Forced Labor & Human Trafficking

Today, tens of millions of people throughout the world are exploited through force, fraud or coercion. Known by many names – including human trafficking and modern slavery – the exploitation of people remains one of the most pervasive human rights abuses on the planet. It is an affront to human dignity and a systemic barrier for so many to a life of freedom and opportunity.

Humanity United has worked on this issue for more than a decade, supporting a variety of approaches and partners dedicated to addressing various forms of human exploitation. Building on this work, our Forced Labor & Human Trafficking portfolio seeks to address the power imbalances at the heart of these issues for workers who find themselves exploited, specifically the power imbalances between employers and laborers, and those between host and sending countries and migrant workers.

In today’s economy, the goods we consume everyday are often produced far from where they are purchased, successively changing hands along complex and opaque corporate supply chains. Around the world, there are well-documented cases of forced labor throughout the supply chains of almost every corporate sector—from agriculture to construction, and from apparel to electronics. The International Labour Organization estimates that there are approximately 24.9 million victims of forced labor in the world.

The corporate outsourcing of production has created an environment in which there is little visibility and oversight of labor conditions in global supply chains. As corporations work to lower their costs and meet consumer demand for low prices, a system that incentivizes the use of forced labor has become pervasive. We recognize that the market is currently structured to favor capital over labor, which can perpetuate the abuse and exploitation of workers.

Many of the workers exploited around the world are migrant workers, whether migrating within their own country or to another country, who often rely on unscrupulous recruiters to connect them to employment. Also, migrant workers are often denied access to the same rights, protections, and opportunities for remedy that native workers receive in their host countries. We know that these abuses persist because of harmful policies, practices, and cultural barriers faced by migrants. We also recognize that efforts to curtail forced labor and human trafficking are rarely led by—and often even ignore—the workers themselves, who are at the heart of the issue.

This is the system that enables forced labor and abuses around the world. We believe that only by addressing the root-cause issues in the overall system, and ensuring that workers are centered in our efforts, will human dignity be elevated in our modern global economy.

In all our efforts, we remain committed to working in partnership with dedicated individuals, organizations, and networks around the world. These partners have been instrumental in informing our approach and the focus areas of our work:

  • Worker Agency: we support efforts that shift current power dynamics towards greater agency for workers, including worker organizing and leadership.
  • Corporate Accountability: we seek improved fair labor practices, improved supply chain transparency reporting, and mandatory human rights due diligence for companies.
  • Safer Migration: we support efforts to expand access to safer labor migration pathways in order to reduce migrant workers’ vulnerability to exploitation.

Our focus areas are reflected in our strategic initiatives, which include work on Global Supply Chains, Seafood Supply Chains, and the Nepal/Qatar Migration Corridor.

Our partners each cut across and/or influence multiple focus areas. Some of them include:

Business and Human Rights Resource Centre

Business and Human Rights Resource Centre works to advance human rights in business and eradicate human rights abuse in the private sector. The organization focuses on three strategic priorities to achieve this: (1) Empowering human rights advocates in civil society and business to act to prevent and remedy human rights abuse by companies and promote bold leadership for human rights in business; (2) Building corporate accountability to support communities and civil society to gain effective remedy when abuse occurs and providing companies with an opportunity to respond; and (3) Increasing transparency of business impacts on human rights to help victims and civil society get their concerns heard, and to reward leading companies, and encourage those lagging behind.

Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha

Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha is a worker-led organization where workers organize, educate and empower each other to fight for a voice in their workplaces and in their communities. They partner with other organizations and leaders to build a movement to win racial, gender and economic justice. They identify the root causes of injustice and work to shift the balance of power between those who have it and those who don’t to improve the lives of our communities for present and future generations.

Funders Organized for Rights in the Global Economy (FORGE)

Funders Organized for Rights in the Global Economy (FORGE) is a collaborative of philanthropic donors, working together towards a global economy that works for all people and the planet, shaped by and accountable to worker- and community-led movements. FORGE funders work to support reforms that are grounded in the rights and power of communities and workers, strengthen accountability, and seek to address underlying flaws in the financial system. FORGE believes that shifting the balance of power within the global economy involves collective, intersectional responses that build across constituencies and up to strategic pressure points.

Law & Policy Forum for Social Justice

Law & Policy Forum for Social Justice is an organization established by lawyers working in the field of rule of law, human rights, and constitutional issues. The organization holds an expertise in research and strategic litigation with some of the pioneer human rights lawyers of Nepal mentoring the organization. They are involved in jurisprudence setting litigation in the Supreme Court of Nepal.

Migrant Workers Rights Network

Migrant Workers Rights Network is a migrant-led organization that focuses on building migrant worker leaders in Thailand, connecting them to their informal worker associations, and providing advice and assistance on legal and social matters.

Nepal Investigative Multimedia Journalism Network

Nepal Investigative Multimedia Journalism Network is a Nepal based non-profit that provides advanced investigative multimedia reporting training and mentorship for journalists to produce collaborative investigative stories.

Partners for Dignity & Rights (formerly NESRI)

Partners for Dignity & Rights (formerly NESRI) supports struggles led by people most impacted by inequality, inequity and injustice. Together, they pursue meaningful changes that directly improve people’s lives now, and they lay the groundwork for transformational change by building a movement for human rights.

SAMATA Foundation

SAMATA Foundation is an independent think-tank that engages in research, both empirical and policy, and informed advocacy for the rights of marginalized people, especially Dalit social groups. It firmly believes that real change can only be brought by producing critical youth mass of Dalit and non-Dalit, disseminating knowledge, encouraging civic participation and preparing individuals from Dalit social groups to become leaders of the next generation.

Shramik Sanjal

Shramik Sanjal is an informal network of migrant workers from Nepal currently working in various countries, primarily in the Gulf countries. They are all volunteers, and they have come together to create a sense of community, support one another, and advocate for the rights of migrant workers.

Stella Maris Seafarers’ Center

Stella Maris Seafarers’ Center works in Thailand’s port areas to improve migrant workers’ knowledge of labour and migrant rights through awareness raising activities and training of migrant leaders. The organisation conducts stakeholder workshops to increase understanding of business and human rights and facilitates linkages between migrant community-based organisations, migrant networks, employers and local authorities. Stella Maris also assists with referrals of trafficking and forced labour victims to the official state agency and provides legal advice to migrant workers.

Worker Rights Consortium

Worker Rights Consortium is an independent labor rights monitoring organization that investigates working conditions in garment factories around the globe. The purpose of the Worker Rights Consortium is to document and combat sweatshop conditions; seek to reform the practices of global brands and retailers that perpetuate labor rights abuses; and protect the rights of workers who make apparel and other products.

HU is also supporting the piloting of an ethical recruitment program for the seafood sector in the Myanmar-Thailand and Cambodia-Thailand corridors that will establish a white-list of certified ethical recruitment agencies. Companies involved mapped their labour supply chains, giving them a greater understanding of the costs of recruitment that workers take on. As a result, these companies agreed to a range of policies required to implement responsible recruitment in future, committing to implement a model that should significantly reduce recruitment-related costs for thousands of workers.