World's Low-Cost Economy Built on the Backs of 46 Million Modern Day Slaves
'Business leaders who refuse to look into the realities of their own supply chains are misguided and irresponsible.'
World's Low-Cost Economy Built on the Backs of 46 Million Modern Day Slaves
By Deirdre Fulton / commondreams.org

Close to 46 million men, women, and children are enslaved across the world, according to a harrowing new report from the Australia-based Walk Free Foundation.

Many of them, the analysis notes, are in fact ensnared providing "the low-cost labor that produces consumer goods for markets in Western Europe, Japan, North America, and Australia."

The organization's 2016 Global Slavery Index—based on 42,000 interviews conducted in 53 languages, covering 44 percent of global population—found there to be 28 percent more "modern slaves" than previously estimated.

According to the report (pdf), "modern slavery refers to situations of exploitation that a person cannot refuse or leave because of threats, violence, coercion, abuse of power or deception, with treatment akin to a farm animal." The classification includes victims of human trafficking, forced labor, debt bondage, sex trafficking, forced marriage, and other such exploitation.

More than half (58 percent) of those who are enslaved are in five countries: India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Uzbekistan. In the latter country, for example, during the annual cotton harvest, one million citizens were subjected to state-sanctioned forced labor in 2015.

Accompanying the report is a case study of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, penned by Kevin Bales, a professor of Contemporary Slavery at the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation at the University of Hull in the UK.

"Slavery never happens in isolation," he writes, arguing that in the wake of armed conflict "a perfect storm of lawlessness, slavery, and environmental destruction can occur—driving the vulnerable into slave-based work that feeds into global supply chains and the things we buy and use in our daily lives."

Bales explains:

In the past twenty years, this perfect storm has hit the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A war that erupted in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide spread across the region, bringing collapse to the Congo’s ruling dictatorship, invasion by surrounding nations, and a sharp rise in slavery and sexual violence. The armed groups that grabbed parts of the eastern provinces were not there for political or religious reasons, but to steal and sell valuable minerals and other natural resources. Lacking mining technology, but heavily armed, these criminal groups enslaved thousands of local people.

These slaves were forced to cut protected virgin forests, level mountains, spoil streams and rivers with great open-strip mines, and massacre rare and endangered species like gorillas. The minerals these slaves dug, processed and then carried on their backs to smuggle them out of the country flowed into our lives. For these slave-based, environmentally-destructive minerals are essential to making cell phones, computers, and the thousands of other electronic devices that surround us every day.

"Closing down slave-based logging, brick-making, mining, or charcoal production will not hurt our lifestyles or the global economy," he concludes. "What it will do is get people out of slavery and slow global warming and climate change—a classic win-win situation."

Walk Free also explores how violent conflict in the Middle East has led to mass "distress migration" that has in turn "had a trifold effect on neighboring host countries: (a) increased competition for low-paying jobs and employment in the informal economy; (b) increased incidence of all forms of modern slavery, such as child labor, forced begging, and forced early marriage; and (c) reduced capacity of State actors to respond to trafficking cases because already scarce resources are outlaid on the emergency provision of services to refugees instead of supporting migrant workers."

With this in mind, writes Walk Free's executive director of global research Fiona David, "a strong focus on safe, well-managed migration, whether in times of peace or conflict, must become a cornerstone of integrated international and national responses to modern slavery."

In his forward to the report, Walk Free founder and chairman Andrew Forrest puts the onus on corporations to help end modern slavery. "Businesses that don’t actively look for forced labor within their supply chains," he said, "are standing on a burning platform. Business leaders who refuse to look into the realities of their own supply chains are misguided and irresponsible."

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

3.8 ·
1
What's Next
Trending Today
Who Are You? Watching This Breathtaking Video Could Be the Moment You Change Your Life
2 min · 23,945 views today · "Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to a job that you need so you can...
Welcome to Marinaleda: The Spanish Anti-Capitalist Town With Equal Wage Full Employment and $19 Housing
Jade Small · 16,761 views today · With virtually no police, crime or unemployment, meet the Spanish town described as a democratic, socialist utopia. Unemployment is non-existent in Marinaleda, an Andalusian...
When You Kill Ten Million Africans You Aren't Called 'Hitler'
Liam O'Ceallaigh · 13,986 views today · Take a look at this picture. Do you know who it is? Most people haven’t heard of him. But you should have. When you see his face or hear his name you should get as sick in...
How to Criticize with Kindness: Philosopher Daniel Dennett on the Four Steps to Arguing Intelligently
Maria Popova · 11,525 views today · “Just how charitable are you supposed to be when criticizing the views of an opponent?”
Forest Man
16 min · 10,867 views today · Since the 1970's Majuli islander Jadav Payeng has been planting trees in order to save his island. To date he has single handedly planted a forest larger than Central Park NYC...
10 Shocking Facts About Society That We Absurdly Accept As Normal
Joe Martino · 8,627 views today · When you take a moment and look around at the world, things can appear pretty messed up. Take 5 or 10 minutes and watch the 6 o’clock news. Chances are, the entire time, all...
How a Trump Presidency Would Unleash a Torrent of Racist Violence-And Devastate the Left
Arun Gupta · 8,173 views today · The Left should take the Trump threat very seriously.
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 6,185 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
What It Really Means to Hold Space for Someone
Heather Plett · 5,792 views today · How to be there for the people who need you most
Alan Watts: What If Money Was No Object?
3 min · 5,773 views today · How do you like to spend your life? What do you desire? What if money didn't matter? What if money was no object? What would you like to do if money were no object? Spoken...
Maya Angelou's 3-Word Secret to Living Your Best Life
3 min · 4,031 views today · Dr. Maya Angelou says that in order to be the best human being you can be, you must follow one simple directive: "Just do right." Watch as Dr. Angelou reveals how you can never...
Caitlin Moran's Posthumous Advice for Her Daughter
Caitlin Moran · 3,749 views today · My daughter is about to turn 13 and I’ve been smoking a lot recently, and so – in the wee small hours, when my lungs feel like there’s a small mouse inside them, scratching to...
Ten Ways We Misunderstand Children
Jan Hunt · 2,956 views today · 1. We expect children to be able to do things before they are ready. We ask an infant to keep quiet. We ask a 2-year-old to sit still. We ask a 3-year-old to clean his room...
The International Criminal Court May Start Prosecuting People Who Commit Crimes Against the Environment
Tara Smith · 2,720 views today · The International Criminal Court is not known for prosecuting people responsible for huge oil slicks, chopping down protected rainforests or contaminating pristine land. But...
Do You Have Time to Love?
Thich Nhat Hanh · 2,651 views today · The greatest gift you can offer loved ones is your true presence.
American Cartel: How America's Two Major Parties Helped Destroy Democracy
Frank Castro · 2,645 views today · Cartel: An association of manufacturers or suppliers with the purpose of maintaining prices at a high level and restricting competition.
Better, Not More
5 min · 2,385 views today · As we assess the current state of our world and consider together the elements that are essential to a ‘just transition’, and ultimately, a just economy, we are called to...
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 2,376 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
Capitalism Is Just a Story - Rise Up and Create a New One
6 min · 2,332 views today · How many of us have a sneaking suspicion that something pretty fundamental is going wrong in the world? We keep hearing about the potentially devastating consequences of...
“You Can Have Your Weak Nominee If You Wish” – the Sanders Endorsement Backfires on Hillary Clinton, Empowers Sanders in One Masterstroke
Saib Bilaval · 2,288 views today · Ultimately, what the Sanders endorsement has proved is what the candidate was arguing from the beginning – that it was not Sanders and his campaign that was holding Hillary...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
World's Low-Cost Economy Built on the Backs of 46 Million Modern Day Slaves