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University of Hull's Wilberforce Institute joins Prime Minister's modern slavery centre


Prime Minister Theresa May has today put the University of Hull’s Wilberforce Institute at the heart of a major new £10m centre that aims to combat the “scourge” of modern slavery in the UK.

The Wilberforce Institute is one the partners behind the new Policy and Evidence Centre on Modern Slavery and Human Rights, the first of its kind in the world. The Centre aims to transform our understanding of modern slavery and then build a robust legal and policy framework that can focus on eradicating it.

Modern slavery has been described by the Prime Minister as “the great human rights issue of our time” and the world’s governments have agreed to work towards its elimination by 2030.

Funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Strategic Priorities Fundand led by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), in collaboration with other research councils, the centre will bring together academics, policy-makers, businesses and charities to drive forward new studies, share knowledge, and improve collaboration both at home and overseas, to further strengthen our response to modern slavery.

Professor John Oldfield, Director of the Wilberforce Institute, said: “This is an exciting opportunity for the Wilberforce Institute to work collaboratively with others to develop a dynamic and agile research agenda on modern slavery that will inform the priorities of a range of key stakeholders, including business, policymakers and international organisations.

“The new centre will put the Wilberforce Institute and the University of Hull at the forefront of UK efforts to devise effective legal and policy responses to the scourge of modern slavery.”

The multidisciplinary centre will be led by the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law and will be made up of a consortium of universities and independent research organisations with a track record in world-class work on modern slavery. The partners in the consortium are the Rights Lab at the University of Nottingham, the Wilberforce Institute at the University of Hull, the Centre for the Study of International Slavery at the University of Liverpool, the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights at the University of Oxford and the Alan Turing Institute, the national institute for data science and artificial intelligence, in London. 

In announcing the new Modern Slavery Centre, Prime Minister Theresa May, said: “More than a 100 years ago the world condemned slavery to the history books, but the stark reality for around 40 million men, women and children is that they are still trapped in modern slavery.

“As both Home Secretary and Prime Minister I have endeavoured to shine a light on this hidden crime, to speak out for victims and put modern slavery firmly on the domestic and international agenda.

“There is much we can be proud of in our progress so far, but we need to accelerate our efforts, better share knowledge and build on our expertise.

“That is why we commissioned an Independent Review of the Modern Slavery Act to ensure our laws are keeping pace with the rapidly evolving nature of these crimes, and why I am pleased to support new, innovative research to inform global efforts to end this barbaric crime by 2030.”

The Centre will be independent from Government and will use high quality research to ensure its work is policy relevant and capable of informing, influencing and where necessary challenging Government policy.

It will focus its efforts on improving the evidence base on four key themes of: preventing modern slavery; transparency in supply chains; understanding survivor needs and enhancing victim support; and the effectiveness of legal enforcement measures.

UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport, said: “The Modern Slavery Policy and Evidence Centre is the first of its kind in the world, designed to bring together researchers, policymakers, businesses, charities and NGOs.

“The UK leads the world on this fundamental issue of human rights using evidence-based policy making, and research and innovation plays a vital role in this effort. The funding announced today through the Strategic Priorities Fund further demonstrates the UK’s commitment to ending modern slavery.”


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