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: