Addressing human and environmental exploitation is everyone’s business

Australia’s leading human rights association is holding a national forum aimed at educating and empowering the general public to make a difference to modern slavery.

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) is seeking to raise awareness of the fact that a lack of action to protect the environment by governments and the private sector is leading to human rights violations, such as modern slavery. Dr Natalia Szablewska, Chair of ALHR’s Business and Human Rights Committee said, “The interconnection between our everyday lives and modern slavery often goes unrecognised, especially when we think about what is contributing to human-induced environmental degradation and climate change and human rights.”

There is growing evidence of environmental degradation, often going hand-in-hand with human exploitation. The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development asserts the interconnections between sustainable development goals,  modern slavery, climate change and the environment. The recent United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Report, recognised the need to urgently acknowledge role of human influence on climate. At the same time, there is a growing global acceptance of the reality that a healthy environment is a prerequisite for many of the human rights obligations protected in international law.

Dr Szablewska continued, “The reality is that global profits from the exploitation of other humans, as well as the environment, are significant, with forced labour alone generating annual profits of US$150 billion. The private sector is considered to be responsible for around 16 million people being exploited in global supply chains. There is a global movement to ensure that necessary action is taken to ameliorate modern slavery, including by taking legislative measures, such as the Modern Slavery Act (2018), in Australia, and  Norway’s 2021 Transparency Act on business transparency concerning decent work and human rights.”

“We need coordinated efforts across all sectors of society to address what is a global issue. The phrase ‘people, planet and profit’, the so-called triple bottom line, has been in popular use since the early 1990s, but the number of people being exposed to severe exploitative practices, and the human impact on our climate system, continues to rise. We are finding ourselves at the tipping point where all of us, individually and collectively, need to take action.”

“As consumers we all hold some degree of power over business practices and government. Along with strong and effective regulatory and legal frameworks, we can each play an important part in instigating wider systemic change.”

“There is no denying that our everyday actions matter: what we purchase, where we purchase from and even why we purchase. We should all be asking ourselves those questions to become more conscious and ethical consumers. Engaging the general public in these conversations is very important, which has been the rationale behind ALHR’s public national webinar  ‘Modern slavery: How you can make a difference through your everyday actions’ being held on September 10. It aims to inspire and, hopefully, to empower the general public to be part of that much needed change.”

ALHR’s webinar is open to all, free of charge and those not able to attend in person are encouraged to register to receive a recording of the event.

Contact: Matt Mitchell, ALHR media manager 0431 980 365.