GFEMS, COVID-19 and Impacts on the Fight Against Modern Slavery

GFEMS, COVID-19 and Impacts on the Fight Against Modern Slavery


Dear Friends and Partners,

 The worldwide impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grow. At the start of the crisis, GFEMS took swift action to ensure the safety of our team and to adapt our business processes for full-time telecommuting. GFEMS staff are now working remotely with each other and with our partners on the ground in India, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Vietnam, and elsewhere. As COVID-19 advances, our attention is sharply focused on our partners, the vulnerable populations we serve, and on the global fight against modern slavery. 

Our Partners

The Fund is committed to remaining engaged on the ground as the pandemic spreads. Our primary concern is the health and safety of our partners, their teams, and our program beneficiaries. We are examining risks and are working with our partners to adjust project timelines and activities amidst the uncertainty. Although lack of reliable data on impacted regions and the constant evolution of the crisis are challenges, we remain committed to better understanding how COVID-19 impacts our partners’ environments, project plans, and people. 

The Fund is grateful to our partners for their dedication during this time. Their commitment in the most dire of circumstances is an exemplary model of how the global community should act to protect vulnerable populations during a global crisis. 

The Fight Against Modern Slavery

Although very little information is available on the impact of COVID-19 in the developing world, we expect that current victims and those most vulnerable to modern slavery will be severely impacted. In under-resourced communities, massive challenges like the lack of data and shortages of necessary medical supplies and equipment are common. Further, “social distancing” and other WHO recommendations will be difficult in high-density populations where such precautions are not always possible. The impact could be tragic. 

GFEMS anticipates at least four areas of risk where the global pandemic could strengthen the grip of modern slavery: 

  1. Current victims of modern slavery and exploitation may be unable to take protective health measures, and will likely find their conditions exacerbated in the face of more scarce resources and diverted attention of government agencies. 
  2. Those most vulnerable to modern slavery will face increasingly dire circumstances, potentially leading them to pursue risky migration or exploitative offers of employment.
  3. Interventions, research, and response efforts will likely experience severe delays or disruption, and/or require re-evaluation of objectives and tactics to ensure maximum effectiveness and minimum risk to beneficiaries and program staff. 
  4. Once restrictions are lifted and economic production resumes, incentives for companies to rapidly scale up production can create demand pressure that drives exploitation and unauthorized subcontracting, exponentially increasing risk of modern slavery in supply chains. 

GFEMS has begun analyzing these risks and is working to develop mitigation strategies. The Fund’s commitment to the fight against modern slavery is unwavering in the face of these circumstances and we are prepared to respond, adapt, and tackle these challenges head on. GFEMS continues to urge leaders in both government and business worldwide to strengthen their commitment to protecting populations vulnerable to modern slavery and preventing their exploitation.

As the crisis continues, we will share updates from our programs on the ground and the implications of the crisis on our fight. For updates and stories, subscribe to us on Medium or follow us on Twitter.  

Our impact is stronger when we work together, and we are deeply grateful for your commitment and partnership. We look forward to sharing ideas and navigating this unprecedented situation together. 

Wishes for health and safety, 

The GFEMS Team