Combating modern slavery is not one of the six funding priorities at the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation. However, CIFF has shown its support of humanitarian causes and allocates up to 10 percent of its annual funding to what it refers to as “extraordinary events and humanitarian crises.”
In 2014, CIFF committed $20 million in response to the Ebola outbreak, which marked the foundation’s largest commitment to a humanitarian crisis so far. And from what we can tell, this has been CIFFs only big gift out of its humanitarian portfolio to date.
We aren’t sure where CIFFs five-year, $10 million grant to the Freedom Fund fits into its priorities. We can say with a fair amount of certainty that this particular grant answers CIFF's call to “play a catalytic role as a funder and influencer to deliver urgent and lasting change for children at scale.”
In 2013, Humanity United, Legatum Foundation and Walk Free Foundation each committed $10 million to create the Freedom Fund, which immediately became the world’s first private donor fund devoted to ending modern day slavery. The objective of the fund is to raise $100 million by 2020 and invest that money into freeing the 20 to 35 million people enslaved around the world—of which an estimated one-quarter are children.
As we mentioned previously, combating modern slavery isn’t a funding priority at CIFF, but helping the world’s most vulnerable children is where this foundation lives. Here’s how the math breaks down: 20 to 35 million people around the world are enslaved. An estimated 25 percent of them are children. That means 5 to 9 million kids living on this planet are slaves.
CIFFs $10 million will help Freedom Fund scale its anti-slavery work around the world, with a particular focus on fighting the exploitation of children. Michael Anderson, CEO of CIFF will also become a member of Freedom Fund’s board.
The Washington Post warns that everyone should be “wary of the statistics on modern slavery and trafficking,” because definitions of ‘slavery’ and ‘trafficking’ are lost in translation and semantics. Getting definitive, hard data on modern slavery is tough because, as Sheldon Zhang of San Diego State University puts it, modern slavery is a “hidden crime.” He confirms that “collecting data on this matter has not been easy.” Which explains why, for instance, the Global Slavery Index puts modern slavery numbers at 35.8 million while the U.S. State Department puts them at 20.9 million.
But none of this changes the crux of the problem: buying and selling human beings as though they are material items, like a pair of shoes or a handbag, is illegal in every country in the world. Yet, tens of millions of people suffer at the hands of modern day slave traders.
Policy makers can argue over whether there are 20 million or 35 million modern-day slaves. But why does drilling down on an exact number even matter? Because when it comes down to it, one slave is one too many.