On 24 and 25 August 2017, high-profile leaders in government and business from 45 countries in the Asia-Pacific region committed to eradicating modern slavery.
The commitment was made at the inaugural meeting of the Bali Process Government and Business Forum in Perth, Western Australia. This demonstrates another important step toward legislating against modern slavery.
The Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime (the "Bali Process") was founded in 2002 and aims to raise regional awareness of the existence and consequences of people smuggling, human trafficking and related transnational crime.
In addition to 45 member countries, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) are also members of the Bali Process. In March 2016, the Sixth Bali Process Ministerial Conference recognised the need to engage with the private sector and so the Bali Process Government and Business Forum was launched one year later to create a public-private partnership and to engage with business leaders in relation to issues of slavery and trafficking.
At the August 2017 meeting, the Bali Process Government and Business Forum reaffirmed the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and UN Sustainable Development Goal 8.7. It also adopted a "Work Plan" for the next twelve months that included "the development of practical and innovative recommendations" on transparency in supply chains. The Co-Chair's statement explains that the "Business Leaders indicated openness to helpful legislation aimed at levelling the playing field and supporting ethical business practices".
This commitment further demonstrates that the California Transparency in Supply Chain Act of 2010, the UK Modern Slavery Act and the French Devoir de vigilance are not outliers, but rather the early steps in the increasing global trend towards supply chain transparency and increased human rights and modern slavery reporting.
With the Australian Government actively considering its own Modern Slavery Act (in relation to which, see our briefings here and here), the commitment of the Bali Process Government and Business Forum is just the latest step in that increasing global trend.
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© Herbert Smith Freehills 2020