The Freedom Fund intends to launch a new hotspot in Brazil, working in areas where there is a high concentration of both slave labour and illegal deforestation.
According to the Global Slavery Index 2016, there are an estimated 161,100 individuals in conditions of modern slavery in Brazil. Many are forced to work in the same industries that have fueled deforestation, the exploitation of indigenous land and of traditional groups, and violated protected areas of the Amazon.
Slave labour in Brazil is being used for logging of precious woods and in deforestation for agriculture. Labourers involved in this work are predominantly men and boys aged 15 to 40 from low-income families. Commonly recruited from communities characterised by extreme poverty, illiteracy and rural unemployment, these workers are highly vulnerable to being exploited and enslaved, especially through debt bondage. Living conditions often lack basic sanitation and housing, offer no access to medical care, and leave workers susceptible to tropical diseases or other illness. Threats and physical abuse are common.
The Freedom Fund has the unique opportunity to make a measurable impact on modern slavery while also strengthening systems for protecting vital areas of the Amazon. In order to address illegal deforestation and its connection to modern slavery, this Freedom Fund hotspot would:
- Encourage increased strategic integration of resources between environmental, indigenous and anti-slavery organisations, resulting in the reduction of slave labour and deceleration of deforestation. It will enable local networks that are becoming vigilant against deforestation to also understand, directly observe, report on and act against slave labour. The presence of these groups in extremely hard-to-reach areas of the Amazon and their improved awareness of slavery issues will enable the problem of slave labour to become publicly visible and will raise the priority for national action.
- The program will create ways to trigger enforcement actions by the state against these human and environmental rights violations, while seeking to protect the physical safety of those reporting, in spite of the violent criminality of those profiting from the activities.
- In highly-affected areas for the recruitment of workers, the program will strengthen community-based alternatives, especially through adapting existing highly successful education and animation tools to create resistance to slavery as well as by helping Brazilian social safety nets to function better for the poorest, and developing local economic alternatives. Community groups will aim to stop the repeated cycles of vulnerability and slavery.
- Explore how to support criminal prosecutions within Brazil, to further strengthen the successes of the national mobile inspection squad and local labour prosecutors in achieving civil penalties and other economic sanctions against slaveholders.
In 2016, with support from Humanity United, the Freedom Fund commissioned FSG to refine its strategy for Brazil. The recommendations are here in English and in Portuguese.
The Freedom Fund is seeking funding partners to invest in this initiative.