Jakarta. Governments and businesses from 45 member countries of the Bali Process Forum on Friday (25/08) made a commitment to adopt the Indo-Pacific Modern Slavery Acts in a collective effort to end modern slavery in the region, and hopefully around the world.
The Indo-Pacific Modern Slavery Acts, announced during the inaugural meeting of the Bali Process Government and Business Forum in Perth, Australia, include transparent and mandatory reporting requirements, which will force companies to detail efforts in eradicating modern slavery from their supply chains.
Speaking during an exclusive teleconference on Thursday, Australia’s business co-chair of the forum and founder of the Walk Free Foundation, Andrew Forrest, described the commitment as an "unprecedented breakthrough."
"[...] This will lead to uniformity of standard behavior in the business sector, which is what we need to end modern slavery in the Indo-Pacific region. I really do think that this is a major breakthrough in the pursuit to end modern slavery in the world," Forrest said.
Discussions among major business leaders in the region on Thursday led to the understanding that legislation was necessary in order to ensure the practice of ethical requirements and "to protect at-risk workers and end the immoral practice of would-be employees paying upfront fees to recruitment agencies."
The legislation will be applied in each of the 45 member countries of the Bali Process. Independent commissioners are expected to be appointed in each country to provide support and encouragement for businesses to "look, find and report on any slavery found in their supply chains."
Furthermore, companies that adhere to these laws will be awarded certifications for responsible business practices, to help incentivize more businesses to help end modern slavery.
According to Forrest, the key challenge has been for businesses to accept that there is an opportunity in the collective effort to eradicate this type of abuse.
"But once business leaders see that it is not threatening, that it’s not going to damage their reputation [...] business leaders are absolutely engaged [in the cause]," Forrest said.
Eddy Sariaatmadja, Indonesia’s business co-chair of the forum and chairman of the Emtek Group, said that one of the most important thing is "to admit that modern slavery also happens in our country."
"I think it is important to believe in the virtue of what we are doing, that our effort, if successful, will bring about enormous social good and econ benefit to societies around the world," he said.
The issue of modern slavery has not been exclusive to developing countries — developed countries such as Australia have also experienced the problem.
The meeting in Perth has shown the extensive progress that governments and businesses can make through effective collaborations.
Michael Chaney, non-executive chairman of the Australian conglomerate Wesfarmers, noted that in the past, part of the problem has been the lack of exposure on the issue of modern slavery, which made it easier for businesses to ignore it.
"This sort of forum brings about communication on what’s been going on and what can be done [by businesses] to prevent slavery in their supply chain," Chaney said.
Furthermore, the commitments seen during the forum are important examples of the responsiveness of the private sector to the growing trends among consumers across the globe, who are increasingly more critical in evaluating the origins of the goods they purchase.
According to Dino Patti Djalal, who is serving as an adviser to Eddy at the forum, the growth of the middle-class in the Indo-Pacific region will be increasingly important for businesses to take into account.
"If [businesses] can prove that their products are free from human oppression, human exploitation, they will find more receptive markets out there. It will be good for them to practice businesses that are free from modern slavery," Dino said.
Established in 2002, the Bali Process is an international forum for policy dialogue on people smuggling, human trafficking and related transnational crime.
The Bali Process Government and Business Forum was launched during the sixth Bali Process Ministerial Conference in March last year to expand the forum’s engagement and include the private sector as part of a collective effort to eradicate these crimes.
The forum has more than 40 members, made up of governments and international organizations, such as the International Organization for Migration (IOM).