Chapter Spotlight: UNA New York City

At the core of the 2030 agenda, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and their 169 subgoals, act as a blueprint for humanity in order to achieve a better future for all. Equipped with 12 targets, SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth is designed to advance inclusive and sustainable growth while promoting productive and decent work. SDG target 8.7 is specifically intended to eradicate forced labor, end modern slavery and human trafficking, and eliminate all child labor.

Over the years, the UNA New York City Chapter has been deeply committed to advancing SDG 8.7 and abolishing modern slavery. Last year, UNA NYC’s annual UN Day Humanitarian Awards Gala Dinner was dedicated entirely to this issue, and from this event emerged a new partnership with Freedom United, the largest modern anti-slavery community in the world that works to mobilize people to take action against all forms of modern slavery wherever it exists. Over the past year, UNA NYC and Freedom United have been working together to advocate for SDG 8.7 and get more countries to ratify the Forced Labour Protocol of the International Labour Organization, known as P29. P29 recognizes the prohibition of forced labor to be a fundamental human right, and it is forced labor that stands in the way of achieving decent work for all. 

Through their partnership, UNA NYC and Freedom United have been able to advocate for SDG 8.7 and P29 on a larger scale, including at UN Headquarters and at various Permanent Missions to the UN. Throughout 2020, they organized events at Permanent Missions to the UN to promote the ratification and implementation of P29. These events resulted in discussions and recommitments to the protocol. Since the event at the Permanent Mission of Costa Rica, the country has now ratified P29. UNA NYC and Freedom United also co-hosted a film screening of Made in Bangladesh, highlighting the exploitation of women in the garment manufacturing industry and the importance of forced labor legislation. “I am grateful to UNA NYC and its leadership for recognizing the impact of combining its partnerships and networks with our community, as we seek change towards a world in which modern slavery no longer thrives” said Freedom United’s Executive Director Joanna Ewart-James. In just one year of collaboration, this partnership has helped raise the number of countries who have ratified P29 from 37 to 47. 

UNA NYC is an organization with a broad mandate, and working with Freedom United gives us the opportunity to get involved directly with an SDG,” Communications Associate Zahra Mustamand said. “It’s been great working with an organization that specializes in this human rights issue. Partnerships educate us.” Adding to that, Communications Associate Carlo Ladd explained alliances are crucial to having a huge, positive impact on an issue and partnerships showcase strength through numbers. “It’s been exciting to pull in experts and get the community involved and engaged. Digital advocacy is a powerful tool, and it’s been amazing seeing the mobilization it can achieve.” 

Though modern slavery is a major human rights issue with such a wide scope, not many people know about it or are educated on the matter. Especially in a globalized world, modern slavery needs to be “something everyone should care [about] because everyone is affected by it. In some way, we’re all connected to modern slavery. If we don’t speak up, nothing will get done to solve the issue,” Carlo shared. Both Carlo and Zahra spoke to the importance of making the public aware of modern slavery, as it is an issue that is weaved into other human rights topics. Since March, the events that UNA NYC and Freedom United have been hosting are virtual, allowing them the opportunity to reach even more people. 

UNA NYC and Freedom United will continue working together in the future to shine light on the issue of modern slavery and educate others. As Zahra explained, “civil society has influence, and that matters. Citizens have power. There’s power in your signature.”