US government announces latest anti-slavery supply chain measures

11 January 2016

The latest package of measures undertaken by the US government to address human trafficking in supply chains have been outlined at the annual meeting of the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (PITF).

Fourteen federal government departments and agencies comprise the PITF, which aims to eradicate modern slavery, and has met six times during the Obama administration. ‘Procurement and supply chain’ was one of the PITF’s four priorities areas identified by President Obama in 2013, along with ‘victim services’, ‘rule of law’ and ‘public awareness and outreach’.

Among the new measures is a proposed government-wide definition of recruitment fees within federal regulations, which will clarify for recruitment organisations that they are prohibited from charging fees to workers. “This is a common practice known to facilitate labour trafficking,” Susan Coppedge, ambassador-at-large, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, said at the meeting.

In addition, an online resource (responsiblesourcingtool.org) for organisations to strengthen their protections against forced labour in global supply chains will be launched by the US State Department.

The US Agency for International Development will partner with an Indian NGO to create a model for identifying human trafficking cases in the lowest tiers of global supply chains. It will also team up with the Issara Institute in Thailand to create a mobile application for Burmese migrant workers to better connect and share information to counter human trafficking risks in Thailand’s export-oriented seafood supply chains.

And the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal negotiated at the end of last year includes the enforceable elimination of forced labour and to address trade in goods produced by forced labour. “Over the last year the PITF has brought together a forum of private sector, NGOs and federal government to share best practice on addressing trafficking-related activities in federal contracts and in also private-sector supply chains,” a White House statement read.

Secretary of State John Kerry, chairing the meeting, said tackling modern slavery is an “all-government effort”. “So whether it is shining a light on our own procurement practices or working to ensure that forced labour is not providing the labour for illicit activities, we are working across the board with faith leaders, with the private sector, with government agencies in order to try to up our capacity to be able to enforce the laws and to diminish the impact of this scourge,” he added.

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