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.