Photo Credit: Kena Betancur / Getty Images for Global Goals.


Measurement, Action, Freedom

An independent assessment of government progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 8.7.

Through the precise measurement of progress and gaps in current responses to SDG 8.7, we can galvanise immediate and effective action towards the eradication of the most extreme forms of exploitation, and thereby bring about the freedom of 40.3 million people in modern slavery.

What is the Measurement, Action, Freedom report?

The Measurement, Action, Freedom report is a tool for citizens, non-government organisations (NGOs), businesses, and governments to understand current legislative and policy responses to modern slavery. It provides an independent assessment of 183 governments and their responses to the challenge of Sustainable Development Goal 8.7, which aims to eradicate modern slavery. Governments are assessed against their ability to identify and support survivors, to establish effective criminal justice systems, to strengthen coordination mechanisms and be held to account, to address underlying risk factors, and to clean up government and business supply chains, all in order to eradicate modern slavery. The findings shine a light on those taking strong action, identify those that are lagging, and highlight the activities that should be prioritised. As a result of our assessment, we know that progress towards SDG 8.7 has been incredibly slow to date and that we are not on track to achieve SDG 8.7 by 2030. Future editions will continue to track the progress made by governments in tackling modern slavery.

In order to galvanise action, we recommend that UN member states develop and adopt indicators under SDG 8.7 on modern slavery. At the national level, we recommend that governments:

  • Increase identification of, and improve assistance for, modern slavery victims;
  • Ratify the ILO Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930;
  • Strengthen existing modern slavery legislation to ensure that all forms of exploitation are criminalised and penalties are severe;
  • Empower women and girls by providing primary education for all;
  • Strengthen national laws to protect labour rights for all workers in both the formal and informal economy.
Why we must measure government progress

In the four years since all UN member states reached agreement on the Sustainable Development Agenda, progress to achieve SDG 8.7, which aims to eradicate modern slavery, has been incredibly slow. Beyond honouring their commitment to the SDGs, there is a moral imperative for governments to respond to this gross abuse of human rights. If the world is serious about ending the enslavement of 40.3 million people, governments will need to redouble efforts to identify victims, arrest perpetrators, and address the drivers.

At the UN level, progress towards the SDGs is measured by a global indicator framework and Voluntary National Reviews, where governments report on their own activities against these indicators. This approach is hampered, however, by the lack of indicators on all forms of modern slavery under SDG 8.7, as well as the voluntary nature of this reporting. Without clear indicators to measure progress toward the 2030 goal, governments are not able to report systematically and consistently, nor can they be held to account. In the absence of clear indicators, we have produced this report to provide an independent assessment of government action.

How we do it

The assessments presented in this report provide a comparative measure of the legal, policy, and programmatic actions that 183 governments are taking to respond to modern slavery. This is based on a conceptual framework – initially developed for the 2014 Global Slavery Index (GSI) and included in three subsequent editions – that sets out what constitutes a strong response to modern slavery.

The conceptual framework tracks government progress towards achieving SDG 8.7 and eradicating modern slavery across five milestones:

  1. Survivors of slavery are identified and supported to exit and remain out of slavery.
  2. Criminal justice mechanisms function effectively to prevent modern slavery.
  3. Coordination occurs at the national level and across borders, and governments are held to account for their response.
  4. Risk factors, such as attitudes, social systems, and institutions that enable modern slavery are addressed.
  5. Government and business stop sourcing goods and services produced by forced labour.

Data presented in the current report refers to actions that took place during the reporting period of 1 July 2017 through to 15 February 2019, building on data collected in previous GSI data collection rounds.

Future targets
  • Become the benchmark measure for assessment of progress towards SDG 8.7 targets.
  • Provide the most comprehensive data on global modern slavery at a country level.
  • Continue to refine our methodology to provide the most accurate measure of modern slavery government responses.
  • Use our measurement as a foundational resource for effective advocacy work.
  • Hold governments accountable for their anti-slavery actions.


Cecilia Flores-Oebanda

CEO, Voice of the Free (formerly Visayan Forum Foundation)

“Civil society needs an accurate road-map of effective government action in ending modern slavery.

The SDG 8.7 is a huge opportunity in our engagement with government to inspire strategic actions that identify and serve the needs of survivors, prosecute offenders and tackle socio-economic injustices.

Walk Free’s Measurement, Action, Freedom: An independent assessment of government progress towards achieving UN Sustainable Development Goal 8.7 is a useful roadmap and tool to help us understand and focus our advocacy efforts at the national and regional levels. This report also provides a landscape for us on the ground and helps us navigate our strategies in engaging with governments to realise and localise SDG targets.

This report’s inclusion of survivor experiences and healing is a powerful example of how we can optimise survivor voices and their experiences in our advocacy and policy work to end modern slavery. Walk Free’s integration of the services of Regensys, a survivor-employing data collection service is a strong example of meaningful engagement with survivors at every level of research.

Finally, the report correctly highlights the still limited role of the private sector in tackling labour exploitation. Civil society needs to engage with local businesses to expand economic opportunities for families and communities to help address the root causes of trafficking.”

Nick Grono

CEO, Freedom Fund

“Measuring the response to modern slavery is difficult.

The data is hidden and hard to get at. We know that in order to eradicate a crime that affects over 40 million people worldwide, government action and collaboration to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal 8.7 are crucial. Yet, it has been challenging to pinpoint how and where governments can take targeted, effective measures to eliminate forced labour, human trafficking and child labour.  

That’s why the new report by Walk Free, Measurement, Action, Freedom: An independent assessment of government progress towards achieving UN Sustainable Development Goal 8.7, is such an important tool for the anti-slavery movement. This report will galvanize action to achieve SDG 8.7 and help those in the anti-slavery community better understand the role of government in combatting modern slavery.

From my perspective as the chief executive of an organization that is dedicated to ending modern slavery – and deeply committed to improving the knowledge base – Walk Free’s new report is a big step forward. In a field that still remains far too uncoordinated, this report takes an important look at what governments around the world can and must do to end modern slavery. The Freedom Fund welcomes this effort, and we are hopeful it will drive real progress against the ambitious goal of eradicating slavery by 2030.”

Sophie Otiende

Program Consultant, Awareness Against Human Trafficking (HAART)

“Walk Free’s Measurement, Action, Freedom highlights governments’ performance on addressing the issue of human trafficking.

Advocacy can be extremely difficult without data and information that can guide civil societies on the areas of focus. Our hope is that this report will help in identification of these areas of focus and begin a conversation on what government progress looks like and how it can be improved.”

Carol Smolenskie


“Walk Free has devised a significant and thoughtful method for measuring the international community’s effort to implement SDG 4Goal 8.7. 

For many years NGOs, governments and international organisations have struggled with ways to measure our collective efforts against forced labor, modern slavery and related topics. While no prevalence number is attainable at this stage, the report represents a major step forward.”

Project members

Davina Durgana
Senior Multilateral Engagement Advisor
Elise Gordon
Senior Research Analyst
Jacqueline Joudo Larsen
Lead, Global Research
Katharine Bryant
Lead – European Engagement