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Sound evidence to end slavery

Oct 18, 2017

There are 40.3 million people enslaved around the world today, a shocking figure that, in recent times, has given birth to a renewed global commitment to end modern slavery.

Ending slavery by 2030 is now a key objective for the United Nations, which, by making it one of its Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 8.7), has placed anti-slavery work as a top priority. Slavery is a new focus for the UK government, with the introduction of an act of Parliament, which Teresa May says “has delivered tough new penalties to put slave masters behind bars where they belong, with life sentences for the worst offenders”.

There can’t be many people out there who would disagree with the ambitions outlined here, but it’s essential we don’t just look for quick wins in the form of urgent liberations and prosecutions, but that we use robust, evidence-based strategies for whole scale abolition. In that way we get our thinking on the right track about the issue, understand the problem, and help create meaningful and effective solutions.

Achieving that and giving a clear voice to sound evidence on human rights has been the clearly defined ambition over the last two years of The Rights Track, a podcast whose principal ambition is to get the hard facts about the human rights challenges facing us today.

Today, on Anti-Slavery Day, the attention of The Rights Track podcast turns exclusively to the challenge of modern slavery, as it positions itself at the heart of The Rights Lab, the world’s first large-scale research programme helping to put an end to slavery once and for all.

Why a podcast?

The multi million pound project, based at the University of Nottingham, is already attracting attention and interest from key figures and organisations around the world including the UK’s Anti-Slavery Commissioner Kevin Hyland OBE. It’s getting high profile media coverage and continuing to spread the word as widely as possible will be key to achieving the end goal.

Digital and social media provide a host of opportunities to share the evidence being developed in ways that blur the distinction between academic outputs and the work of human rights practitioners and which fulfill an ever-increasing demand for rigorous evidence from human rights organisations.

The last few years, there has been a growing interest in the production and consumption of podcasts. In 2013, Apple announced it had over a billion podcast subscribers spread across 250,000 unique podcasts in more than 100 languages, and that more than 8 million episodes have been published in the iTunes Store to date.

In 2016 The Economist proclaimed the podcast had come of age and 2017 was declared the Year of the Podcast.

Audience research figures in the US estimate that 112 million people have listened to a podcast at least once. 67 million are listening to podcasts every month, 42 million every week. Those listening on a weekly basis listen, on average, to five different podcasts. In the UK, podcasts have also grown in popularity. In 2015, one in five people reported ever downloading a podcast. Although fewer than one in ten people listen every week, those who do consume an impressive 6.1 hours per week.

Discussion about whether podcasts can start to take hold in countries such as India, where slavery is a major problem, but where there is little or no culture of listening to talk radio is also beginning to emerge.

There has never been a better or more exciting time to be podcasting and to be using podcasts not just to share research findings but to really engage with everyone who’s interested in finding out the hard facts and understanding what’s needed for change and, in this case, to take individual and collective responsibility for ending the scourge that is modern day slavery.

Getting our thinking on the right track

From how many slaves exist in the world and where they are to why slavery exists and persists, what can work to end it and the difference that freedom makes – there is plenty for us to talk about on The Rights Track.

We’ll be talking to project leads and external partners from the Rights Lab on their ongoing work that ranges from making UK cities slavery free to observing slavery from space using the latest cutting edge satellite technologies, as well as work on how to assist survivors of slavery.

The research and our podcast are all underpinned by something described “rigorous morality”; a fusion of rigorous empirical research and advocacy: a values- based, problem-oriented approach which means that we do more than just talk about the problems of modern slavery: we’ll give a voice to the evidence and the solutions, change the conversation and, in doing so, help to set society on a course to end it.

The fact that podcasting can help capture these stories, ideas and voices in such a compelling way is why we believe it is key to the research programme.

Slavery stands on the edge of its own extinction and this incredible research programme will show how it can be eradicated for good. The Rights Lab will bring research rigour to a global community that has awoken to the historic possibility of ending slavery in our lifetime.

Can a podcast help with that? We think it can! 

Episode 1 will be published November 9!

  • Follow our progress by subscribing to the podcast in iTunes. Click on the Apple Podcasts icon above
  • Tell us what you think and get more involved with the project by becoming a member of our Facebook Group
  • Join in the Conversation on Twitter @RightsTrack