Historical archive

Recommendations for the new development programme on Modern Slavery (external resource group)

Historical archive

Published under: Solberg's Government

Publisher Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Here is an outline design for the development programme to combat modern slavery.


(The document in pdf-format)


As stated in the Granavolden Political Platform, the Norwegian Government intends to launch a new development programme designed to support achievement of UN Sustainable Development Goal 8.7 – to eradicate modern slavery in all its forms by 2025.

We are grateful for the opportunity to contribute an outline design for the development programme. The outline is based on input from the Norwegian Human Rights Fund, Ethical Trade Norway, Fairtrade Norway, For Freedom, the Salvation Army, Hope for Justice, Norwegian Church Aid, NorgesGruppen ASA, Plan International Norway, the Rafto Foundation, SOS Children’s Villages Norway, Think Tank Skaperkraft and Telenor. The Rafto Foundation has coordinated the feedback and compiled this document.    

Modern slavery is an umbrella term used to describe a variety of situations in which persons are subjected to gross exploitation, forced to perform involuntary work through abuse of power, threats or violence, and are not free to leave the situation. Forced labour, human trafficking, the worst forms of child labour and forced marriage are all covered by this non-legal term, which describes commonalities among the aforementioned legal concepts.

According to the 2017 report Global Estimates of Modern Slavery, issued by ILO, the International Migration Organisation (IOM) and the Walk Free Foundation, more than 40.3 million people are in a situation covered by the term modern slavery, and this number is increasing quickly. Some 25 million people are performing forced labour, while 15 million are in a forced marriage. It is estimated that one-third of slaves are living in OECD countries. While the illicit and secret nature of slavery makes it difficult to quantify its actual frequency and scope, it is known that forms of modern slavery are found in all countries of the world, in a wide range of industries and sectors, with some more exposed than others. These estimates are considered to be conservative.

Enslaved persons are caught in various forms of forced labour, often in factories operated by sub-contractors in global supply chains – including suppliers to Norwegian businesses – or in local informal sectors like small-scale mining and backyard businesses. Some 70% of slaves are women and children. There are over 152 million child labourers in the world (Alliance87: 2018). The Global Slavery Index claims that Norway may be home to up to 9,000 victims of human trafficking or slavery (Alliance87: 2018). Norway’s efforts to address and participate in the fight against slavery can have a significant impact.

Enslavement of individuals is often driven by poverty, war and conflict, weak protection mechanisms, climate change, environmental damage, forced displacement, persecution, political and religious oppression and norms which foster forced marriage, violence and serious discrimination.

For example, global supply chains are a major driver of forced labour in an economic model in which access to cheap labour is a prerequisite and a competitive advantage for manufacturing countries. A lack of alternative opportunities forces workers to accept working conditions such as extremely low pay and a lack of fundamental rights. This in turn increases the risk of forced labour.

Regardless of the underlying causes, it is clear that high demand and low risk make exploitation of people an attractive enterprise for perpetrators, including in OECD countries.

Efforts to combat modern slavery must involve affected parties wherever possible. Displaced persons are in a particularly vulnerable situation, and risk becoming victims of human trafficking and slavery in their destination country or on the way there.

Poverty and slavery are closely related, and it is difficult to combat slavery without also tackling poverty. The development programme must be aligned with, build on and complement Norway’s overall development policy efforts.

In addition, the programme must create added value relative to existing development programmes, and therefore has to include concrete, targeted measures to combat modern slavery. The development programme must be sufficiently focused to ensure that it produces concrete results in the fight against modern slavery.

The development programme must be based on national anti-poverty plans and/or objectives in recipient countries. The programme must be rights-based, and be founded on existing global and international laws, standards and initiatives. Among the most important of these are UN human rights conventions, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP) and ILO core conventions, which are binding on all ILO member states and contain specific provisions on slavery and forced labour. The UN Sustainable Development Goals provide an important roadmap and specify clear objectives for efforts to combat modern slavery.

Support for civil society actors should emphasise local integration and thorough knowledge of the local context. Many Norwegian civil society actors with a presence in local communities are working to prevent and restrict different forms of modern slavery, in close partnership with local actors. These civil society actors make an important contribution through their strong local roots, credibility in the local community and in-depth contextual insight.

In choosing bilateral pathways, it is logical to consider countries in which Norway already has well-established cooperation channels and in which Norway can make a reasonably significant difference. Several of Norway’s 10 priority partner countries for development support are known for a high incidence of slavery. Initiatives can have a noticeable effect in high-risk countries in which Norwegian businesses have special interests. Moreover, consideration could also be given to the home countries of vulnerable groups in Norway.

In the multilateral context, it is important to support UN efforts and focus on implementation of ILO core conventions and the UN Guiding Principles.

Desired social impact

The Government’s development programme aims to ensure that fewer people are subjected to modern forms of slavery.

This objective reflects UN Sustainable Development Goal 8.7: “Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms.”

Objectives of the development programme to combat modern slavery

  1. To ensure that fewer members of particularly vulnerable groups are subjected to different forms of modern slavery or remain enslaved.
  2. To ensure that Norwegian aid promotes global respect for the human rights of victims and potential victims of modern slavery among commercial actors.
  3. To reinforce Norwegian multilateral efforts to combat modern slavery.
  4. To ensure that more countries, and particularly more of Norway’s partner countries, develop and implement national legislation and actions plans which combat modern slavery.
  5. To strengthen Norad and other research-based actors to enable them to produce more detailed knowledge on scope and context-based measures which serve the target group as effectively as possible. 

Objective 1: To ensure that fewer members of particularly vulnerable groups are subjected to different forms of slavery or remain enslaved

Particularly vulnerable and exposed groups require extra attention and protection. Many vulnerable individuals have certain characteristics in common: they live in poverty, are marginalised in their communities, have poor access to public resources and have little protection against hunger, need and violations. Discussions of modern slavery often focus on a low number/non-existence of local protection mechanisms intended to prevent and respond to violence, assault and exploitation. Vulnerable groups include women, children, migrants, refugees, disabled persons, persecuted/discriminated minorities, persons who were not registered at birth or who lack identity papers, and persons who have not gone to school or otherwise lack knowledge of their rights. Members of so-called low-caste or casteless groups are particularly vulnerable, not only in Asia, but also in African communities in which persons born into certain “dirty” occupations such as prostitution, water and sanitation, cotton and tea picking, etc. are especially vulnerable. These groups are at a disproportionate risk of human trafficking, forced labour and exploitation, as well as the associated lack of access to legal safeguards. Migrant workers with identity papers but no legal right of residence (for example because an employer has not followed applicable laws such that workers have lost their work permits) are especially vulnerable. The development programme to combat modern slavery should therefore target particularly vulnerable groups specifically. Vulnerability increases when multiple social factors such age, gender and ethnicity overlap. It is also important to prevent people from ending up in situations in which they may be exploited. It is often better and cheaper to focus on prevention than to implement reactive measures once persons are in this category.

Children account for approximately 25% of all persons currently caught in modern slavery. For example, it is estimated that 2.1 million children work in the cocoa sector in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire. The identified underlying drivers include poverty, a lack of schools and poor infrastructure. The vulnerability of children increases in situations of conflict, crisis and economic turmoil.  The younger a child, the greater its vulnerability, particularly when the child is forced or pressed into slavery by its own family or other carers. Moreover, child vulnerability evolves over time. It is important to recognise that younger children suffer different rights violations to older children, particularly in the modern slavery context. Due to their age and gender, teenage girls are particularly at risk of sexual exploitation and forced and child marriage.

The programme must therefore adopt an integrated perspective. The main emphasis should be on preventive measures which are sustainable in the long term and which can be scaled up. Identification of and assistance for children and young people who are caught in modern slavery will help strengthen preventive efforts by disrupting negative spirals. The involvement of former victims facilitates more targeted design of preventive measures. The success of measures is strongly linked to cooperation with local actors such as civil society organisations, religious and traditional leaders, former victims and researchers.

Birth registration is an important initial safeguard against exploitation, assault and human trafficking. In 2017, the World Bank estimated that more than 1.1 billion persons currently lack an official identity. This is often associated with deficient access to public services, including healthcare, education, financial services and social safeguards.

A key aspect of prevention is the addressing of social gender norms and other social norms and attitudes in local communities. Since poverty and a lack of economic opportunity are key drivers of modern slavery, the programme includes measures targeting prevention through economic inclusion of the most excluded parts of the population, as well as through activities designed specifically for girls (and/or their families) living in extreme poverty and thus at high risk of becoming victims of modern slavery and/or forced marriage.

In many cases, human trafficking and slavery are cross-border operations linked to other types of aggravated criminality. The police and prosecuting authorities are important actors in this context, and must be considered as potential partners in the identification of victims and efforts to rescue them. Careful evaluations are required in this context, as the police and judicial bodies are corrupt and/or poorly functioning in some countries. Measures to reinforce the legal system may be a relevant means of ensuring the prosecution and conviction of guilty parties in some cases. Cooperation facilitates more effective discovery of modern slavery in its various forms, and particularly the identification of newer forms of slavery. Cooperation also helps break up criminal networks engaged in activities of this kind.

Victims of slavery will often have a need for trauma therapy, training and support in reintegrating into society and being able to live fulfilling and economically independent lives. The effectiveness of proposed measures depends on collaboration with local actors, including civil society organisations, religious and traditional leaders, former victims and researchers. Implemented measures should combine different services wherever possible, including psychosocial support, legal advice and educational measures such as vocational training. Altering attitudes in local communities and families is also vital for reintegration, and local authorities and leaders – particularly religious and traditional – must be included in such efforts. An integrated approach is also important for preventing the well-known problem of “re-trafficking”.

Illustration provided by Hope for Justice
Illustration provided by Hope for Justice

The programme will help to:

1.1 Mobilise families and local communities

For very many families and local communities, certain forms of modern slavery are deeply rooted in culture, norms and traditions. 

Information measures targeting parents

Important factors in the prevention of modern slavery are the alteration of attitudes, provision of information to and fostering of dialogue among parents. It is important for parents to know of the dangers associated with modern slavery and the opportunities children lose if they are taken out of school and forced into work or child marriage, or are otherwise exploited. Such information can be spread through meetings, parent-focused training and local and national informational campaigns.  

Influence and engage religious and traditional leaders

Religious and traditional leaders have a key role to play in eradicating modern slavery. In many local communities, traditional leaders have great influence on norms and rules, and local customs and rules often have higher standing than national laws. Recruiting religious and traditional leaders as spokespersons against modern slavery is vital, as this is known to have a strong effect on local communities. 

Strengthen local protection mechanisms

A crucial factor in the prevention of modern slavery is the introduction of robust, sustainable local protection mechanisms which are linked to any existing national systems and structures. To protect children against modern slavery, it is important that local communities register cases of enslavement. This can be achieved by strengthening of existing volunteer networks (child protection committees) which serve local communities by disseminating information and reporting and referring violent incidents. It is important to promote strong child protection services which include the police, judicial system, healthcare system, traditional leaders, parents, teachers and young people themselves. Communities can only prevent modern slavery with the assistance of engaged authorities, and if the local population is aware of the issue.

1.2 Promote education and financial security for children and young  people

Effective prevention of modern slavery necessitates measures to address the financial and structural causes of enslavement, particularly of children and young girls. In countries in which modern slavery is particularly widespread, girls and boys often have needs which are not met by society. Girls without access to, for example, education and health services are at greater risk of forced marriage, while boys – and, in some sectors, also girls – are at risk of being coerced into forced labour. Ending child marriage and forced labour requires local communities to give greater priority to providing girls and boys with the opportunity to shape their own future.

Schooling for girls

Schooling is both a crucial factor in eradicating modern slavery and important for victims who survive and return to their local communities. For example, it is known that child and forced marriage have an enormous impact on girls’ educational progress and school drop-out rate.


In order to prevent modern slavery, it is critical that vulnerable young people have access to market-relevant vocational training and, in the longer term, decent work which provides a living wage or living income.

This includes career guidance, mentoring schemes, coaching, relevant vocational training and apprenticeships with identified local businesses. More specifically, this entails: 

  • training in life skills and financial skills
  • access to capital, including through participation in savings and loan groups, and access to microloans
  • support for particularly vulnerable families which need training to be able to generate a family income
  • cooperation and partnerships with local businesses to ensure demand for training and relevant vocational training in the local market

1.3 Increase registration of children at birth

Birth registration confers important initial protection against exploitation, assault and human trafficking. According to estimates by the World Bank, more than 1.1 billion people currently lack an official identity, and therefore often also access to healthcare, education and financial services, as well as social safeguards. The majority of these people live in Africa and Asia, and more than one-third of them are children. Pakistan is currently home to more than 60 million unregistered children. Only 30% of children are registered at birth (UNICEF). In terms of preventive measures, particular emphasis should be given to expanding birth registration. Unregistered children are easier to kidnap without subsequent public searches for them. The lack of a birth certificate makes it difficult to document a child’s age, a fact which is exploited by sex traffickers.

1.4 Build knowledge among vulnerable groups and improve their security

Particularly vulnerable groups have better knowledge of rights, recruitment methods, survivor experiences and other relevant factors. Victims have access to whistleblowing channels and helplines. Specialists in, for example, healthcare, transportation, social services and the police have been trained to recognise indicators of human trafficking. 

1.4 Provide victims with access to rehabilitation services

Victims of different forms of slavery will often need help with building a new basis of existence for themselves and their family. They require trauma therapy, training and support in reintegrating into society and living fulfilling and economically independent lives. At this stage, attitude-changing measures are also required to ensure that victims are accepted back into their communities on their return. The effectiveness of measures depends on cooperation with local actors, including civil society organisations, religious and traditional leaders, former victims and researchers.

Objective 2: To ensure that Norwegian aid promotes global respect for the human rights of victims and potential victims of modern slavery among commercial actors

While the business sector has a key role to play in promoting development, in many cases businesses operating in countries with weak rights safeguards may have a negative impact on human and workers’ rights, including the scale of modern slavery in national and international supply chains. Commercial actors have an independent responsibility to respect human rights, but are not being held sufficiently accountable, and have inadequate knowledge and capacity. Implementation of UNGP requires target efforts by, and closer cooperation between, the authorities, the business sector and civil society in Norway and abroad.

Companies are stakeholders with an important influence on the scale of forced labour and child labour, on the structural causes of gross exploitation and on its incorporation into global supply chains. Some rights violations make workers more vulnerable to modern slavery because these violations restrict their ability to leave a job in which they are being exploited, or to report their situation. Such violations may include payment below the minimum wage, withholding of pay, recruitment fees and other charges (for example for housing or equipment), confiscation of passports and bullying, threats and harassment.[1]

Article 2(e) of the ILO Protocol to the Forced Labour Convention asks member states to take measures which  support “due diligence by both the public and private sectors to prevent and respond to risks of forced or compulsory labour”. One of the main principles of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (2011) is that companies must support sustainable development, including by performing due diligence assessments to ensure that they are not contributing to a negative impact on people, society or the environment. In 2018, the OECD published a guide on the conduct of such due diligence assessments. The National Contact Point for Responsible Business Norway has created a short guide which provides a practical introduction to carrying out due diligence assessments. Due diligence assessments help companies avoid and address negative consequences related to workers’ rights, human rights, the environment and corruption in companies’ own operations and supply chains, as well as among business partners. The model below illustrates the various stages of due diligence assessment. Organisational integration and steering systems are crucial factors.

Illustration provided by Ethical Trade Norway
Illustration provided by Ethical Trade Norway

Figure texts:

  1. Integrate responsibility into guidelines and governance systems
  2. Survey and assess negative influence/harm in own operations and supply chains, and among business partners
  3. Stop, prevent and reduce negative influence
  4. Monitor implementation and outcomes
  5. Communicate how influence is handled
  6. Organise or collaborate on restoration where required 

Modern slavery occurs in many different settings and sectors. High-risk areas include the building and construction industry, mining, textiles manufacturing, the commercial sex industry, the maritime sector, agriculture/forestry/fisheries, cleaning services, the hotel and restaurant industry, the consumer goods industry and the manufacturing sector.

Business demand for cheap labour is strong. This represents not only a driver of modern slavery, but also a crucial component of the recipe for achieving SDG 8.7. Article 23(3) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights establishes that a living wage/income is a human right.

From Article 23 (3)

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that, “Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection”.

It is therefore crucial that, parallel to strengthening the economic rights of all workers and farmers, efforts are made to improve the legal and political framework which holds the business sector accountable by reference to internationally recognised standards like UNGP and the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct.

The Consumer Goods Forum’s Priority Industry Principles – an initiative launched by the food industry – state that all workers are entitled to freedom of movement, that workers must not be required to pay for the opportunity to work and that workers must not be forced to take up debt to secure work. The development programme must adopt an equally clear rights-based approach. According to the US Department of Labor’s “2018 List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor”, the agricultural sector presents a high risk of child labour and slavery.

There is also a need to focus increased attention on migrant workers and recruitment charges. Migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to involvement in modern slavery, and many businesses – including Norwegian ones – have very little awareness of the issue. More than half of all persons subjected to forced labour in the private sector are also in debt bondage as a result of recruitment charges (Global Slavery Index).

From the Dhaka Principles

The Dhaka Principles for Migration with Dignity (the “Dhaka Principles”) are a set of human rights based principles to enhance respect for the rights of migrant workers from the moment of recruitment, during overseas employment, and through to further employment or safe return to home countries.

The programme will help to ensure:

2.1 That the business sector has incentives to implement UNGP and conduct thorough due diligence assessments focused on human rights, including pay and working conditions, earnings and modern slavery.

2.2 That the business sector has capacity to implement UNGP and report on matters related to modern slavery.

2.3 That the business sector has access to tools for preventing and uncovering slavery in supply chains.

2.4 That companies are particularly sensitive to, and have capacity to address, recruitment practices which entail gross exploitation of migrant workers.

2.5 That companies in sectors and countries presenting a high risk of slavery have additional expertise and a stronger focus on working conditions far up the supply chain.

2.6 That consumers have access to information about businesses’ efforts to uncover and combat slavery in supply chains. This is currently being considered by the government-appointed ethics information committee.

2.7 That public purchasers have necessary knowledge, capacity and reliable procedures for conducting due diligence assessments.

2.8 That the expertise of the business sector is utilised in combating modern slavery.

2.9 That the business sector is encouraged to develop technology which can be used to combat modern slavery.

2.10 That worker representation is acknowledged as absolutely crucial for achieving permanent improvements in supply-chain working conditions, and for preventing and stopping modern slavery.

Objective 3: To strengthen Norwegian multilateral efforts to combat modern slavery

Efforts to prevent modern slavery must be firmly rooted in international and transnational forums. Norway can use its position as a major contributor to both the UN and the World Bank to draw global attention to the problem of modern slavery. Norway has taken on international commitments to combat and prevent forced labour and human trafficking. Norway has ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, and has implemented the ILO Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention in Norwegian law.

Norway has signed up to the international Call to Action to End Forced Labour, Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking, thereby committing itself to the development and accelerated implementation of effective national legislation, and to the eradication of this form of gross exploitation through cooperation with businesses to eliminate slavery in global supply chains and public procurements. The Government has launched a dedicated action plan against human trafficking (2016), which sets out measures to combat human trafficking and assist victims. The action plan outlines a coordinated anti-human trafficking initiative involving both the authorities and relevant civil society actors.

Nationally, Norway is making substantial efforts to restrict forced labour and modern slavery. In addition, the Norwegian authorities are supporting numerous UN organisations working on challenges similar to those targeted by this development programme. Norway is supporting ILO’s work through mandatory contributions, non-earmarked support for the implementation of ILO’s programme (NOK 15 million a year) and support for various projects administered by embassies and/or Norad. Norway is an active participant in international responsible business initiatives under the auspices of both the UN and the OECD.

Various international actors also receive support. For example, in December 2018, Norad signed a three-year agreement with the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery (GFEMS) totalling up to NOK 100 million over the agreement period, with NOK 25 million already being disbursed in 2018 to fund GFEMS’ planned anti-modern slavery initiatives. GFEMS has a particular focus on securing slavery-free supply chains in selected industries and combating slavery in the context of global and national migration.

The programme will help to ensure:

3.1 That international efforts to combat modern slavery are strengthened and given greater attention in the UN, the World Bank and other multilateral forums, including the UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery.

3.2 That efforts to implement ILO core conventions and the UN Guiding Principles are intensified.

3.3 That international efforts to promote and harmonise national legislation and national action plans are strengthened, including by focusing on the issue of migrant workers.

3.4 That stronger efforts are made to put the living wage and living income issue on the international agenda. The Norwegian Government should support a global initiative by governments and businesses to promote a living income in global supply chains, for example the Task Force Living Income initiative, which is currently under development.

3.5 That police cooperation is reinforced to facilitate more efficient discovery of different types of modern slavery, and particularly new forms, and to help break up human trafficking rings. Human trafficking and modern slavery are cross-border crimes. Investment is required in investigation and police cooperation across national borders, so that victims can be rescued and perpetrators can be stopped.

3.6 That international migrant corridors are surveyed and existing programmes to reduce the risk of modern slavery receive support. Examples include the Consumer Goods Forum and the work of the International Organization for Migration (UN).

3.7 That support is given to measures to strengthen links between international initiatives and those of national and local actors.

Objective 4: To ensure that more countries, and particularly more of Norway’s partner countries, develop and implement national legislation and actions plans to combat modern slavery

In many countries, weak legislation means that modern slavery is more likely to occur. One example is a minimum age for entering into marriage. Many children, and particularly girls, under the age of 18 are married off against their will. A further example is children who are removed from school to work in mines, on farms or in other workplaces. Norway must address these issues far more robustly. An important focus area for the development programme is building partner country capacity to combat modern slavery and implement the Call to Action on Forced Labour, Modern Slavery and Trafficking. Where legislation and action plans exist, it may be necessary to assist with their implementation. Moreover, in some cases, it will also be necessary both to help with the development of laws and actions plans and to reinforce national and local protection mechanisms.  

Norway’s efforts to prevent modern slavery will be incorporated into the Government’s partner country strategies. The priorities will be to increase bilateral support, highlight this vital issue in dialogues and intensify police cooperation to uncover modern slavery.

In both Norway and partner countries, it may be appropriate to consider whether a national rapporteur or independent anti-slavery commissioner can be established.

The programme will help to ensure:

4.1 Increased international support for implementation of equivalents to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) in regions such as Southeast Asia and eastern, western and southern Africa, which present a high risk and high rate of modern slavery and human trafficking.

4.2 That countries covered by the development programme draft and implement legislation and action plans to combat modern slavery. For example, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is a relevant partner in this regard with respect to its mining industry. Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire are potential partners in relation to the cocoa sector.

4.3 That national and local protection mechanisms for vulnerable groups are strengthened.

4.4 That human rights defenders and trade union leaders are supported in their efforts to focus attention on and uncover slavery and hold authorities accountable, and that their need for protection is met.

4.5 That the efforts of police services in other countries to discover modern slavery are reinforced, including through experience-sharing. The experience gained by the Norwegian police in uncovering slavery and trafficking online may be highly relevant. The work of the OSCE in this area should also be considered further.

4.6 That the role and effect of existing national protection functions in Norway and partner countries are evaluated regularly.

Objective 5: To strengthen Norad and other research-based actors to enable them to produce more detailed information on scale and context-based measures which serve the target group as effectively as possible

Knowledge about modern slavery is limited and fragmented. Existing knowledge should therefore be collated and made available to relevant actors, and further research should be facilitated. Better knowledge about the effects of implemented and initiated measures will provide important information about how resources should be prioritised. Inter-disciplinary research groups can help provide insights into the links between different drivers and other social conditions which affect the occurrence of modern slavery.

There is also a need for additional, nuanced research into modern slavery to build an understanding of context-specific causes, deficiencies and needs, as well as factors which render people vulnerable in different countries. Norad needs greater administrative expertise in this field. Strengthening Norad and research institutions will make it easier for the Norwegian foreign service to design better, context-adapted measures which help protect people against modern slavery.

The programme will help to ensure:

5.1 The establishment in Norway of an inter-disciplinary research hub concentrating on modern slavery, with a mandate to expand the national and international knowledge base by producing updated information on trends that may build necessary expertise. This will be particularly useful in terms of creating a better understanding of how Norwegian actors are involved in modern slavery through human trafficking in Norway, slavery in the operations or supply chains of Norwegian companies, slavery in connection with companies with Norwegian investors (e.g. Norfund) and slavery linked to imported goods. Using this knowledge, the programme can develop optimally robust and effective measures to prevent and uncover modern slavery, rehabilitate victims, create job opportunities and alter demand behaviour.

5.2 Identification of countries of origin, partner countries and countries with which Norway has important trade links but in which no national surveys and research have yet been conducted, to avoid wasting resources. The anti-modern slavery programme will contribute new research which will also be of value to other countries in the global effort to combat modern slavery. Research should be conducted in cooperation with local research institutions and international organisations like IOM.

5.3 That technological innovation is encouraged. Block chain technology and artificial intelligence may offer opportunities for digital identification, product tracing up through supply chains to the initial raw materials, recognition of slavery in different forms and locations, and the development of databases which facilitate more efficient data sharing and identification of victims. Technology is also an important tool for providing training on workers’ rights and obligations, and for management training.[2] Technology can also be used in complaints mechanisms, whistleblowing schemes, birth registration, digital identities and registration of property rights.

5.4 That efforts by businesses and the public sector to combat modern slavery in their activities and supply chains, and among their business partners, are supported by making guidance and skills-building resources available. The Government’s National Action Plan on UNGP explicitly states that an information/guidance centre will be established. It would be highly advantageous to focus on this measure again at this juncture. 

Coordination: Coordinating Norwegian policy with the objective of combating modern slavery

The programme must be based on an integrated understanding of the links between international and national modern slavery, and must in particular include measures to combat modern slavery in Norway and in connection with Norwegian activities abroad, whether in the context of development assistance work, development policy or work in international forums. Efforts to combat modern slavery must be coordinated across relevant ministries, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries, the Ministry of Climate and Environment, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, and the Ministry of Finance.

Bilateral cooperation should be coordinated between the relevant ministries in Norway and countries in which Norway has particular influence, the home countries of people who end up enslaved in Norway and countries of origin of raw materials and products whose extraction or manufacturing process involves slavery.

Development assistance

Achieving Sustainable Development Goal 8.7 will also have a positive effect on:

  • SDG 5.2 on sexual violence against women
  • SDG 16.2 on human trafficking and exploitation of children
  • SDG 16.3 on promotion of the rule of law
  • SDG 16.A on strengthening national institutions and international cooperation to combat crime, etc.

The development programme to combat modern slavery should therefore be coordinated with other aid programmes targeting achievement of these additional sustainable development goals. 

Public procurements

Public procurement regulations are a particularly important area, in which the Government’s latest report to the Storting has set insufficiently clear requirements. The Norwegian Government should ensure a reduction in demand for goods and services produced or provided by victims of human trafficking. Reinforcing the provisions of the Public Procurement Act on the purchasing procedures of public purchasers[3] is a good place to start. This is also the first principle defined in the international principles for tackling modern slavery in supply chains signed by the United Kingdom, New Zealand, the USA, Canada and Australia.[4] Public procurements are an important focus area for global prevention of modern slavery. Public authorities have great purchasing power, and thus have a particular opportunity to exert influence by imposing purchase requirements and monitoring purchases.


Victims of modern slavery in Norway must be afforded stronger protection of their rights, as well as greater protection and assistance. Consideration should be given to establishing a watchdog or supervisory function to ensure compliance. Some countries have already introduced such measures, including the Netherlands (National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings and Sexual Violence against Children) and the United Kingdom (Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner). The introduction of centralised, well-resourced institutions has facilitated a rapid, successful response to the challenges presented by human trafficking and slavery.


The Ministry of Finance is directly involved in social reporting; see the requirement that large companies must respect human and workers’ rights in section 3-3 c of the Accounting Act – Social responsibility statement. 


Norway has a particular responsibility in this area, as parts of Norway’s ambitious environmental policy are based on solutions which depend on deliveries from countries in which the risk of human rights violations and, particularly, slavery is especially great. Particular support should be given to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a country whose mining industry is critical to Norway’s largest environmental measure, namely electrical cars. The batteries for these cars require raw materials from the DRC in particular. Further, the different Norwegian authorities should cooperate to identify other countries and industries which are relevant to Norway’s environmental policies and require special follow-up, for example because they raise issues related to renewable energy, deforestation or other environmental measures.

Legislative developments

Binding legislation is needed to reduce the occurrence of slavery in Norway and in supply chains in which Norwegian actors are involved or in which Norwegian consumers are important customers. Internationally, the United Kingdom (2015) and Australia (2018) have adopted laws to combat modern slavery. France (2017) has adopted a broad due diligence act, while the Netherlands (2019) have introduced an act targeting child labour. Legislative processes are underway or have been announced in Switzerland, Finland, Hong Kong and Germany, as well as at EU level. In Norway, the Government has appointed an ethics information committee, and the Granavolden Political Platform commits Norway to investigating the scope for an act to combat modern slavery. In its work on due diligence assessments, the Government should give broad consideration to relevant international legislative developments. The objective must be to reduce the occurrence of slavery in Norway and obligate companies to conduct due diligence assessments based on UNGP and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

[1] FLEX, 2016, “Labour compliance to exploitation and the abuses in-between”.

[2] See for example QuizRR.se, which is used by members of Ethical Trade Norway.

[3] https://www.ethicaltrade.org/blog/why-public-procurement-so-critical-fight-to-end-modern-slavery-forced-labour-and-human

[4] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-agrees-principles-for-tackling-modern-slavery-in-supply-chains