ICAI Review Tackling Modern Slavery

ICAI Review – UK Aid and Tackling Modern Slavery

ICAI Review Delivers An Amber-Red Response To Governments Approach on Modern Slavery


British Expertise International recently hosted an event on the Independent Commission for Aid Impact’s (ICAI) review into the UK government’s approach to tackling modern slavery. The panel of speakers included the ICAI team and two experts on the subject matter

There was unanimous praise on the UK government’s strategy of raising awareness of the issue on the international stage, having led a ‘Call to Action’ at the UN General Assembly in 2017. The call to action received the signatures of 92 countries and was seen as a key opportunity to begin tackling what one speaker termed, “a morally repugnant issue”. In addition to this, the review also praised the government’s cross-departmental work and the fact that a majority of its programmes were on track to meet their immediate targets. However, this was generally as far as the praise went, as the focus moved to why ICAI’s review led to a decision to award an amber-red award.

The amber-red award can be equated to mean there is plenty of room from improvement. The review and the panel’s critiques can be generally be broken down into four key areas, those being: The need for greater engagement with the private sector, a broader scope required beyond supply chains, a lack of survivor input and the need for a more targeted focus on its structural issues.

Perhaps the most focused critique of the event was the lack the engagement with the private sector on this issue. A survey conducted found that 48% of FCDO projects on the subject matter had no engagement with the private sector at all, with another 30% having relatively little engagement. For an issue that is so predominantly based on private business operations, the panel found this to be one of the most fundamental problems with the UK’s current strategy. A panellist explained that a lack of dialogue between governments and private sector severely limited any progress on the issue, for companies had little understanding of how to navigate the landscape and engage with the relevant policies. Not only was there a lack of communication between the public sector and large multinational companies, but there was also relatively little engagement with SME’s in developing countries who are sometimes accused as the worst offenders.

Another focus of the review was on the limited scope of the approach, which was felt to centre too much around supply chains. An example given was that of the Netherlands government which sits with leading private sector representatives and works hand in hand on areas that go far beyond supply chains, looking into construction and agriculture sectors for example. It was felt the focus of supply chains prevented the approach from looking at broader issues, like the involvement of organised crime. This narrow scope is seen to be a particularly damming indictment of the UK’s strategy, as it indicates a lack of understanding around the mechanisms and drivers of modern slavery.

A further critique that appeared throughout the review was the limited engagement with survivors of modern slavery, which meant that policy and projects had not been driven by individuals with direct experience of the issue. In response to this, the government has now put in place a process which allows survivors of modern slavery to have direct in putto the design and implementation of the projects.

 Finally, there was a criticism that the current UK government’s strategy fails to address the structural issues around modern slavery. A lack of inclusive economic development and organised crime can be considered as root causes of modern slavery, yet there was limited engagement with these and many other causes. A panellist furthered this point by explaining that it was not simply a case of policing supply chains, but actively using programmes to specifically target the structural causes of modern slavery. In order for the government to seriously address the issue, it is suggested that a greater and more targeted approach will be required in the future.

 The above perspectives provide only a broad take on the ICAI review, with the full report being available on the ICAI website. Whilst the government may view the review rating negatively, it does provide recommendations that will support the government in tackling modern day slavery more effectively.

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