Teaching Notes: Modern Slavery

Teaching Notes: Modern Slavery

Ahmad Masood/Reuters

Slavery, long banned and universally condemned, persists in many corners of the world, victimizing tens of millions of people.

January 16, 2018 11:30 am (EST)

Ahmad Masood/Reuters
Teaching Notes

Slavery disproportionally affects women and girls while also victimizing men and boys of all backgrounds, and no country in the world is immune. Consumers buy slave-made goods and services for which victims toil in mines, farms, factories, or private homes. Ending slavery takes political will, moral courage, and the collaboration of governments, businesses, and consumers.

Teaching Notes Components

Discussion Questions

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  1. What is slavery and what drives it? Is there a global consensus on the definition of slavery?
  2. Are there places in the world where slavery is more prevalent? What are the drivers of higher prevalence in different parts of the world?
  3. Is poverty a root cause of slavery? If so, would eliminating poverty eliminate slavery?
  4. Are slavery and human trafficking the same thing? Can they be used interchangeably?
  5. How does slavery impact women and children specifically?
  6. How many slaves are in the world today and where are they?
  7. Why is it difficult to eradicate slavery?
  8. What does “state-sponsored slavery” mean? How can governments be pushed to end “state-sponsored slavery”?
  9. How are people enslaved because they owe a debt to someone else?
  10. Does law enforcement do enough to eradicate slavery?
  11. Why is forced marriage considered a form of slavery?
  12. Whose responsibility is it to end slavery? What are some common tactics and strategies used to combat slavery?

Essay Questions

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Human Trafficking

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  1. The Walk Free Foundation and the International Labor Organization released a new estimate of modern day slavery in the world in 2017. Of the 40 million people living in slavery they found in the previous year, millions are said to be victims of forced marriage. What is forced marriage and why is it considered slavery? Should forced marriage be considered on par with sexual exploitation found in sex trafficking, or forced or child labor?
  2. Many goods that we consume today could be made by slaves. These goods can be found in common products and components that are sourced from countries around the world. This means that many of us are inadvertently supporting exploitative labor practices. What role can consumers play to ensure that we don’t support factories and production facilities that exploit workers? What can businesses do to support fair and ethical supply chains? Are consumers and businesses doing enough?
  3. Western definitions of slavery conflict with local and customary practices in some countries. For example, child marriage and even some forms of child labor are acceptable in some parts of the world, but considered human rights violations according to international standards. Is it fair to impose Western or international human rights norms on countries that conflict with their local customs and supersede local culture?
  4. There is some evidence that labor trafficking is more prevalent throughout the world than sex trafficking, however, law enforcement arrests and prosecutes more offenders for sex trafficking than labor trafficking. Why is this the case? Why does sex trafficking get more attention than labor trafficking by law enforcement?
  5. The U.S. government uses various foreign policy instruments to pressure other governments to uphold certain human rights standards. For example, the Trafficking in Persons Report issued annually by the U.S. State Department grades countries for their individual efforts to eradicate trafficking and slavery in their jurisdictions. Does this type of government-to-government advocacy and pressure have an effect? Is it important to integrate slavery concerns into U.S. foreign policy and for the U.S. government to hold other governments accountable?


  1. Write a Paper to Explore Business Responsibility and Efforts to Eradicate Slavery

    Businesses in varying industries and geographies are aware that their supply chains could contain goods and services produced by slaves. Some employ various methods to find out how suppliers are treating and recruiting workers. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is also a concept that has taken on increased significance as expectations build for companies to operate ethically. Write a paper on ethical sourcing or CSR with three examples of how they have been implemented. Papers should include definitions, evolution of practice, and regulatory frameworks, using contemporary examples. Students should cite their research and conduct, or access, at least one interview with a corporate practitioner and/or expert. 810 pages.
  2. Attend a Webinar and/or Panel Presentation & Prepare a Brief Memo

    For this assignment, pretend that you are a sustainability manager at Acme Company who is researching methods that your company can instill to investigate whether there is slavery in your supply chain.

    Various nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), academic institutions, associations, and companies host, at no cost, one to two hour webinars and/or forums related to ethical sourcing and procurement, business practices, and human rights. These are good opportunities to hear from practitioners in the field about how principles are translated into practice. View or attend one such event that pertains to how businesses are promoting human rights and working to eradicate slavery from their supply chains. Draft a brief memo addressed to your fictitious supervisor (e.g. the vice president of sustainability for Acme Company) that succinctly summarizes the following:

    - Why you attended the session and your goals for it;

    - Three key findings that you learned; 

    - How you will apply those learnings;

    - Any key contacts who attended or presented that you will reach out to and why.

    Remember, vice presidents are busy people and your memo should be succinct and directly address the four points above.

    The list below are suggestions of resources that you can choose from, or you may find one on your own. Please note that you can also view a prerecorded webinar, however it must be from no earlier than January 2016.

    - Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

    - Business for Social Responsibility (BSR)

    - International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR) 

    - Babson College's Initiative on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery

    - United Way's Center on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery

    - United Nations Global Compact

    - Global Business Initiative on Human Rights
  3. Conduct an Advocacy Presentation

    Various international NGOs work on global human rights issues and advocate for change based on internationally accepted standards. They document rights violations and lead campaigns to raise awareness and build political will. For example, Amnesty International puts pressure on the U.S. government, as well as the United Nations, to create and implement policies that uphold human rights standards. For this assignment, obtain an advocacy report published by an NGO that is related to modern slavery and human rights and learn about the issues and solutions that the organization highlights. Then, produce a three to five minute video presenting the report and its findings. Your (pretend) audience will be members of the UN Human Rights Council, meeting for a special session on modern slavery.
  4. Draft an Op-Ed to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

    Sex trafficking is prevalent in large and small cities throughout the United States. Most states have local laws criminalizing sex trafficking that aim to punish offenders and provide justice and social services for its victims. These laws generally use the “force, fraud, and coercion” definition of human trafficking to identify whether a victim of exploitation has been trafficked. However, there is also an argument that many of these laws criminalize women and men who choose to prostitute themselves and that they have the right to do so. This perspective often states that voluntarily selling your own body for sex should be considered legitimate for adults. This approach views additional sex trafficking and antiprostitution laws as putting victims at further risk of exploitation.

    For this assignment, research the various perspectives that exist on sex trafficking and formulate your own opinion about whether selling sex can be equated with sex trafficking and slavery. Think about the public policy implications and recommend which laws and policies should be implemented in Atlanta, Georgia. Present this perspective with research citations that provide evidence to support your opinion in an op-ed. 500–750 words.
  5. Group Exercise: Understanding Data

    The InfoGuide presents various data sets about the prevalence of slavery, where it exists, and how it is addressed, including the number of arrests and prosecutions of traffickers worldwide. However, there is some controversy around these numbers, such as the assumptions and methodologies used to quantify modern day slavery. Statistics are important as they contribute to our understanding of what resources and policies are required to address the issue, and if interventions are working.

    For this assignment, divide into five groups. Four groups will take on one of the four topics listed below and then present to the fifth group:

    - Where is slavery prevalent and what studies provide credible numbers of its pervasiveness? What are the policy implications of this prevalence?

    - Why is there a difference between reported cases versus the estimated number of cases? How can this difference be reconciled? What are the policy implications of this difference?

    - Why is there a gap between the number of arrests and prosecutions? What are the policy implications?

    - Is there any credibility to claims that we overestimate the prevalence of slavery? If so, how should it impact the policies, practices, and attention paid to the issue?

    Each team will create a five to seven slide PowerPoint deck and present their findings in a three to five minute presentation. The fifth group will listen to the presentations and if needed, ask follow up questions; they will then provide a score for each group that is based on the thoroughness of data sources, clarity of information, and compelling nature of the presentations.

    Sources to consult:
    ILO/Walk Free Global Estimate

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