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International architecture


The United Nations (UN) has a long and complex history of involvement in efforts to address slavery. And yet – despite all this activity – experts estimate that there are some 35.8 million people living in slavery or slave-like conditions today. 2016 represents an opportunity to move the needle on anti-slavery efforts significantly at the UN, due to increased visibility for the issue – on 16 December 2015 the UN Security Council held its first ever debate on human trafficking and modern slavery – and a new Secretary General.

The UN’s diverse efforts against human trafficking, slavery, forced labour and related practices have evolved organically over the last four decades, as the result of normative and practical entrepreneurialism across a range of inter-governmental and programmatic bodies. Each area of work has its own focus, governance arrangements, resources and political coalitions. The result is a fragmented and at times inefficient set of arrangements, which risks internal competition, inefficiency, limited field impact – and not taking advantage of the normative, regulatory and social impact available to the UN.

This project aims to analyse the UN’s anti-slavery efforts and recommend how they might be strengthened, through systematic desk- and interview-based research and consultation. On the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, 2 December 2015, we launched a report with the United Nations University.
It contains practical, focused, politically feasible recommendations for strengthening the UN’s anti-slavery efforts. Now, with a UN Security Council Presidential statement calling for increased efforts to combat modern slavery and requesting a report from the new Secretary General at the end of 2016, the Freedom Fund will continue its work to keep modern slavery high on the agenda of the world’s multinational institutions.