Minderoo Foundation’s Walk Free initiative is an independent, privately funded international human rights organisation based in Perth, Western Australia. Walk Free work towards ending modern slavery in all its forms by taking a strong, multifaceted and global approach.
Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8.7 seeks to end modern slavery by mobilising the international community. Walk Free’s approach to achieving SDG 8.7 involves building a robust knowledge base to inform action and driving legislative change in key countries in partnership with faiths, businesses, academics, NGOs, and governments around the world. Through these partnerships, direct implementation, and grassroots community engagement Walk Free believes modern slavery can be eradicated.
The initiative was founded by Andrew Forrest, Nicola Forrest and Grace Forrest in 2010. Its CEO is Jenn Morris OAM. Walk Free are best known for their publication of the world’s most comprehensive evidence-base of modern slavery, the Global Slavery Index, now in its fourth edition.
In 2013, Walk Free became a co-founder of the Freedom Fund, an anti-slavery non-profit organisation. The Freedom Fund works with a variety of state and non-state actors and partners with organisations to tackle the many forms of modern slavery in regions where it is most highly concentrated.
Global Estimates of Modern Slavery
In 2017, the inaugural Global Estimates of Modern Slavery were produced by the International Labour Organization and Walk Free in partnership with the International Organization for Migration. The analysis drew on data from nationally representative surveys implemented through the Gallup World Poll including a module on modern slavery in 48 countries, and data from the Global Slavery Index Vulnerability Model.
Acknowledged data gaps in earlier editions of the Global Slavery Index, including lack of data on forced sexual exploitation and children in modern slavery, were addressed by adopting a combined methodological approach when developing the Global Estimates of Modern Slavery. This involved drawing on three sources of data:
- The existing Global Slavery Index survey program was expanded to include 54 surveys covering 48 countries. More than 71,000 people have been interviewed and the countries surveyed represent over half of the world’s population. It is the most extensive survey program on modern slavery ever undertaken and forms the central component of the Global Estimates of Modern Slavery.
- Administrative data from the International Organization for Migration’s databases of assisted victims of trafficking, and
- Data derived from validated secondary sources and a systematic review of comments from the International Labour Organization supervisory bodies regarding ILO Conventions on forced labour.
Global Slavery Index
The Global Slavery Index presents a ranking of 167 countries based on the percentage of the population estimated to be in modern slavery.
In 2013, Walk Free released the first edition of the Global Slavery Index. Later editions were released in 2014, 2016 and 2018. The 2018 Global Slavery Index Vulnerability Model provides a risk score for 167 countries while the Government Response Index provides an assessment on 181 governments.
The index provides rankings across three dimensions:
- Size of the problem: What is the estimated prevalence of modern slavery country by country in terms of percentage of population and absolute figures
- Government response: How are governments tackling modern slavery
- Vulnerability: What factors explain or predict the prevalence of modern slavery
The Global Slavery Index is a tool that provides greater understanding of the issue for citizens, non-governmental organisations, businesses, and public officials so that they can build sound policies that will end modern slavery. All data involved in producing the Global Slavery Index are also available for public download and interrogation from the website.
The methodology of early editions of the Global Slavery Index has been criticized by researchers Andrew Guth, Robyn Anderson, Kasey Kinnard, and Hang Tran. According to their analysis of the 2014 edition, the Index's methods had significant and critical weaknesses which raised questions about its replicability and validity.
The Walk Free Foundation has stated that it "welcomes constructive criticism", and  subsequent editions of the Global Slavery Index, published in 2016 and 2018, have undergone significant changes to the methodology to determine prevalence estimates.
As well as the Global Slavery Index and the Global Estimates of Modern Slavery, Walk Free have produced a number of other reports. Recent releases include
- Measurement Action Freedom: An independent assessment of government progress towards achieving UN Sustainable Development Goal 8.7
- Bitter Sweets: Prevalence of forced labour & child labour in the cocoa sectors of Côte d'Ivoire & Ghana
- Pervasive, Punitive and Predetermined: Understanding Modern Slavery in North Korea
- Beyond Compliance: The Modern Slavery Act Research Project
- The G20 Obligation: Achieving Sustainable, Fair, and Inclusive Global Supply Chains
- The Faith Community’s Role in Ending Modern Slavery
- Towards a Common Future: Achieving SDG 8.7 in the Commonwealth
- Walk Free Foundation (2014), "Global Slavery Index", p. 9, http://d3mj66ag90b5fy.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Global_Slavery_Index_2014_final_lowres.pdf
- 3 Walk Free Foundation (2013), "Global Slavery Index", p. 11, http://www.ungift.org/doc/knowledgehub/resource-centre/2013/GlobalSlaveryIndex_2013_Download_WEB1.pdf
- See www.globalslaveryindex.org
- Andrew Guth, Robyn Anderson, Kasey Kinnard and Hang Tran, Proper Methodology and Methods of Collecting and Analyzing Slavery Data: An Examination of the Global Slavery Index, in Social Inclusion (open access journal), Vol. 2, No 4 (2014), pp. 14-22, article posted on the Cogitatio website on 17 November 2014: "The Global Slavery Index aims to, among other objectives, recognize the forms, size, and scope of slavery worldwide as well as the strengths and weaknesses of individual countries. An analysis of the Index's methods exposes significant and critical weaknesses and raises questions into its replicability and validity" (summary of the article) - "The formation and implementation of sound policy is not possible without sound data. The methodology and methods used in the Index are currently inadequate and therefore the Index cannot be validated or replicated. Furthermore, the publicity given to the Index is leading to the use of this poor data not only by popular culture and reputable magazines and news organizations [...], but also by academic journals and high level policy makers [...], which can lead to inaccurate policy formulation and a compounding of harm [...]" (p. 19).
- David, F., ‘Global Slavery Index researchers welcome constructive criticism’, The Guardian, January 16th, 2014 https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2014/jan/15/letters-slavery-index-welcomes-criticism