Launched on Wednesday (3 October), the first of the initiatives seeks to champion human rights in Pakistan, where more than a third (34%) of children under five years old have a valid birth certificate, putting them at risk of exploitation.

Called the AAWAZ II programme and jointly facilitated by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and NGO Unicef, the scheme will create a digital birth registration programme for parents across Pakistan.

The scheme will also see DFID conduct a child labour survey, with the results set to be used to identify the children most at risk and support Pakistan’s government in strengthening its child protection measures.

“From the clothes we wear to the food we eat, the insidious virus of modern slavery is infiltrating all aspects of our daily life without us even realising,” the Secretary of State for International Development Penny Mordaunt said.

“Not only does it have a huge cost to the global and the UK’s economy, but it is also a shameful stain on our global conscience that must be eradicated for good.”

Emphasising the importance of collaboration in tackling the issue, Mordaunt added: “No one nation can banish this borderless crime alone. The international community must collaborate to dismantle predatory trafficking networks, support victims, strengthen justice systems and create sustainable alternative livelihoods.”

The AAWAZ II programme follows on from the Government’s five-year AAWAZ I: Voice and Accountability scheme, which concluded in 2017. The £34m scheme, which covered 4500 villages and towns across the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab districts, sought to spur the creation of human rights protections for vulnerable citizens.

Business implications

In related news, NGO KnowTheChain has today (4 October) released its annual benchmark tables, which rank corporates in the information and communications technology (ICT) and food and beverage sectors on their transparency surrounding human rights policies. 

In the ICT industry, Intel, HP and Apple took the top three titles. Of the 40 global corporates to be listed in the ICT benchmark, KnowTheChain noted that 87% had “strong statements of commitment” to address forced labour in their supply chains, with the same percentage having a supply chain standard that prohibits modern slavery. 

As for the food and beverage category, Unilever achieved the highest ranking, followed by the Kellog Company and Coca-Cola. KnowTheChain concluded that progress towards transparency had been slightly slower in this sector than in ICT, with 79% of the 38 corporates listed having made “strong commitments” to eliminate forced labour. 

Specifically, the benchmark notes that just one-third (13) of the food and beverage companies included had delivered training on forced labour to their suppliers, with only eight having disclosed details on how this training was delivered across sourcing countries or supply chain tiers.

Further funding

As well as the investment for Asia, the UK Government this week unveiled a new £10m aid package to protect children living in in the Horn of Africa and along migratory routes in Sudan and Ethiopia.

The project will see DFID working with Unicef to provide birth registration services for 400,000 young people – a move which will protect them from forced labour, military service and underage marriage.

The funding will additionally be used to educate children on steps they can take to avoid falling victim to human trafficking gangmasters, and to support social workers as they reintegrate victims into society.

The announcements come shortly after the UK Government revealed that it had collaboratively created a new set of principles aimed at helping nations tackle modern slavery in global supply chains, which is believed to impact more than 45 million people worldwide.

Developed in partnership with the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, the principles focus on mobilising private sector and legislative actors to prevent and address cases of human trafficking in supply chains. They follow on from the launch of the UK Modern Slavery Act in 2015 – the first legislation of its kind in Europe and second globally to the California Transparency in Supply Chain Acts of 2010.

Sarah George

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie