Hong Kong: 17 June – The Freedom Fund has today announced its investment in a three-year, USD$5 million initiative against slavery in the Thai seafood industry. The Freedom Fund is the world’s first private donor fund dedicated to ending modern slavery, with a focus on fighting slavery in high prevalence countries, such as Thailand.
Thailand is the third largest exporter of seafood in the world, with exports valued at over USD$7 billion annually. The U.S. and EU together account for approximately 40% of the Thai export market. Migrants, who are especially vulnerable to labour exploitation, make up an estimated 90% of the Thai seafood workforce.
Speaking at the Trust Forum Asia in Hong Kong, Nick Grono, the CEO of the Freedom Fund, said: “There is now a real opportunity to drive significant change in this most exploitative of industries. The Thai government and international seafood producers and retailers are under intense scrutiny following recent media exposés of the abusive practices, which has led to the threat of sanctions from the US and European governments.”
The Freedom Fund’s US$5million initiative will focus on encouraging international retailers and producers to address forced labour in their supply chains by developing tools to increase transparency and support responsible supply chain management. The initiative builds on the groundbreaking investments of Humanity United, a founding partner of the Freedom Fund, which have helped to expose slave labour in the Thai shrimp industry.
The Freedom Fund will encourage Thai and regional governments to turn their rhetoric into action by improving the regulatory framework, undertaking effective inspections at sea and aggressively prosecuting traffickers and abusive business owners.
“Western retailers are now scrambling to identify tainted seafood in their supply chains. The Thai government is also under pressure, but still dragging its feet. And despite claims to the contrary, exploitation in the fishing industry continues with apparent impunity, as evidenced by the fact that to date no fishing boat captain or owner has been convicted for these abuses.”
The Freedom Fund will also support grassroots organisations – particularly Burmese and Cambodian migrant groups – to provide shelter and legal aid for victims and to organise to protect their rights. Coordination and collaboration with other frontline organisations will also be at the forefront of this strategy, to ensure there is an effective approach to services and support.
The Thailand initiative is the Freedom Fund’s sixth “hotspot” investment.
About the Freedom Fund
The Freedom Fund is a new philanthropic initiative designed to bring much-needed financial resources and strategic focus to the fight against modern slavery. With an expert team and global perspective, the Freedom Fund aims to raise $100 million by 2020 for smart anti-slavery investments in the countries and sectors where it is most needed.
Its approach is to focus on hotspots—defined geographic regions with a high concentration of slavery—and target resources to frontline organisations closest to the problem.
Its country-based experts visit high-risk areas to identify the grassroots partners and systemic initiatives that are having the biggest impact in protecting those at risk from slavery, enabling liberation and recovery of those already enslaved, and bringing those responsible to justice. It works closely with partners to help them improve their results and rigorously measure their outcomes.
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