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May 6, 2020

In Episode 3 of Series 5 of the Rights Track, Todd is talking with Dr Katarina Schwarz and Dr Laura Dean. Katarina leads the Law and Policy programme at the Rights Lab at the University of Nottingham. Laura is Assistant Professor of Political Science and the Williams Professor in Global Studies at Millikin University, Illinois. Together with Todd they are discussing the intersection between meeting Sustainable Development Goals SDG 8.7 aiming to end modern slavery and SDG 16 which aims to end violence and strengthen the rule of law and governance.

1.27- 5.12

The discussion opens with Katarina commenting on how anti-slavery law has evolved through history and how it has developed to include practices, such as forced labour, human trafficking, and other forms of exploitation. While these new additions can complement existing legislation they can lead to complication, fragmentation and confusion. She points out that modern slavery covers a wide range of areas including:

  • Property rights
  • Labour rights
  • Criminal Law

As many agencies are involved, with differing agendas, it becomes difficult to get general agreement on what issues need to be addressed.

She adds that modern slavery involves different types of exploitation and for the victims a wide range of experiences. Trying to identify commonalities and treat them in a coherent manner presents problems.

5.12 - 7.11

Katarina and her team are responsible for the recent launch of an online Legislation Database  on anti-slavery legislation at the United Nations, which analysed domestic laws governing slavery across a wide range of countries. The main findings are:

  • Mapping found that in nearly 50% of the countries enslavement is not a crime.
  • The same is true in respect of forced labour and servitude.
  • In just under 50% of the countries there are no criminal sanctions against modern slavery.

7.11 - 9.54

The discussion turns to the breakup of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. Todd asks Laura to comment on how this affected criminal activity in the region.

The breakup of the Soviet Union led eventually to increased migration within the region particularly towards Russia, and Ukraine saw the emergence of sex trafficking as the first manifestation of modern slavery. This was able to develop because of: 

  • A break down in established legal frameworks.
  • The proliferation of organised criminal networks.
  • Increased levels of corruption, much of which was embedded within state institutions.

9.54 - 14.20

The breakup of the Soviet Union led to the emergence of different types of regimes.

  • Some like Poland and the Czech Republic looked to membership of the European Union
  • Others stayed within the influence of the Russian Federation
  • And others looked towards China

Todd asks Laura whether she sees a correlation between regime type and anti-slavery legislation.

Laura has developed a ranking system which she calls the Human Trafficking Policy Index and what she finds is that while democracies are better able to implement anti-trafficking policies often the quality of those policies is not always very high.

For example: Estonia ranks highly in terms of democracy and yet has the “worst” human trafficking laws, whilst Georgia and Moldova are the opposite.

This is a finding which resonates with Todd’s own Human Rights research on the ratification of human rights treaties and the work of Heather Smith-Cannoy from Arizona State University (see below).

14.20 - 16.25

An important issue is the gap between the passing of legislation and the implementation of that legislation and according to Katarina, this comes down to how legislation is enacted.

  • The small island state of Nauru is one of the few examples of an approach which directly criminalises slavery see: Nauru criminalises Slavery .
  • Some countries in Latin America and the Caribbean enact legislation via their constitutions while this is less true for Western Democracies.

16.25 - 17.40

What makes for good governance and implementation? Katarina suggests that,

  • Criminal enforcement has to work alongside the enforcement of labour laws 
  • The socio-economic conditions which lead people into vulnerable situations need to be addressed
  • Corruption and bribery at all levels within and outside of government need to be addressed
  • Access to justice is fundamental to good implementation

Evaluating implementation by recording, for example, the number of arrests made under existing legislation, or the number of victims rehabilitated is not enough, and often goes under-reported as Laura explains. 

Effective implementation requires detailed research on how policy is enacted “on the ground” involving local actors and stakeholders to get an accurate picture of human rights abuses.

17.40 - 22.35

The discussion now looks at trends in post-Soviet countries and whether there is any kind of geographical pattern emerging in terms of various aspects of modern slavery.

In the early 2000s modern slavery took the form of the trafficking and sexual exploitation of Eastern European women. However, now Laura finds that there is no specific pattern. Males have increasingly become victims of forced labour both in Russia and the central Asian republics, but whilst there are support and rehabilitation services for women, the authorities do not appear to recognise that men and children can become the victims of forced labour.

22.35 - end

In looking at progress towards meeting the SDGs, Todd references the work of Gary Marks on multilevel governance and poses the question, what can be done to join up the work of different institutions and what is needed for progress to be made towards attaining these goals?

Katarina suggests the following.

  1. The need to recognise where overlaps and connections exist between the different levels of governance.
  2. To move away from stereotyping of victims (as sex workers for example) because this closes off investigation into other forms of modern slavery.
  3. More work on identifying the social and structural conditions that lead people into  slavery.
  4. The need to harmonise domestic legislation on labour practice, immigration, human rights, victim protection and human rights into a cohesive structure.

Laura adds the key is to strengthen the capacity of state institutions to implement anti-slavery laws, and in particular

  1. To further support the implementation of domestic laws.
  2. To develop victim services and support services.
  3. To develop rehabilitation support and services for victims.

Useful links