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This week’s editor

Tom Rowley is editor of oDR, covering the progressive agenda in Eurasia.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

Syndicate content The Rights Track
The Rights Track podcast gets the hard facts about the human rights challenges facing the world today and aims to get our thinking about human rights on the right track. The podcast is hosted by Professor Todd Landman, a human rights scholar and champion for the advancement of human rights understanding. In Series 1, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, Todd interviews leading analysts at the forefront of the latest critical thinking on human rights. Each episode is an insightful, compelling and rigorous interview with academics engaged in systematic human rights research. In Series 2, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, The Rights Track turns its attention to human rights advocates and practitioners involved in the struggle for human rights to learn more about their work and the ways in which academic research is helping them. Series 3 sees our podcast joining the fight to end modern day slavery by 2030. In partnership with the University of Nottingham's Right's Lab research project, we talk with researchers who are providing hard evidence about the scale of the problem and by recommending strategies that can help consign slavery to the history books. Although our interviews focus on often complex research, they have been developed with a much wider audience in mind and we want them to be accessible to anyone with an interest in human rights.
Updated: 43 min 53 sec ago

In Episode 5 of Series 3 we find out how satellites are being used to root out slavery from space. Our guest is Dr Doreen Boyd from the University of Nottingham who is part of a team of researchers who are the first on the world to use geospatial intelligence to identify slavery locations to support the efforts of organisations and individuals trying to root out and put an end to modern slavery in countries around the world.

0.00 - 6.45

  • Doreen explains how previously she has been using satellites to look at tropical rainforests but more recently as part of the Rights Lab project has been using them to identify locations where modern slavery is occurring
  •  It takes many months to obtain completely cloud free images of the earth's surface but the resolution of the images is improving all the time
  • Todd mentions examples of where satellites have been used to identify human rights abuses such as in Sri Lanka and in South Sudan
  • A major part of the work to date has involved using satellite imagery to identify brick kilns in South Asia - brick kilns are often linked with modern slavery (around 70 per cent of workforce)
  • The project covers the so-called Brick Belt which covers 1.25 square kilometres
  • Todd points out that this is part of a much bigger problem and that certain industries are harder to spot from space

6.50 - 12.15

  • Doreen talks about how her team used images from the free source Google Earth to count brick kilns in an area and then statistically estimate the size of the problem
  • She explains how this information can then be used to expose and address the problem
  • Todd outlines some of the statistical techniques and how they are similar across disciplines 
  • Discussion around who uses the evidence and how and why it is so robust and indisputable

12.15 - end

  • The research team has also discovered evidence of modern slavery at fisheries in the UNESCO World Heritage site Sundarbans National Park in Bangladesh
  • Doreen points out that as well as identifying human rights abuses the technology can also identify environmental issues
  • Doreen outlines some additional work on charcoal production in Brazil 
  • Todd mentions the risks associated with following up on evidence on the ground but also how deployment of technology (e.g. use of drones) can overcome some of those problems
  • Doreen talks about how being able to link environmental issues and modern slavery has had a role in promoting activism

Further resources and information



In Episode 4 of Series 3 we talk about why the voices of modern slaves are key to finding the solutions that will help end slavery. Our guests are Andrea Nicholson and Minh Dang who are researching survivor narratives as part of the Rights Lab project at the University of Nottingham.

 0.00 - 03.50

  • What does it mean to be a survivor of slavery? Andrea explains the world is only just beginning to accept that slavery still exists, and, although it has many similarities with 19th century chattel slavery, it does not look the same
  • Todd describes a survivor as someone who was formerly a slave who has since been liberated - Andrea points out that even when liberated survivors are still attached to the experience of slavery and experience difficulty in "divorcing" from enslavement and the fear of re-enslavement
  • Andrea makes a distinction between victims (a limiting term) and survivors (an empowering term) – in this context she sees victims as a ‘legal term’, someone seeking redress for offences committed against them using criminal law while survivors don't necessarily see themselves as victims
  • Todd mentions an earlier episode of The Rights Track with William Simmons in which he stressed the importance of remembering that people who have suffered human rights abuses do not only identify themselves as victims – there are ‘joyful’ things about their lives too
  • Andrea agrees stressing that many survivors of slavery are also scholars, activists, and leaders who are engaged in action against slavery and why it’s important to acknowledge and understand that

03.50 - 07.43

Todd introduces Minh Dang who is leading a project in San Francisco around the formation of the Survivor Alliance

  • Minh explains how, as a survivor herself she became aware of a disconnect between academic research and the experiences of survivors
  • She explains how her research seeks to build the voices of survivors into the design of research projects and anti-slavery solutions/interventions
  • Discussion of how and why the voices of survivors can be incorporated into the structuring of research projects through the use of participatory methods and action research techniques
  • Minh talks about her experience of a community-based participatory research study, evaluating an anti-trafficking task force in San Francisco, where the research questions and project design came from survivors and how her PhD is asking survivors how they define well-being to inform and assess mental health interventions and how that will help practitioners (doctors/nurses/counsellors) provide better support
  • The San Francisco project is highlighted as one which features a multi-agency approach and is inclusive of the views and experiences of survivors – Minh mentions the project’s human trafficking report


07.43 - 13.45


            See also: Anti-Slavery; The Usable Past

  • Defining slavery is problematic - the 1926 definition focuses on rights of ownership - this creates issues for courts and NGOs so Andrea and Minh’s work uses survivors’ perceptions of what slavery is
  • Emerging from the narratives are concerns that some forms of slavery are being missed such as the sexual slavery of men and boys
  • The narratives are being mapped against the 169 Sustainable Development Goals
  • While SDG 8.7 is very explicit in terms of slavery, others related to education, health, armed conflict, climate change and gender bias may also be relevant
  • Minh adds that survivors don't identify as being ‘a slave’ until they are made aware - they may focus instead on domestic violence, poverty, racism or immigration issues

14.36 - 19.50

  • Andrea agrees that labelling of their experiences is important for survivors and gives them something to hold on to and a community to belong to.
  • Work with survivors around narratives has begun to reveal a great deal on perceptions of trauma, recovery, freedom and particularly what the definition of slavery means to them
  • Discussion on the impact of enslavement on survivors and how people process what has happened
  • Very little work has been done on trauma associated with slavery and it may not be the same as for survivors of other traumas such as the holocaust or domestic abuse, and evidence from survivor narratives shows post slavery trauma to be long lasting and complex and varied in impact on survivors - this project adds to that new and growing body of evidence
  • Minh joins the discussion on how focus should be directed away from the moment of freedom to the longer term which is that rescue is not the end of the process but the beginning of a long journey to recovery

19.50 - 23.24

  • Survivor Solutions has already thrown up specific strategic solutions from survivors which include public awareness campaigns, education programmes for vulnerable communities to reduce the power of traffickers, regulation of employment agencies, providing platforms for survivors to speak, monitoring of government anti-slavery programmes, and provision of safe housing

 Other useful links:

In Episode 3 of Series 3 of The Rights Track we talk to Dr Alexander Trautrims  from the University of Nottingham who leads the Rights Lab’s programme of research helping businesses to develop and implement measures to ensure their supply chains are slavery free. 


  • Explanation of what  supply chains are and how they work - why and how certain supply chains are more complex than others and how they can differ across and  between countries. What drives why and how supply chains are established: e.g. availability, cost, expertise, specialist resources. Why and how labour and the cost of labour are key to supply chains and winning business.
  • Discussion around the existing obligations and protections (laws/human rights) that exist to protect workers. Alex explains that different countries operate within different legislative contexts. He cites Brazil as an example of advanced labour law and the UK as being the opposite with an increasing trend towards outsourcing low-skilled labour where the only way they can keep costs low is by providing worse terms and conditions to workers - he says this is particularly prevalent in the public sector.
  • Todd mentions recent investigations into companies like Flatcom, Toshiba and Apple into unfair working practices and the work of the Fair Labor Association in Washington looking into these. He mentions an earlier episode of The Rights Track with Professor Shareen Hertel where workers rights and unfair practices were discussed but then asks Alex to outline some of the more exploitative practices that he’s been looking at. 
  • Explanation of where in the supply chain exploitative practices are most prevalent, what those practices look like and how it is detected


Alex mentions his recent research looking at exploitative practices in car washes and how, in some cases, it is clearly observable that workers are not* possibly being paid the minimum wage or that they are being coerced or forced to work. He explains that one of the biggest concerns is that there is a ‘normalisation’ of these practices

  • Discussion around who is legally responsible for these activities e.g. if there is a car wash operating in a supermarket car *park* is the supermarket responsible for making sure illegal/unethical practices are not occurring?   
  • Alex explains the car washes have been the subject of considerable recent scrutiny by the Labour Abuse Authority and Anti-Slavery Commissioner and in the media recently with some high profile arrests
  • Todd asks about public attitudes towards towards using services that they ‘know’ to be exploitative and asks if , rather like with free range eggs, if people knew the labour was sourced ethically they would be prepared to pay more for the service. Alex says there has been a change in how this is viewed and that many  members of the public are ‘wilfully ignorant’ and choose not to behave ethically because they do not necessarily see a direct benefit to themselves of doing so. When it comes to businesses ‘turning a blind eye’ to what might be happening in the car parks, he believes however that increasingly it is being understood and accepted that ignorance is not a defence and that legislation will be developed to enforce that.


  • More detailed explanation of Alex’s car wash research and how he and colleagues investigated a car wash and modelled all the relevant statistics to show that there was no way its workers could have been paid the minimum wage.
  • How the research is being used on a bigger scale by police forces in their efforts to investigate other car washes
  • Todd mentions how the 2015 Modern Slavery Act is working to ensure large businesses are being transparent about their supply chains and to state publicly how they will fight modern slavery but asks how do they know what’s happening and put practices in place 
  • Alex says he believes the Act is doing a great deal to encourage good supply chain practice but says the challenges in achieving this are huge for some companies and that it is almost impossible to guarantee.
  • Discussion around how the Unchained Supply Project is working to help companies detect, development and implement measures against modern slavery in supply chains and procurement activities 

Other useful links


In Episode 2 of Series 3 of The Rights Track we talk to Dr Alison Gardner, from the University of Nottingham who leads the Rights Lab’s ‘Slavery-Free Communities’ initiative. Through work with statutory, business and voluntary-sector partners, Alison’s research is developing policy and community-centred responses to modern slavery.  The research aims to make the city of Nottingham a slavery free city by 2030.


  • Alison explains how she and the Rights Lab team are working to define and explain what a slavery free community looks like
  • Much attention on the national picture, but to date very little has been done to understand what slavery looks like at a local level - this is a gap in policy because most work to prevent it takes place locally
  • Slavery free communities project is all about responding to the problem at a local level using available resources and better serving people to respond to and then prevent modern slavery


  • Discussion on how people may be ‘rescued’ from slavery but then go back into it because of a lack of support/services
  • Explanation of different stakeholders and help available and the challenges around co-ordination of services
  • Alison mentions detailed reports produced by Her Majesty’s Constabulary on police response to modern slavery. There are questions as to whether police are best placed to take a lead and the need on tackling modern slavery for more community and voluntary sector engagement 
  • The National Referral Mechanism is run by the Salvation Army and works to identify victims of trafficking or slavery - Alison points out that other NGOs working with the Salvation Army team to be national or regional rather than local
  • Potential role of the community at large to help stop and prevent the problem. Alison mentions the Clewer Initiative by the Church of England which is trying to use faith communities to try to detect and eradicate slavery


  • How the research is working to make Nottingham a slavery-free city - Alison outlines the basic tenets for this as outlined by slavery expert Kevin Bales in his book, The Slave Next Door 
  • Example of how front line staff in a business might support the detection and eradication of slavery households e.g meter readers who go into homes  
  • Alison explains that she and colleagues are also interested to know how you make an economy slavery free. This goes beyond existing supply chain legislation outlined in Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act and to think of their role as corporate citizens
  • Alison explains how the project is working with the Red Cross to look at better survivor support
  • Discussion around the need to strengthen the sharing of intelligence between agencies and how banks and hospitals might help.
  • Alison describes some of the data that might be useful in the mapping of slavery including Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO) and anti social behaviour complaints.
  • The importance of front line training for e.g. nurses in Accident and Emergency but the challenges surrounding this. 
  • How behavioural economics or ’nudging’ could help to raise public consciousness of modern slavery so that it’s more obvious. 


  • Description and discussion of the recent Rooney case which led to the jailing of 11 people for modern slavery offences and the available sanctions
  • Role of the Modern Slavery Act in increased sentences 
  • How agencies and police forces are using the tactic of ‘disrupting’ patterns of crime as well as detailed investigations needed to secure a modern slavery conviction
  • Making Nottingham a slavery free city by 2030 is going to be challenging but changing people’s mind set in that time is achievable concludes Alison.

Other useful links