SYDNEY (Reuters) - Global business tycoons and politicians from 48 countries committed to ending human trafficking, forced labour and modern slavery on Friday at a landmark gathering of high-profile leaders in the Australian city of Perth.
The forum, launched last year to expand public-private partnership to eradicate these crimes, saw participation from the heads of U.S. retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc, Japan’s Mitsui and China’s JD.com, among others.
“It’s about accepting standard for good labour practices throughout the supply chain,” said Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi.
The forum is also working to raise awareness on ethical business practices and establishing a “spatial mechanism” to ensure immediate identification, processing and assistance for victims of human trafficking, Marsudi added.
“I propose that during the next Bali meeting next year, the industries, the private sector, will be able to showcase the best practices that have been taken by industries on initiatives resulted from this forum,” Marsudi said.
While the forum made general commitments it fell short of concrete action plans.
The Global Slavery Index estimates that 45 million people around the world are victims of modern slavery. It is estimated that two-thirds of these people were from the Indo-Pacific region.
“It is true that business and government, if we come together for the first time, have the power to end it. This has never been done before,” said Andrew Forrest, chairman of Australia’s Fortescue Metals Group and a co-chair of Friday’s forum.
Forrest urged governments across the Indo-Pacific region to adopt a Modern Slavery Act as a mean to tackle the problem.
Australia has instigated two parliamentary inquiries into the adoption of a Modern Slavery Act and the government is waiting for the reports, said Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.
Bishop said the Australian government is looking to introduce the legislation “as soon as possible” but did not put a specific date on it. The laws will be inspired by the UK’s Modern Slavery Act 2015.
Reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by Michael Perry