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Global Slavery Index Regional Report: Americas 2018

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Walk Free Foundation
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Spotlight on Progress

While no government has a fully comprehensive response to modern slavery, all countries in the Americas region have either maintained or improved their response. Most notably, the United States has retained its position as demonstrating the strongest response to modern slavery in the region, and the strongest response globally to prevent governments and business from sourcing goods or services linked to modern slavery. The United States is joined by Argentina and Chile, both of which have made improvements that result in the highest government response ratings in the Americas region of “BBB”. Other countries that have improved their response to modern slavery this year include Peru, Uruguay, Trinidad and Tobago, Panama, and Bolivia

In terms of tackling modern slavery in supply chains, the United States and Brazil are two countries in the Americas that have taken significant steps. With regard to public procurement, the United States has legislation, guidelines, and public policies for minimising the purchase and import of products tainted with forced labour and has provided specific training for its procurement officials.

This is important given that the US annually imports an estimated US$144 billion worth of products at-risk of being produced with modern slavery. Similarly, Brazil showed commitment to keep forced labour out of government and business procurement through its “Dirty List,” which publicises a list of businesses that have been found to tolerate forced labour in their supply chains. The Dirty List’s power to impede financing opportunities for non-compliant businesses continues to be critical, although there are questions regarding its ongoing utility as only a fraction of known businesses with supply chain issues are represented on its current iteration.

Brazil and the United States are also taking the most action more generally to respond to modern slavery. These countries tend to have lower vulnerability scores across all measures, which reflects effective governance across a broad range of areas, in particular a strong capacity to provide protections for vulnerable subgroups and ensure access to necessities such as food and water. Collectively, these factors mitigate risks of enslavement for citizens. However, high prevalence of modern slavery among these countries suggests that critical gaps remain around the implementation of existing legislation and policies and in tackling the root causes of exploitation. It is very likely that this reflects the reality that even in countries with seemingly strong systems, there are gaps in protections, with certain groups, such as irregular migrants, the homeless, or minorities, subject to intense and widespread discrimination, and typically less able to access protection.