UNU Report: Breaking Ties between the Financial Sector and Modern Slavery

  • 2017•07•11     New York

    With an estimated 45.8 million people living in conditions of modern slavery, human trafficking is a profitable “business”. Forced labour, just one of the forms of exploitation into which humans are trafficked, is estimated to generate USD 150 billion per year in revenue, Disrupting the financial flows generated by human trafficking and modern slavery can make a powerful contribution to improving the situation and preventing future exploitation.

    The financial sector has a number of underutilised tools at its disposal to disrupt funds generated by human trafficking and modern slavery, claims a new report released today by the United Nations University (UNU). The report, “25 Keys to Unlock the Financial Chains of Human Trafficking & Modern Slavery“, identifies concrete measures that can be used to break the ties between the financial sector and modern slavery.

    The report — which summarises discussions held in March 2017 amongst nearly 100 experts from the financial sector, financial regulators, investigators and prosecutors, anti-slavery organisations, and key practitioners from around the world — suggests that financial sector actors and their allies are beginning to scale up their efforts. Government regulators and investigators are paying increased attention to these crimes, and serious penalties can ensue.

    US Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), for example, recently introduced a bill to strengthen regulation of the financial sector to reduce its use for human trafficking. Western Union (one of the world’s largest money service businesses), meanwhile, recently entered into a USD 586 million settlement with the US Department of Justice relating to money-laundering for various crimes, including human trafficking.

    The UNU report identifies tools now available to financial institutions to identify how and when they may be handling funds generated by modern slavery, to cease handling them, and to prevent the risk of handling them in future. Financial sector actors are also developing new tools to work together and with regulators, and to strengthen sectoral knowledge tools, infrastructure, and uptake.

    The report proposes specific steps to strengthen regulation and promote information partnerships as well as measures to address knowledge gaps on financial exposure to, and leverage over, human trafficking.

    It is hoped that the report will help to break the ties between the financial sector and modern slavery.

    The preparation of this UNU report was supported by the government of Liechtenstein, a long-time advocate for international accountability for human rights violations.

    For more, see Breaking the Financial Chains of Modern Slavery.