Rebalancing Power to Improve Lives: Humanity United's Forced Labor & Human Trafficking Approach

Humanity United is proud to be launching its refreshed Forced Labor & Human Trafficking portfolio strategy.

In the nine years I have been with Humanity United, I have seen our work toward ending forced labor and human trafficking evolve from individual programs united in their missions, to a portfolio united in its approaches, and finally to a cohesive team. In this work we leverage the wisdom and experience of our partners and actively seek guidance and leadership from those closest to the issue.

We began implementing our initial portfolio strategy just weeks into what would become the global COVID-19 pandemic, unaware of the upheaval that the health crisis would cause. We’d built into it a reflection point three years later, when we would look back on the lessons we learned during our portfolio’s first few years and invite others throughout our field – including some unlikely voices – to give us feedback on our work.

When we reached the end of this reflection point last year, we saw that our approach of cultivating those three core conditions is holding strong.

Through the seismic shifts of the pandemic, the ever-worsening effects of climate change, numerous world-shaking conflicts and humanitarian crises, the growth around the world of a political climate unfriendly to collective action, and the completion of an unprecedented infrastructure project using almost entirely migrant labor (the development of the entire infrastructure of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar) it is clear that our core conditions remain the right ones for us.

Our core programs – focused on Asia Pacific Seafood Supply Chains, Global Supply Chains, and the Nepal-Qatar Migration Corridor – remain separate entities with their own specific goals related to their geographic regions, their priority industries, and their work, all committed to the approach to cultivating the conditions of worker power, safe migration, and corporate accountability.

We have even seen some progress in each area, which we must now work to grow and make sustainable. As we open doors into what has historically been a closed system of forced labor, our work is more united than ever.

I am truly grateful for this opportunity to do meaningful work that I love and I find every conversation with migrant workers humbles me. In my own experience talking to partners, stakeholders, and workers themselves, I heard that we should hold ourselves accountable not only for what changes are made, but also for who decides what changes must be made. I’m constantly reminded that these are the most courageous heroes who are able to take a risk and overcome so many challenges to contribute to their families, as well as the countries they come from through remittances, and take great pride in their work. I have also often heard from workers that they “want implemented law, not just the written law.”

I was particularly struck by the reactions people have to how HU’s support to the communities is not just defined by dollars – it also brings smiles, happiness, and a sense of excitement. As we recognize the wellbeing and health of our partners and ourselves, we are also learning and improving and considering the number of smiles we create for members of the communities we work in. The amount of hope and joy that we can bring to them will last well beyond the dollars we provide.

We have also heard that we have the responsibility to use our own voice. As important as it is to uplift the experiences and leadership of our partners and survivors, we cannot ignore the fact that we have a valuable perspective as well. We are consistently surveying the systems that enable and encourage forced labor and human trafficking, observing changes, and maintaining a constant conversation with our partners and advisors – and that gives us a unique vantage point.

We invite you to learn more about our approach, including what our work looks like on each of our core conditions. In addition, In the coming weeks, each of our teams will provide updated descriptions of their work.

We thank our portfolio team, our close collaborators within other teams, all of our HU colleagues, stakeholders we engaged with, and most of all, our partners, for their commitment to the freedom and dignity of each survivor of forced labor, each worker currently in a situation of exploitation, and each future worker we hope will no longer be targeted for such crimes.