Law and Policy Programme

How can we close the implementation gap, between principle and practice?


Our Law and Policy Programme is asking: how can we close the implementation gap—the gap between principle and practice in antislavery governance? From the global to the domestic, States are increasingly engaging with the issue of modern slavery in their legal frameworks. Yet significant gaps remain in antislavery laws and national approaches often fail to satisfy international commitments. Disparities between States’ legal frameworks create confusion, prevent effective cooperation, and result in incomplete coverage of the phenomenon—particularly in its transnational manifestations.

In the Rights Lab’s Law and Policy Programme, legal scholars, political scientists, sociologists, and scholars of business and area studies are interrogating the law and policy frameworks that operate at the global, regional, and domestic level. They are working to determine the elements of effective antislavery governance and to map trends, successes, and failures in its realisation and implementation. This includes work defining the parameters of slavery and related forms of exploitation, investigating the full range of potential mechanisms for modern slavery governance, and engaging victim-centred approaches.

For example, we have launched the world’s first comprehensive database of the domestic legislation and international obligations of all 193 UN Member States with regard to slavery and related forms of exploitation. From this Antislavery Legislation Database, we can construct blueprints for antislavery law and policy enactment, reform, and implementation around the world, working with government, legislators, and practitioners to lay the legal foundations for a future free from slavery. Building and honouring consensus through a greater harmonisation of approaches is critical for delivering on the global commitment to antislavery action. The database allows States to learn from global practice and comparative analyses in order to develop robust governance frameworks that respond to the changing dynamics of slavery. As the database expands, it will include new areas of law, national policies, international and regional frameworks, and information on implementation. Placing a world of law and policy evidence at stakeholders’ fingertips, the database allows us to access, understand, interrogate, and ultimately achieve prohibition in practice, as well as on paper.

We also have launched the world’s first large-scale database of contemporary slave testimonies. When fused with our prevalence, geospatial and business data, these millions of words reveal why slavery persists in particular hotspots around the world. This new VOICES database lets us analyse patterns in the data to understand trafficking routes, uncover reasons for slavery’s emergence across different sectors, identify vulnerabilities and the challenges survivors face in liberation, and discover new antislavery solutions. Across thousands of narratives, we can highlight the possibilities for systematically designing new antislavery policies and legislation based on the solutions of enslaved people. For example, we are mapping these life-stories onto the 169 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets to answer a key question from the point of view of enslaved people themselves: which SDG achievements, beyond 8.7 (ending slavery) are more likely to prevent or end enslavement?

Legislation Database

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