reflect the political commitments of the states represented.

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