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The Anti-Slavery Charter sets out basic measures that states, NGOs, businesses and societies must take to end slavery across the globe.
In 2022, Walk Free, the International Labour Organization and the International Organization for Migration estimated that there are around 50 million people in slavery across the world.
Slavery, such as forced labour and child slavery persist in the world because they are permitted to exist. Ending these human rights abuses depends on changing fundamentally the way we, as a society, set the laws, policies, customs and practices that govern how we establish and conduct employment, trade and development.
Given this we, the undersigned, recognise that fundamental changes are necessary to tackle and eliminate slavery. In order to empower those vulnerable to slavery and to transform exploitative practices into decent work, it is necessary to close the gaps in laws, policies and practices that allow the unscrupulous to exploit other human beings with impunity.
To achieve this it is necessary to ensure the universal application of established legal, social, economic and human rights principles that, in combination, can begin to properly address slavery and its underlying causes.
We therefore commit ourselves to support the full realisation of the following measures:
- Rule of law shall be assured
National and international systems of rule of law must be established and enforced that protect the human rights of all, which must be administered without fear or favour by a sufficient number of properly trained judges and a similar, professional police force to ensure that the promise of the laws to protect is not an empty one.
- Discrimination shall be prohibited
States, businesses and civil society must take meaningful measures to eradicate dehumanising and discriminatory practices from every section of society and to ensure true equality before the law.
- National legislation shall criminalise all forms of slavery
National governments, in keeping with international law, must enact and enforce a comprehensive legal framework that specifically criminalises all forms of slavery and defines appropriately prohibitory sanctions for perpetrators.
- … shall protect individuals from slavery
Particular attention should be given to measures to protect victims of slavery practices during legal process and prevent the unjust criminalisation of individuals for actions they are forced to commit as a direct consequence of their slavery or exploitation, in keeping with international law. Adequate support and protection, including access to alternative livelihoods, must be provided to victims of slavery.
- … and shall advance access to decent work
There must be a sufficient and coherent body of law to establish, and realise, minimum criteria for decent working conditions and protection from exploitation, irrespective of the nature of the work, or social opinions regarding that work.
- Protect vulnerable workers
Particular attention should be paid to the specific needs of disadvantaged groups or individuals, such as women, children, migrants, people affected by disability, and people affected by caste discrimination, to achieve equal access and treatment.
- Freedom of Association shall be guaranteed
Constraints on establishing democratic trades unions must be removed and the rights of workers and human rights activists to free association upheld.
- Immigration law and policy which maintains or increases an individual’s vulnerability to exploitation and slavery shall be prohibited
No visa should ever be tied, either explicitly or for all practical purposes, to a specific job or employer. Workers must be able to leave a job or employer without fear of sanction, and they must be entitled to leave a country without fear of criminal or civil penalty for doing simply that.
- The rights of children shall be upheld
Measures must be enacted to uphold the rights of children and protect them from child labour and enslavement, including sexual exploitation, forced child begging and domestic servitude. In particular all nations must ensure universal access to quality and appropriate education up to the age of 18, particularly for girls, for groups vulnerable to slavery, and for communities where child labour is endemic.
- Forced marriage shall be prohibited
All nations must put in place, and implement, laws, policies and effective law enforcement to bring all forms of forced marriage, in particular forced child marriage, to an end.
Humanitarian and Development Actors
- Slavery is a fundamental issue of poverty
Humanitarian and development policy makers and practitioners should actively consider how their work can contribute to the reduction of slavery, and develop programmes and strategies to empower slavery vulnerable communities and individuals.
- Full transparency of national and international business supply chains shall be established and enforced
National governments must require, and businesses must establish, transparency of corporate supply chains to identify where risks of slavery, forced and child labour are highest and to help identify the causes of these risks. States must ensure trade agreements fully protect the rights of workers and communities, and establish and enforce robust national systems of professional labour inspection to identify and exclude slavery, forced and child labour from business supply chains.
- Recruitment agencies and practices shall be appropriately regulated
Recruitment agencies, particularly those engaged in international recruitment, must be regulated to ensure that the practices of these agencies do not debt-bond or otherwise render workers vulnerable to slavery and exploitation. Businesses must, through due-diligence, ensure that any labour providers they use adhere to basic standards of human rights protections.
- Goods tainted by slavery, forced and child labour shall be forbidden
Where businesses and states have not set robust plans and processes to access and address slavery and exploitation, powers should be established and executed to exclude goods produced with slavery practices from international markets.
We the undersigned commit to using our power, whatever it may be, to empower those vulnerable to slavery, to advance emancipation, and to promote access to decent work.
- Anti-Slavery International
- International Dalit Solidarity Network
- Dalit Solidarity Network UK
- Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
- Liberty Asia
- Freedom United
- The Mekong Club
- Urmilla Bhoola, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Slavery
- Human Trafficking Foundation
- Freedom Fund
- International Trade Union Confederation
- The Rights Lab, University of Nottingham
- Historians Against Slavery
- Anti-Slavery Australia
- ECPAT UK
- Trades Union Congress, UK
- Democracy Today
- The Rotarian Action Group against Slavery
- Rescue Global
- International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations
- World Association of Former United Nations Internes and Fellowes Inc. (WAFUNIF)
- Business & Human Rights Resource Centre
- Co-Op Group
- Marks and Spencer
- Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council
- The Ethical Gift Box
- British Land
- Fidelis Insurance
- i3Works Ltd
- Liberty London
If you would like to add the name of your organisation to the Charter, or if you would like to give us feedback on it please contact Anti-Slavery International’s Communications Manager Jessica Turner on firstname.lastname@example.org.