Australia has this week made major strides to tackle human trafficking, modern slavery, and forced labor in the region.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne revealed on Tuesday that Australia had joined the United Nations’ Blue Heart Campaign, a global initiative working to raise awareness and curb the “heinous crime” that is human trafficking on a national, regional, and global level.
Two days later, Payne announced a new $80 million joint campaign between Australia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to enhance law enforcement and defend the rights of trafficking and slavery survivors.
"[The joint initiative] builds on Australia’s 15-year partnership with ASEAN to eliminate human trafficking and is a practical contribution to our shared goal of achieving an open, stable, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region,” Payne said in a statement. “The launch of the initiative, which helps implement commitments under the ASEAN Convention Against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, is fitting just days after World Day Against Trafficking in Persons on 30 July.”
The ASEAN-Australia Counter-Trafficking Initiative will conduct skill development sessions for judges and police.
The 10-year initiative will also assist international investigations in helping rescue those subjected to forced labor or coerced into the sexual exploitation trade — and help see traffickers and complicit government officials suitably charged.
On World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, Australia has joined @BlueHeartHT, the global initiative to fight human trafficking & modern slavery, as we continue to lead efforts to eradicate these heinous crimes on a domestic, regional & global level. #EndHumanTraffickingpic.twitter.com/OfivshVASL— Marise Payne (@MarisePayne) July 30, 2019
A new report by modern slavery research organization, Walk Free Initiative, revealed 40.3 million people around the world lived in conditions of slavery in 2018. Around 70% of that figure are women and children.
Rates of slavery in the Asia Pacific region are the second highest in the world, after Africa, the report shows.
"It is a confronting reality that even in the present day, men, women, and children all over the world remain victims of modern slavery,” the report states. “They are bought and sold in public markets, forced to marry against their will and provide labor under the guise of ‘marriage,’ forced to work inside clandestine factories on the promise of a salary that is often withheld, or on fishing boats where men and boys toil under threats of violence.”
Australia has long worked to support trafficking and slavery eradication efforts in the Asia Pacific.
Over the past 15 years, Payne said Australia had helped train over 13,000 “justice officials” to fight trafficking across the 10 ASEAN member states, including Thailand, Myanmar, and the Philippines. Australia also passed the Modern Slavery Act in December 2018, which requires Australian companies that have a turnover of over $100 million AUD annually to publicly report on the risks of modern slavery within their supply chains.
In September, Australia is also set to co-launch a Blueprint release from the Liechtenstein Initiative, which seeks to harness and mobilize the efforts of global financial institutions against slavery and human trafficking.