United Nations to investigate how financial sector can fight modern slavery

 
Louis Ashworth
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A protest against human trafficking in Libya. Estimates say 40.3 million men, women and children experienced modern slavery or trafficking in 2016 (Source: Getty)

Leaders from the financial sector, global regulators and non-governmental organisations will work alongside survivors as part of a new United Nations (UN) commission which aims to explore the role of the financial sector in fighting human rights abuses.


The Financial Sector Commission on Modern Slavery, launched today, will examine the ways in which financial services can come into contact with connected crimes. Known as the Liechtenstein Initiative (LI), the commission says it will examine how the financial sector’s “global reach” can be used to detect and disrupt financial flows associated with trafficking.

The LI, formed as a partnership between Liechtenstein, the Austrian government and the United Nations University, said the financial sector is “pivotal” to efforts to fight abuses.

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Estimates suggest that annual proceeds from forced labour run to over $150bn (£114.7bn). According to UN’s International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Walk Free Foundation over 40.3 million men, women and children experienced modern slavery or trafficking in 2016 – equating to 1 in every 185 people. The majority of slave labourers are exploited through non-payment of wages and debt bondage.


In 2015, 193 countries to pledged to take action to end both types of abuse by 2030, and there has been an increasing effort to engage the private sector with efforts.

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Fiona Reynolds, chair of the LI and chief executive of Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), said: “The financial sector has a significant role to play in working to eradicate modern slavery and human trafficking. The Financial Sector Commission is the first of its kind to leverage expertise from all parts of the sector to take coordinated and comprehensive action on these pervasive human rights abuses.”

“The outcome of the Commission will outline practical, relevant and actionable steps forward in this fight,” she added.