The Freedom Fund was conceived by its three founders, Humanity United, Legatum Foundation and Minderoo Foundation in mid-2013. As three of the major private funders in the anti-slavery space at that time, they saw a need for a dedicated fund to mobilise increased resources for the sector; drive an ambitious research agenda that would identify interventions that could be replicated and scaled; and help unify a fragmented field. The Freedom Fund was officially announced by President Bill Clinton on 26 September 2013 at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York. A video of the announcement is here.
Nick Grono was appointed as CEO in January 2014, based in London. The Freedom Fund held its first board meeting in San Francisco on 27 January 2014. Its first hotspot commenced in March 2014, aimed at reducing trafficking, bonded labour and harmful child labour in northern India. The Freedom Fund moved into its own offices in New York and London in mid-2014. The formal launch of the organisation took place on 24 September 2014 in New York. The launch video is here.
In November that year, the Fund launched its second hotspot, in south-eastern Nepal, where our partners are helping families trapped in agricultural bonded labour advocate for an end to this inter-generational form of modern slavery.
On 19 December 2014, the Fund announced it was to receive a $6 million investment from the Stardust Fund, as a new anchor donor. Stardust’s donor adviser, the artist and human rights activist Molly Gochman, joined the Freedom Fund board in January 2015. An overview of the Freedom Fund’s work in 2014 can be found here.
In March 2015, C&A Foundation invested $2.7 million as part of a new two-year partnership focused on the eradication of forced and bonded labour in the textile industry in Tamil Nadu, southern India. Since then, the Freedom Fund’s southern India hotspot has provided support to local organisations to promote safe and decent work in the textile industry and reduce bonded labour found in parts of the sector. C&A Foundation renewed its commitment to the hotspot in June 2017 with a further three-year investment of $3.9 million.
In July 2015 the Freedom Fund announced a partnership with the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF). The British philanthropy granted the Freedom Fund $11 million over five years to scale its anti-slavery work around the world, with a particular focus on tackling the exploitation of children.
The Freedom Fund launched three more hotspots in 2015. In January, we opened our Thailand hotspot in partnership with Humanity United, focussed on eradicating slavery in the Thai seafood industry. In July 2015 operations began in our Ethiopia hotspot, promoting safe migration for women and girls travelling to the Middle East for domestic work. And in August 2015, with support from Legatum, our hotspot opened in central Nepal, with the goal of reducing the number of children who are sexually exploited in the adult entertainment industry.
While the Freedom Fund’s predominant focus has been on programmatic work in high prevalence countries, it has also strategically engaged in advocacy and thematic work. In particular, it has been encouraging the UN Secretary-General and the UN Security Council to devote greater attention to modern slavery and human trafficking, issuing a comprehensive report on the UN’s role here.
Following the launch of this report, the United Nations Security Council held on 16 December 2015 its first ever hearing on Trafficking in Persons in Situations of Conflict. The Freedom Fund’s CEO Nick Grono was one of two non-UN experts asked to brief the council on the issue of human trafficking and modern slavery. His statement can be found here. The other expert was Nadia Murad Taha, a powerful Yazidi advocate, and her statement can be found here.
A video of the Freedom Fund’s impact to date can be found here.