By Matthew Cossel '17
A collection of international organizations, NGOs and heads of state launched Alliance 8.7 last Wednesday, Sept. 21 at the Ford Foundation in New York City.
“We want to bring everyone’s knowledge together to tackle the problem,” said Susana Malcorra, the minister of foreign affairs of Argentina.
Alliance 8.7 is a collaborative effort to eradicate forced and child labor, modern slavery and human trafficking.
“We now have an umbrella under which we can unite our efforts,” said Guy Ryder, the director-general of the International Labor Organization.
The Ford Foundation is a private organization founded in 1926 that focuses on promoting human welfare. They work closely with such entities as the International Labor Organization, among others, to achieve their goals and hosted the launch event.
The alliance gets its name from target 8.7 of the sustainable development goals.
The Sustainable Development Goals are the replacement for the Millennium Development Goals that expired in 2015, which aimed to curb the sources of extreme poverty. The new goals, 17 in all, aim to end most of the same issues but are tagged as more inclusive.
The target commits to "take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labor, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labor, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labor in all its forms,” according to the alliance's website.
“The alliance can promote transformative action and none of us can do it alone,” said Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, the United Nations special rapporteur on trafficking persons.
The alliance hopes to bring these professional groups together in order to help achieve this target.
“There are duties not only for governments but of businesses,” said Urmila Bhoola, the United Nations special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery.
The launch event consisted of three panels: one to set the scene, one with heads of state and one with civil society.
The first panel, titled ‘A world without modern slavery, human trafficking, forced and child labor,’ consisted of representatives from international organizations and was moderated by Kofi Appenteng, chairman of the board of trustees at the Ford Foundation.
“We have been focusing on the supply part of the equation, I think we need to focus on the demand side of the equation,” said Laura Thompson, the deputy director-general of the International Organization of Migration, in regards to the issues facing Alliance 8.7. “We need to bring new energy to this equation.”
Omar Abdi, the deputy executive director at UNICEF, focused on child labor and its effects on those it encompasses. “Child labor puts them into a lifetime of poverty and social exclusion,” he said.
The second panel, titled ‘Achieving dignity for those furthest behind through partnerships,’ featured heads of state from around the world, discussing their involvement and commitments to the alliance. This conversation was moderated by Cheryl Wills of NY1.
“When you are not legally allowed to work, you are immediately made very vulnerable,” said Alexander De Croo, the deputy prime minister of Belgium, “We need to identify feasible programs that can achieve results.”
Priti Patel, the secretary of state for international development in the United Kingdom, highlighted her countries recent passing of the Modern Slavery Act and pushed for more countries to follow suit.
The Modern Slavery Act of 2015 passed by the United Kingdom Parliament, created stricter laws against slavery and forced labor and the establishment of the independent anti-slavery commissioner who sat on the third panel.
“Working with international organizations is vital,” she said.
“Children do not belong in fields, they belong in school,” said Madame Dominique Folloroux-Ouattara, the first lady of the Ivory Coast through a translator.
The third panel, also moderated by Wills and titled ‘Strengthening action and impact in ensuring rights at work’, featured speakers from across the globe in civil society.
“There is one human rights issue, and it only takes political will to eradicate it,” said Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the international trade union confederation. “We can stop this tomorrow if governments stand collectively.”
Kevin Hyland, the man appointed to the position of independent anti-slavery commissioner as mentioned earlier, said that the United Kingdom has taken steps to eradicate the movement of vulnerable people through Heathrow airport in London. They have begun to place trafficking guards at the exit of international flights who will be trained to look for such people.
Hyland challenged other countries to create a position like his own to hold their governments in check on the issue.
“There are a lot of people who have no power, which leads to vulnerability and exploitation,” said Dr. Joseph Stiglitz, 2001 Nobel Prize in Economics co-winner and Columbia Business School and School of International and Public Affairs professor.
The event ended with Ryder officially launching the alliance with a call to action. “This is an alliance against the intolerable, and surely we’re moving forward,” he said. “There is nothing inevitable about the intolerable.”
If you would like to learn more about Alliance 8.7 or how to get involved, you can do so here.