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Arise Trustees at UK House of Lords: Combatting slavery in the Commonwealth

Short Debate, House of Lords 4 March 2021

Lord Hogan-Howe urges the UK Government to support frontline groups against slavery and human trafficking, as 'the best catalysts for real and lasting change'.

Lord Alton urges the UK Government to spearhead a global Commonwealth campaign against slavery, with mandatory human rights due diligence and supply chain transparency. 'It could include a Commonwealth-wide boycott of cotton products made by enslaved Uyghur labour in Xinjiang'.


Lord Hogan-Howe

I'd like to declare an interest, which is that of being a trustee for the charity Arise, and I thank them for their briefing.

Can the Government commit to a modern slavery strategy within Commonwealth countries that ensues support focuses on empowering and building the capacity of local civil society groups and other actors, such as local police, religious sisters and local government?

I will illustrate my question with just one example. The Indian-Nepalese border is one of the most prolific corridors for human trafficking in the world. In 2018 it was estimated that 50 women alone were trafficked into India a day, and 2,500 children are trafficked into Bihar - just one of five Indian states bordering Nepal. Horrifically, most of these children are headed for the brothels across India.

I think we should prioritise partnerships that empower and strengthen their local communities. These groups are best placed to ensure sustainable change and of course identify victims.

It is hard for governments to prioritise these groups but I do think we should prioritise their capacity, committing to support small-scale sustainable efforts to end this horrific crime as they are the best catalyst for real lasting change.

Lord Alton

Could the Minister say whether he supports the calls of the Arise charity, of which I am a Trustee, for mandatory human rights due diligence and mandatory transparency guidelines through company supply chains?

Building on the UK’s landmark 2015 legislation, and in the spirit of William Wilberforce, we should be spearheading a global Commonwealth campaign to combat modern day slavery.

This could include educational projects to liberate the children of India’s enslaved Dalits and Adivasis – condemned to work in kilns and sweat shops.

It could include kite marking of supply chains so that consumers can say no to big brands using African child slaves to mine lithium in DRC.

It could include a Commonwealth wide boycott of cotton products made by enslaved Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

It could hunt down and fearlessly prosecute the criminals who ruthlessly traffic women and girls.

Almost a third of the world’s population – 2.2 billion people- live in Commonwealth countries. By mobilising its people against modern slavery the Commonwealth could both demonstrate its values and give hope to millions of benighted and downtrodden people.

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