Comprehensive strategies for addressing modern slavery and protecting migrant workers

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Fortescu Founder and Executive Chairman Dr. Andrew Forrest

PT Adaro Energy CEO Garibaldi Thohir

Foreign Affairs Minister Ali Sabry

Australia Ambassador to Counter Modern Slavery, People Smuggling and Human Trafficking Lynn Bell

Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister for Multilateral Cooperation Ambassador Tri Tharyat

Capital Maharaja Group Chairman Sashi Rajamahendran

GABF Sri Lanka Business Lead and CMG Director Chevaan Daniel


Humanity Research Consultancy Board Advisor Jake Sims, Chief of National Intelligence Major General Ruwan Kulatunga, Sri Lankan Navy Commander Vice Admiral Priyantha Perera, Ambassador to Counter Modern Slavery, People Smuggling and Human Trafficking Lynn Bell, and Moderator – Walk Free Director of Business and Human Rights Serena Grant at the panel


Capital Maharaja Group Director Chevaan Daniel, Adaro Power CEO Dharma Djojonegoro, Bayat Foundation Director Monty Simus, Fortescue Group Founder and Executive Chairman Dr. Andrew Forrest, and Moderator – CMG Company Secretary Sonali Wanigabaduge at the panel 

By Michelle Therese Alles

Modern slavery is an umbrella term that includes forced labour, human trafficking, and exploitation. Despite global awareness, this heinous practice persists, often concealed in plain sight, affecting millions across the globe, including a significant number in the Asia Pacific area.

Experts and leaders recently gathered in Colombo for the first Sri Lanka Summit on the Bali Process, a series of compelling discussions to address the critical issues of modern slavery, forced scamming, and the protection of migrant workers in the Asia-Pacific region. The panels explored the evolving legal landscape, the expectations of consumers and investors, and the challenges and opportunities faced by suppliers and governments alike. With a focus on collaboration, transparency, and ethical practices, these discussions highlighted the urgent need for comprehensive strategies to address exploitation and ensure the well-being of vulnerable workers.

The Summit was under the aegis of Bali Process Government and Business Forum (GABF) a strategic platform for collaboration between the private sector and Bali Process member states to address forced labour and human trafficking challenges. It was hosted by Capital Maharaja Group (CMG), the Sri Lanka Business lead of the Bali Process in partnership with Walk Free Foundation, Australia.

At the inauguration GABF Business Co-Chair Dr. Forrest described modern slavery and human trafficking as horrible scourge. He called for passing of required laws as well level playing field for local business to spur growth and jobs.

GABF Business Co-Chair Garibaldi Thohir said lack of job opportunities and economic vulnerability and desperate search for better life are key drivers for human trafficking.

Bali Process champions Ambassadors Lyn Bell and Tri Tharyat insisted business has significant power to end modern slavery and human trafficking.

Capital Maharaja Group Chairman Sashi Rajamahendran stressed business can make a difference in addressing human trafficking and modern slavery whilst GABF Sri Lanka Business Lead and CMG Director Chevaan Daniel emphasised opportunity is what Sri Lankans want.

Following are highlights of some of the sessions at the Summit. 

Panel 1: Addressing insights on modern slavery and forced scamming from the Asia Pacific Region 

Moderated by Walk Free Director of Business and Human Rights Serena Grant, the panel comprised of Commander of the Sri Lankan Navy Vice Admiral Priyantha Perera, Chief of National Intelligence Major General Ruwan Kulatunga, Ambassador Lynn Bell from Australia, an expert in countering modern slavery and human trafficking, Humanity Research Consultancy Board Advisor Jake Sims, and National Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force Secretary Mayuri Perera.

Providing a regional overview and highlighting the unique challenges faced by countries within the Asia Pacific, Vice Admiral Priyantha Perera and Major General Ruwan Kulatunga shed light on Sri Lanka’s specific circumstances. The island, while making strides in combating these issues, still grapples with the legacies of civil conflict, economic instability, and gaps in enforcement that allow slavery to continue. 

Vice Admiral Priyantha Perera cited economic reasons as the primary cause for most departures from the country, clarifying that these were not cases of trafficking but rather illegal migration, with all those involved being potential illegal immigrants.

Addressing the issue of Sri Lankan migrant workers, Major General Ruwan Kulatunga said, “Illegal trafficking of people to various countries on false promises has been a major concern. Initially, many were trafficked to the Middle East with false promises of job opportunities. We have classic cases in Oman where we brought back over 20 trafficked workers, especially women, with the strong support of the IOM.”

He added, “There have been instances of sexual and rape exploitation, and recently, ex-service personnel being trafficked through Russian and Ukrainian borders to occupy frontline positions without their prior knowledge. The Sri Lankan and Russian governments are currently engaged in successful discussions to prevent further incidents.” 

Ambassador Lynn Bell emphasised the importance of robust legal frameworks and international cooperation in tackling modern slavery. Noting that “we need to take action to stop the rivers of profits derived from these extremely exploitative practices,” she highlighted Australia’s efforts and the necessity for a cohesive regional strategy that transcended borders. 

Jake Sims pointed out that while there are numerous international protocols and conventions aimed at eradicating slavery, implementation at the national level remains inconsistent. This inconsistency creates a patchwork of protections that traffickers exploit. He provided insights into what forced scamming entails and shared a case study from Sri Lanka. Forced scamming involves victims being manipulated or coerced into participating in scams, such as online fraud or fake investments, under threats or false pretences. These victims often find themselves entrapped in a cycle of criminality, unable to escape due to threats of violence or legal repercussions. 

Mayuri Perera highlighted the critical role of civil society and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in bridging the gap between legislation and reality. She stressed the need for comprehensive victim support services, including legal aid, psychological counselling, and reintegration programs, which are often underfunded and overlooked in policy discussions.  In conclusion, the panel shed light on the complex and evolving nature of modern slavery in the Asia Pacific region. Through continuous effort and international cooperation, there is hope for a future free from the chains of modern slavery. 

Panel 2: Corporate champions unite against modern slavery 

Business leaders are increasingly recognising their pivotal role in combating the scourge of modern slavery by leveraging their resources, influence, and networks. The second panel discussion highlighted several efforts to address such risks. 

Fortescue Metals Group Founder and Chairman Dr. Andrew Forrest has been a vocal advocate against modern slavery. Recognising that supply chains can be breeding grounds for exploitation, FMG has implemented rigorous auditing and monitoring systems to ensure compliance with ethical standards. The company has also invested in training and capacity-building programmes for suppliers, promoting transparency and accountability. By integrating sustainable practices, FMG not only mitigates modern slavery risks but also sets a benchmark for the mining industry.

Speaking to the panellists, Dr. Forrest observed, “Slavery is one of the most exploitative and oldest businesses in the world, feeding off the darker aspects of human nature, such as extreme selfishness. Business leaders must acknowledge that slavery exists in their supply chains; it’s a matter of how diligently they search for it. I urge every business owner to continuously scrutinise and never settle, as only relentless effort will eliminate slavery from supply chains. Keep searching.” 

Montgomery Simus, representing Dr. Ehsan Bayat during the discussion, stated that innovation was crucial, especially in complex environments. “As one of Afghanistan’s largest organisations, the Bayat Group leads by example. We published the country’s first modern slavery statement, hoping to inspire others to follow, and we are committed to continuing our efforts for the long term, confident that others will eventually join us in this vital cause.”

Pak Dharma Djojonegoro, a prominent figure at the Bali Tech Forum, said that the Forum has initiated several campaigns aimed at educating the public and policymakers about the nuances of human trafficking and forced labour. By leveraging digital platforms and traditional media, the Forum has amplified the voices of survivors and activists, creating a culture of vigilance and proactive intervention. Engaging the media serves as a powerful tool to expose injustices and mobilise collective action against modern slavery. 

Chevaan Daniel’s innovative approach combines sports and media to combat modern slavery. Through a cricket advertisement and the ‘Gammadda’ campaign, Daniel has effectively reached diverse audiences, driving home the message of anti-slavery. The cricket ad, featuring prominent athletes, highlights the plight of child labourers and calls for public support to end exploitation. The ‘Gammadda campaign’, on the other hand, employs grassroot mobilisation to address systemic issues contributing to modern slavery. By harnessing the influence of sports and media, Daniel’s initiatives create widespread awareness and enhance community engagement. 

Dr. Ehsan Bayat has spearheaded efforts to tackle child labour and human trafficking through government-business collaborations. Hosting forums that bring together government officials, business leaders, and civil society, Dr. Bayat facilitated dialogue and coordinated actions to address these issues. His campaigns focus on creating educational and economic opportunities for vulnerable children, thereby reducing their susceptibility to exploitation. By aligning business objectives with social responsibility, Dr. Bayat demonstrates how collaborative efforts can yield significant impacts in challenging environments.

To ensure the effectiveness of anti-slavery initiatives, businesses must establish strong mechanisms for measuring impact and ensuring accountability. This includes setting clear targets, monitoring progress, and regularly reporting on outcomes. Third-party audits and certifications can provide additional validation of a company’s efforts. Transparent reporting not only builds trust with stakeholders but also demonstrates a company’s commitment to continuous improvement in combating modern slavery. 

Despite significant progress, businesses face numerous challenges in eradicating modern slavery. These include complex supply chains, lack of regulatory enforcement in certain regions, and limited resources for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Addressing these challenges requires a concerted effort from all sectors of society. Governments must strengthen legal frameworks and enforcement mechanisms, while international organisations can provide technical assistance and capacity-building support. Businesses, on their part, must continue to innovate and collaborate, sharing knowledge and resources to amplify their impact. 

The fight against modern slavery is far from over, but the actions of business leaders as highlighted at the 2024 Summit offer hope and direction. By transforming supply chains, leveraging media, launching innovative campaigns, and fostering collaborations, these leaders are making significant strides towards a world free of exploitation. The Bali Process Government and Business Forum plays a crucial role in this endeavour, facilitating the exchange of ideas and best practices. As businesses continue to integrate ethical practices into their operations, the vision of a slavery-free world becomes increasingly attainable. Through sustained commitment and collective action, modern slavery can be eradicated, paving the way for a future where every individual enjoys freedom and dignity. 


John Keells Holdings Group Chief People Officer Isuru Gunasekera, Virtusa Sustainability Global Head Denver De Zylva, Nepal Ekarat Engineering Company MD Kush Kumar Joshi, ILO Regional Specialist, Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work Insaf Nisham, and Moderator – Walk Free Business and Human Rights Director Serena Grant at the panel

Directorate for Citizen Protection Deputy Director for Southeast Asia Affairs Rina Komaria, Global Migrant Worker Network Founder Mahendra Pandey, MAS Holdings Chief Operating Officer Ruwan Keragala, and Moderator – IOM Senior Regional Migrant Protection Specialist  Peppi Kiviniemi-Siddiq at the panel


Panel 3: Insights from the APAC Region on Human Rights and Global Supply Chains 

This session provided a comprehensive examination of the evolving legal landscape, the expectations of consumers and investors, and the challenges and opportunities faced by suppliers. Moderated by Walk Free Director of Business and Human Rights Serena Grant, the panel featured industry leaders and experts, including Virtusa Global Head of Sustainability Denver De Zylva, Nepal Ekarat Engineering Company Ltd. Managing Director Kush Kumar Joshi, John Keells Holdings Group Chief People’s Officer Isuru Gunasekara, and International Labour Organization (ILO) Regional Specialist in Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work Insaf Nisham.

The discussion began with an exploration of the rapidly changing legal landscape affecting global supply chains. Serena Grant highlighted that governments worldwide are increasingly enacting stringent laws to ensure businesses uphold human rights within their supply chains. 

Denver De Zylva emphasised that compliance is no longer a choice, but a necessity for companies operating in the global market. He pointed out that regulatory compliance not only helps avoid legal penalties but also enhances brand reputation and investor confidence. Furthermore, he discussed how multinational corporations are setting higher standards for their suppliers, requiring adherence to international human rights norms and labour standards. 

Kush Kumar Joshi addressed the shifting expectations of customers, consumers, and investors regarding ethical practices. He noted that there is a growing demand for transparency and accountability from businesses. Consumers today are more informed and conscientious about the origins of the products they purchase. They prefer brands that demonstrate a commitment to ethical sourcing and fair labour practices. 

Investors, too, are increasingly incorporating Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) criteria into their investment decisions. Isuru Gunasekara explained that businesses are now under pressure to provide detailed ESG reports, showcasing their efforts in maintaining ethical supply chains. He stressed that meeting these expectations not only attracts ethical investors but also opens up new market opportunities. 

The panellists also delved into the challenges and opportunities faced by suppliers in the APAC region. Insaf Nisham from the ILO highlighted that while the region has a vast labour force and abundant resources, suppliers often struggle with issues such as poor working conditions, low wages, and lack of proper regulatory frameworks. He emphasised the importance of collaboration between governments, businesses, and international bodies to create an enabling environment for ethical practices, and highlighted various ILO initiatives aimed at promoting decent work and labour rights, which are crucial for sustainable supply chains.

The panel discussion underscored the critical importance of integrating human rights considerations into global supply chains, particularly in the APAC region. It highlighted the evolving legal landscape, the rising expectations of consumers and investors, and the challenges and opportunities faced by suppliers. The insights shared by the panellists provided a roadmap for businesses to navigate the complexities of maintaining ethical supply chains, emphasising that a commitment to human rights is not only a moral imperative but also a strategic advantage in today’s global economy. 

Panel 4: Business and Government collaboration in the APAC Region to protect migrant workers: 

This session brought together key stakeholders from various sectors to discuss strategies, share case studies, and explore the perspectives of migrant workers. Moderated by International Organization for Migration (IOM) Regional Office Senior Regional Protection Specialist Kivinemi-Siddiq Peppi, the panel included distinguished speakers such as Directorate for Citizen Protection Deputy Director for Southeast Asia Affairs Rina Komaria, Global Migrant Worker Network Founder Mahendra Pandey, and MAS Holdings Chief Operating Officer Ruwan Keragala. 

The discussion began with an examination of government case studies, highlighting initiatives and policies aimed at protecting migrant workers. Rina Komaria shared insights from Southeast Asia, emphasising the role of comprehensive legal frameworks and bilateral agreements in safeguarding workers’ rights. She detailed how these measures have been instrumental in providing a safety net for migrant workers, ensuring they receive fair wages, proper working conditions, and legal protection against exploitation. A notable example was the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Indonesia and Malaysia, which outlines the rights and responsibilities of both employers and employees. This MoU has been pivotal in addressing issues such as contract substitution, wage theft, and human trafficking, setting a precedent for other countries in the region. 

Following the government case studies, Ruwan Keragala from MAS Holdings presented business case studies that showcased how corporations can play a significant role in protecting migrant workers. MAS Holdings, a leading apparel manufacturer, has implemented robust policies to ensure ethical recruitment practices and fair treatment of migrant workers. Keragala highlighted the company’s partnership with NGOs and international organisations to provide training, legal assistance, and support services to their workforce. 

He also discussed the importance of transparency and accountability in supply chains, stressing that businesses must go beyond compliance to proactively ensure the well-being of their workers. This includes regular audits, grievance mechanisms, and continuous engagement with workers to understand and address their concerns. 

Mahendra Pandey brought a crucial dimension to the discussion by sharing the perspectives of migrant workers themselves. As the founder of the Global Migrant Worker Network, Pandey emphasised the need to listen to and amplify the voices of those directly affected. He shared poignant stories from migrant workers who have faced exploitation, abuse, and legal hurdles in their host countries. 

These personal accounts underscored the urgent need for holistic support systems that address not only the legal and economic aspects of migration but also the social and psychological well-being of workers. Pandey called for stronger collaboration between governments, businesses, and civil society to create an environment where migrant workers can thrive and contribute positively to both their home and host countries. 

The final segment of the session focused on the development of a stakeholder action plan and closing remarks. The panellists collectively emphasised the need for a multi-stakeholder approach, involving governments, businesses, NGOs, and international organisations, to create sustainable solutions for the protection of migrant workers. 

Some of the key recommendations included governments enhancing and rigorously enforcing legal frameworks that provided consistent protection for migrant workers’ rights across borders. Secondly, businesses had to adopt and adhere to ethical recruitment practices, promoting transparency and fairness throughout the hiring process, ensuring the prevention of exploitation and that migrant workers be treated with respect and dignity from the outset. 

Additionally, it was emphasised that comprehensive support systems for migrant workers, including legal aid, social services, and psychological support be established. Lastly, encouraging collaboration between various stakeholders, including governments, businesses, and non-governmental organisations was vital in the sharing of best practices, resources, and expertise, ultimately leading to more effective protection and support for migrant workers. 

The panel discussion on protecting migrant workers highlighted the critical need for coordinated efforts between business and government. Through insightful case studies, the sharing of migrant worker perspectives, and the development of actionable recommendations, the session provided a valuable platform for advancing the rights and protections of one of the most vulnerable groups in the global labour force.



-Pix by Upul Abayasekara


‘Colombo Commitment’ debuts

In her closing remarks, Kivinemi-Siddiq Peppi announced the publication of the ‘Colombo Commitment’, a comprehensive action plan outlining the steps discussed during the session. The document would serve as a roadmap for stakeholders committed to improving the lives of migrant workers in the APAC region and beyond.

The historic Colombo Commitment, announced at the end of the program, signifies a collaborative effort between Sri Lanka and prominent figures like Andrew Forrest, Garibaldi Thohir, and Chevaan Daniel. By leveraging international cooperation and resources, the Colombo Commitment aims to implement stringent measures and enhance victim support, thereby creating a sustainable and ethical labour environment. This marks a significant step forward in combating modern slavery and promoting human rights in the Asia-Pacific region.

“The Sri Lanka Summit encapsulates everything we’ve spoken about today and embodies the spirit of the Colombo Commitment. We’d love for all of you to throw your weight and support behind this initiative. Today, a dream has come true on this stage,” said Chevaan Daniel.