Only by measuring and understanding the scale of slavery can we effectively tackle it. Since 2013, the Walk Free Foundation has published the annual Global Slavery Index (GSI). The world’s only big data intervention into contemporary slavery, the GSI is a country by country estimation of slavery’s prevalence and the adequacy of response in 167 countries. The most recent edition covered 99% of the world’s population. We help to refine the GSI's global metrics, further develop the data collection and analysis methodology to bring greater validity and reliability, incorporate new data on factors that make people vulnerable to enslavement, and develop new methodologies for particularly challenging countries that build on current methods. We also dig deep into the GSI's unanalysed data to conduct in-depth analysis around key themes, for example the relationship between slavery’s prevalence and internal conflict, or between women’s physical integrity and rates of enslavement.
We are home to the world’s first Geospatial Slavery Observatory. The majority of today’s slaves live in developing countries where many slave-based activities are visible in satellite imagery (for example brick kilns, mines, fisheries and farms). By identifying slavery locations using geospatial intelligence, we answer the demand within the development and human rights communities for scientific data that can underpin policy formation and humanitarian operations. Our process is to: • Compile, synthesise and integrate spatial data to detect and eventually prevent slavery. • Develop (automated) methods with as much data as possible at as low as possible cost, with known levels of uncertainty. • Act as a conduit for all observations of slavery activity. Employing state-of-the-art techniques from geoinformatics and data modelling, geospatial intelligence, and location-based services, we conduct comparison and cross-corroboration of archival satellite imagery with various open source data, and use imagery analysis methodologies. We also use our expertise on volunteered geographic information to enable quality crowd-sourcing, and are applying machine-learning techniques that automate identification via a prototype feature extraction algorithm.Our work was featured in a Telegraph article in October 2016. We are now developing new pilots in Ghana (fishing), India, Nepal and Pakistan (brick kilns), Thailand (fishing), Brazil (charcoal camps) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (mining).
Rather than having to end poverty to end slavery, can we end slavery to help end poverty? We are completing the first extended analysis of contemporary slavery’s political economy. While there are studies analysing labour markets, systematic studies on the economic incentives of contemporary slavery are missing. Our work includes an analysis of the economic incentives for using slave labour, and an analysis of factors that determine the vulnerability of a person. This enables deeper investigations of markets for different types of enslaved labour. We are also demontrating how slavery impacts the economy and development of a country, and measuring the dividend that comes with liberation. Here we statistically model and measure the economic benefits of ending slavery. We aim to show the theoretical benefits of eradicating modern slavery on the wider economy, and provide a solid scientific basis for encouraging countries to prioritise antislavery efforts.
We offer the first corpus linguistics approach to slave narratives and slavery discourse, working with data from NGOs, social media, data generated through the Rights Lab itself, and industry data from recent disclosure legislation. In our first strand, Record and Represent, we combine research on corpus linguistics and privacy preserving search to understand how language data generated by vulnerable groups in society can be collected and processed in a manner that preserves the privacy of the individuals who create it. In our second strand, Fractured Identities, we use innovative, cutting-edge approaches from sociolinguistics to establish shifting patterns of identity as individuals tell narratives of their time enslaved. This analysis will enable policy makers and other key stakeholders to gain direct access to the experiences of those who have been enslaved in their own voices. We are further using corpus linguistics to examine large quantities of media language, in order to study the representation of slaves by different agencies and link this back to the experiences expressed by slaves themselves.
Slaves supply us with many of the things we buy. But we offer the world’s largest multidisciplinary research programme on slavery in supply chains. Our programme consists of four main areas: detecting modern slavery and human rights violations in supply chains; changing supply chain design to reduce modern slavery and human rights violations; diffusing responsible practices in complex supply chain networks; and engaging closely with industry as the key change mechanism. For example, we offer a step change by factoring in slavery to supply chain design from the outset. We are establishing a typology of supply chain structures from an ethical performance perspective, simulating the impact of structural changes, investigating the tipping point for designers, and establishing what level of risk will prompt design amendments. Our research proposes a democratisation of supply chains, connecting the individual actors. Availability of information enables practitioners to make ethically informed decisions and allows accountability in the supply chain. We are designing an extension of quality management tools to ethical compliance and creating simulations that can forecast the impact of potential changes.
We are demonstrating the tight connection between ending slavery and reducing environmental destruction. Our preliminary research shows that if slavery were a country, it would have a population of some 46 million people and the gross domestic product of Angola (in global terms a small and poor nation), yet would be the third largest emitter of CO2 (2.54 billion tons per year) in the world after China (7.39 billion tons) and the United States (5.58 billion tons). Responding to this, we are completing the world’s largest study on the relationship between slavery and ecosystems. This work will: Compile, synthesise and integrate spatial data on the landscape changes that result from slavery activities and calculate the environmental costs of these activities and the potential gains that stem from curtailing slavery, with a focus on carbon sequestration and other ecosystem services. Explore the values associated with environmental gains, their capacity to be captured in environmental markets, and their ability to help fund slavery prevention and abolition efforts. Explore links between ecological resilience and human vulnerability as a precondition to enslavement.
Mental health support is one of the greatest gaps in the global antislavery response. When slaves are freed but given no support to rebuild their lives, many slide back into slavery. We are therefore pioneering a unique programme of therapeutic care for people coming out of enslavement. A culture- and cost-sensitive mental healthcare support package for survivors will address slavery’s aftermath. We are designing protocols that can be shared across agencies and in the wider field. Survivors are co-designing the programme with us. We will then adapt these recommendations for cost-effective care within low-resource settings. At the same time we are working to understand perpetrator behaviour and reasons for offending. This extensive examination of offenders’ narratives and motivations will help us develop the evidence base for therapeutic interventions. By understanding slaveholders’ behaviour, and sharing that knowledge with the therapists we train, we will improve the quality of therapeutic care.
Even as we tackle slavery as a global problem, we recognise the importance of local action and offer the first major examination of slavery as a local issue. This is lodged in our work to help make Nottingham the world’s first slavery-free city. We test the ‘theories of change’ underlying policy responses to modern slavery, highlight evidence for good practice, adapt and apply the latest theories on the dynamics of social practice to local policy on slavery, and share transferable, scalable and sustainable policies that can help communities to become slavery-free. Throughout we build, test, and disseminate collaborative multi-agency policy responses to slavery, which can be adapted to a wide variety of settings. We share learning from the project nationally and tap into public sector networks to explore how our methods might be applied within varying local contexts and governance institutions. We are drawing up comparisons with other locality-based antislavery initiatives in the UK, and hope to roll out a city-based process nationally then develop a transferable model for developing countries with our NGO partners. Collaborating for freedom conference Please join us for a national conference on local, community-based anti-slavery strategies, partnerships and action. The day-long event is organised by the University of Nottingham's Rights Lab and the UK Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner (IASC), Kevin Hyland, in association with the ESRC Festival of Social Sciences.Booking essential: freedomcollaboration.eventbrite.co.uk Agenda: Download PDF
The extensive growth in monitoring and evaluation (M&E) methodologies for development work worldwide has not been replicated for the work of slavery liberation and reintegration. With some exceptions, the handful of groups that have assembled best practice guidelines have had limited success because these are not yet built on rigorous, large-scale M&E research. We are therefore pioneering an extended antislavery M&E platform. This compass for antislavery work navigates us between the cardinal points of enslaved and free. We are collating a large database on current and recent antislavery interventions around the world, which we use to conduct systematic analysis on their relative success and failure. Alongside the database we are completing a publicly available social network analysis of the various agencies, organisations, research units and other extragovernmental bodies engaged in antislavery work, in order to track involvement, influence and impact within the movement. These two resources underpin our new Antislavery Impact Assessment and Evaluation Framework. This will evaluate ongoing interventions to identify the degree to which they have had an impact on reducing the prevalence of slavery. It will help us to pilot, validate, disseminate and support the adoption of standardised M&E tools across the antislavery movement with our NGO partners.
The last few decades have seen a rapid increase in complex migration-refugee flows between countries, as well as a growing public and policy concern around whether displaced people are vulnerable to human trafficking and slavery. However, there is little empirical research that establishes the links between migration and slavery. Instead the issues are treated separately. This project therefore bridges the gap and offers a large-scale study of the intersection between migration and contemporary slavery. We are answering the questions: what are the processes through which migrants get trafficked and/or enslaved, within the context of ‘sending’, ‘transit’ and ‘receiving’ country environments? What are the lived experiences of migrants who are victims of trafficking and enslavement? What is the intersection between migration, forced marriage and slavery, within the context of both sending and receiving environments? What is the interface of migration, slavery and health in the context of traumatised migrants and refugees, especially those residing in camps? What potential sustainable interventions/practical solutions can help to address the challenges faced by deprived migrant communities (including the formerly enslaved and refugees residing in camps)? We engage with the lived experiences of different groups of migrants and the national, regional and international environments that induce slavery as well as the policies and responses to both migration and contemporary slavery.
One of the first casualties of conflict is the rule of law, and in the absence of legal protections slavery flourishes. The conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Burma, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Northern Uganda, and more recently in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Syria, and Mali have all been marked by enslavement used as a weapon against vulnerable populations. The conflicts in both Afghanistan and Colombia, two of the most long-lasting and destructive wars this century, involved the extensive use of child soldiers. Today the conflict in the Middle East and the resulting refugee crisis is fuelling a rapid growth in human smuggling leading to trafficking and enslavement. Conflict is driving slavery and human trafficking, and the profits of trafficking then fuel combatant groups. At the same time, the past 20 years of experience in the liberation, rehabilitation, and reintegration of slaves has demonstrated a clear “freedom dividend” which strongly supports peace and stability. In this comprehensive study of slavery and conflict, we aim to show whether ending slavery significantly reduces the likelihood of conflict and breaks the cycle of pervasive violence. Our thesis: slavery breeds conflict, freedom births peace. We are explaining the historical and contemporary extent of slavery within conflict, the role that slavery plays in supporting and fostering conflict, the potential for a ‘peace dividend’ arising from slavery reduction and for a ‘freedom dividend’ arising from conflict reduction. We aim to help the global antislavery movement understand the process by which those enslaved in conflict can be brought to a sound footing in a free and safe society.
We offer the largest ever investigation and application of abolitionist lessons for contemporary antislavery.We seek a usable past of antislavery lessons, examples and methods. Theorising and embedding past antislavery as a protest memory—memory of protest used to protest—we emphasise that the antislavery usable past is a way to change the future. We champion the innovative use of heritage as a resource for social change. We map and monitor at-risk slavery heritage sites in countries and regions where slavery is endemic today, and we work with the heritage sector to embed contemporary antislavery in these memory organizations. We recover and utilise antislavery archives as a resource for new antislavery work. This impacts third sector archival practice and help to build institutional memory across civil society for the 2030 implementation work. At the same time, we are uncovering lesser known histories of slavery and antislavery as usable pasts for contemporary antislavery work, including the history of global indentured labour, the history of prostitution, and the history of definitional debates. We also explore the rich visual culture of contemporary antislavery, including artwork by former slaves. As in the 18th and 19th centuries, antislavery campaigners and artists use imagery to educate, change the debate, visualise liberation and propose solutions. Yet no one has gathered, examined or theorised this vibrant and ubiquitous imagery. We are therefore conducting the most extensive examination to date of contemporary antislavery visual culture. Archiving it as a digital resource, we are analysing its dynamics and offering today’s antislavery movement access to a much wider range of potential images and icons from which to draw.
As we work to achieve the goal of ending slavery, we need to listen to the antislavery ideas and solutions of enslaved people themselves: what do they suggest would enable their communities to become not just slavery-free but slavery-proof? We are creating, analysing and utilizing the first major development resource of contemporary slave narratives. We argue that contemporary slave narratives are a central facet of the antislavery agenda and we place survivors' ideas, including those of children, at the heart of the antislavery movement. This includes a mapping of survivor accounts onto the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in order to answer the question: which SDG achievements are more likely to prevent or end enslavement, from the point of view of slaves themselves? Underpinning all our work to uncover the Survivors’ Solution for ending slavery is our support for a Survivor Alliance: a survivor-led, national organizing body for survivor voices that builds survivor-leadership capacity.