Global progress on modern slavery hangs in the balance with EU law

As the EU stalls on passing the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive, our CEO Jasmine O’Connor OBE shares a statement about what this law means for global progress to end modern slavery.

“Everyone, everywhere deserves to live and work in freedom, without having to face exploitation, abuse and forced labour. So why are there still well over 21 million people trapped in modern slavery in the private sector and by their governments?

Since 2017, we’ve urged the EU to make global progress towards ending modern slavery, with two pioneering laws to tackle forced labour of children and adults. These are vital laws that people in or at risk of modern slavery need to protect them from exploitation, and soon.

I’m devastated that today, this global progress towards ending modern slavery worldwide has not only been stalled, but actively attacked by a few powerful Member States and businesses as the European Council has failed to endorse the law. Make no mistake, losing the EU’s proposed Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive would hamper the progress needed to end modern slavery around the world.

It is not too late. History can be made this week, by passing a law to protect workers from exploitation and forced labour. But if it is not, the impact will be far-reaching, sending a shameful message to the world.

Today, a small minority of politicians and business leaders are failing the 17.3 million people trapped in forced labour in the private sector, and the 3.9 million people who are forced by their governments to work against their will.

Today, businesses and politicians are risking the biggest chance the world has seen in recent history to improve conditions for millions of workers around the world, to provide access to justice, and to prevent people from being harmed in slavery in the future.

Business lobbies have been working hard behind the scenes to pressure politicians into challenging this proposed law. The German Government has buckled to domestic political pressure and the French Government has given in to pressure from business lobbies. Italy, along with various smaller Member States, has followed in the wake of this uncertainty, allowing itself to be swayed. It is shameful to see France and Germany – two countries that already have their own due diligence laws – blocking this crucial opportunity to tackle forced labour globally. It is disappointing to see other Member States prioritise political interests over people and planet.

We still have the opportunity to fight for this. Member States must endorse the law and demonstrate their commitment to ending modern slavery once and for all.

We’ve been pushing to bring a full and final end to slavery for over 180 years, and we know the positive impact this law can have – and businesses know it too. We want to thank every business and politician that is pledging support for this law and pushing on. Your support demonstrates that people and planet must come before profit. Together, we are still pushing for every country to compel companies to put people before profit. We will not stop until everyone is free.”

Jasmine O’Connor OBE